Monday, July 1, 2013

"Due to its failure of being defined, slotted, circled in, challenges the mainstream status quo" - Border Songs Festival, India

In January to May of this year, I traveled from Australia to Germany overland, making performances and residencies in some places ( I was looking for inspired theatre. This is a very hard to find when you're traveling. Maybe it's because when you are in a country and you don't know the language, everything is theatre. You are constantly mesmerised and confounded by new thoughts and sounds. Small stages pop up everywhere (but many of them, I claim, false).

One of my techniques was to trawl through Couchsurfing for people who had listed 'theatre' in their profiles. This is how I found Arka Mukhopadhyay. Arka wasn't available to host me or my performances in the time I was in Kolkata, but he put me onto some other theatre-makers, the League of Shadows, of Kolkata, who I was subsequently able to collaborate with.

Arka is currently making a project below and would like support. I made the suggestion to share this on my blog, and he agreed. South Asia and South-East Asia is a region that does not often share theatre through festivals or other events. Unlike Europe, where there seems to be an International Theatre Festival every second week, this region has sometimes minimal cultural integration. Independent theatre can fulfill a unique role here. Something like the festival Arka is proposing has the potential to bind people together in a way that trade relationships and official handshakes simply can't.

Arka's text about the 'Border Songs Festival' after the jump:

What is the Border Songs festival all about?
The Border Songs festival brings together performers who either belong to or explore what is marginal within performance cultures and traditions. We wish to create an encounter between what is often deliberately and repeatedly overlooked, relegated to the margins and that which oft is responsible for this marginalization i.e. the urban, metropolitan context.
The festival shall attempt to traverse those liminal spaces that live in exile. These are not simply spaces of victimization but alsoplaces where the future is born, where the new risks are taken, new territories discovered.
The festival will be held between July 30th- August 11th, 2013 in Calcutta. The choice of dates is important as it commemorates, apart from the completion of two years of The Arshinagar Project on July 30th, Jerzy Grotowski whose birthday is on the 11th of August and Rabindranath Tagore whose  death anniversary falls this year on the 8th. Through this cycle of births and deaths, it thus becomes a song of memory.
Artists and ensembles who have been invited to perform at the festival include Maja Drobac (Croatia), Veena Basavarajaiah (India), Thila Min (Artistic Director, Thukhuma Khayeethe, Myanmar), Alvin Tan (Artistic Director, The Necessary Stage, Singapore), Syv Bruzeau (Singapore), Nizami Khusrao Bandho Qawwals (India), Prosthaan (India), Bauria PRT (India), and others. This is however, not the final list of performers, and we will continue to update this list. Ultimately, none of the artists we are trying to bring are rich, and their participation entirely depends on the funds we are able to raise.

About The Arshinagar Project:

'Arshinagar' means 'the city of mirrors', and the name is derived from a song by LalonPhokir, one of the greatest masters among the Bauls of Bengal - wandering mystical musician-performers who through embodied practice attempt to touch the unbodied. The logo represents the 'ektara' (literally 'one-stringed') - a drone-like instrument used in different forms and names in different Asian cultures, which has come to symbolize the Bauls.

The Arshinagar Project is envisioned as a collective of artists and cultural practitioners from different traditional and contemporary disciplines, as well as practitioners from other disciplines such as anthropology, education and ecology, for research into performance as transformational action. The Arshinagar Project aims to foster a spirit of freedom, respect for human diversity, ecological harmony and love, among young adults, youth in colleges and universities, educators and others, through performances, immersive workshops in urban and natural settings based on traditions of mystical performance and practice as well as contemporary performance-craft, through lecture-demonstrations, seminars, and journeys through inner and outer spaces.

Our vision and what inspires us to organize this festival:

This festival wishes to explore performance itself as something that is in-between states, barely perceptible, a threshold, an edge, a line separating two territories in order to mark a difference. Our inspiration is that which due to its failure of being defined, slotted, circled in, challenges the mainstream status quo.

With our journey into the margins we wish to transcend the divide between performer and spectator, the experiences of the various senses, proscenium and street as well as performance and life itself.

Why without your help this ‘vision’ is only a blank stare into the dark:

As much as love and aesthetic appreciation is what we would like it to be all about, a performance festival of this magnitude cannot run merely on these two elements. For reasons that are more than obvious, we are not seeking funding from big corporate giants whose not so secret agenda is to steamroll everything that dwells on the margins. We must foot bills for travel and staying arrangements for the performers, hiring venues, performance expenses and a minimum compensation to the artists and the team pulling the festival together for which we need a total of INR 4,00,000 .

Every penny adds up so please contribute whatever you can.
Thank you!
Arka Mukhopadhyay
Founding Member
The Arshinagar Project

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