Sunday, October 28, 2018


Later, the penultimate performance of Tallinn's NU Performance Festival, is something of a mystery to me. Developed by Mexican/German artist Julia Rodriguez, the performance is a contemplative, choreographed meditation on objecthood. Rodriguez begins with objects on a white stage, clothed only in a long t-shirt, sitting in the corner, with legs spread in the best impersonation of  Gustave Courbet's L'Origine du monde*. The performer eyes the audience as they enter and take their seats, a plodding hotel-lobby soundtrack accompanying, that will be present throughout the performance.

It's an affronting opening, in a way, if nothing else for the diversity of objects without obvious relationship to one another. There's a particular violence to that, and it's one Rodriguez exploits throughout as she proceeds through the performance. The main question for me is the theme, which is only loosely described in the program notes and which does not obviously reveal itself throughout - rather existing as a puzzle of objects which the audience may piece together into a meaningful whole. Or not.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Digital Technology

Following my apparent 'writing from anywhere but Berlin' policy, I'm back in Estonia as a somewhat incognito visitor to the NU Performance Festival Tallinn - a (relatively) small biennial of performance happening in some of Tallinn's theatres over the week.

I am coming in at Day 5 of the festival, with many works and events already having taken place. The afternoon panel, loosely organised around the theme of 'Audiencology', featured a variety of interesting guests with fields spanning architecture, contemporary art, and practice and theory of performance. The discussion was a little unweildly, but propositions from Maarin Mürk regarding Markus Miessen's The Nightmare of Participation and Clare Bishop's elaboration on relational aesthetics, as well as Sille Pihlak's reflections on community participation in architecture, were particular highlights.

Digital Technology

I admit it: I thought I wouldn't like Digital Technology. Something about Swedish/German artist Mårten Spångberg's approach grated with my sense of responsibility as so much of contemporary art can do - making a provocation from a position of perceived neutrality. This position is best articulated in the afternoon panel discussion where Spångberg, who dominated the conversation at the expense of his female colleagues, went so far as to suggest that that we should be able to co-exist in performance in a relatively passive way: "As long as it doesn't ask for anything, I can be with it forever".

Photo: Kristo Sild

It's a kind of relaxed statement that's unlikely to get this punter too excited in an age of apathy in Europe - where a new generation is born into privileges it can never hope to understand, and doesn't bother to seek answers about. And indeed, looking around at the blank faces of the audience in Digital Technology, you might think the artist has achieved exactly what he set out to do, for better or worse.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Baltic tour (Tallinn-Riga-Tallinn-Helsinki)

I find myself unexpectedly on the road again, back to the Baltics - a region I knew little about before September's Draama Festival in Tartu.

This time, it's a more extensive exploration, beginning in Tallinn with the biannual NU Performance Festival, followed by a trip to Riga for Latvia's annual theatre showcase for a week. Then it's back to Tallinn for the Estonian Theatre showcase (Amusingly called Draamamaa), before heading up to warm and sunny Helsinki for Baltic Circle - I festival I have not visited since 2009.

It's a bit of an impromptu tour and I don't pretend to be an expert on the theatre of the respective countries - here the process of writing criticism becomes very much a learning experience. Still, I hope to share that process through writing, and hopefully see some great theatre from this interesting region. `Stay tuned.

Note: I am grateful to the Goethe Institute Riga for their generous support, and to various friends old and new who make this possible through their generosity.