Tuesday, May 24, 2016

FAKI Festival 2016 – Emaciated Art for the Age of Austerity

"You like it here, don't you?"

This was said to me at last year's Faki Festival. I think at the time I was sitting in some dark corner of the large yard of Medika, a former pharmaceuticals factory in Zagreb, on some rubble no doubt, and yet I couldn't disagree. Straddling the lines between anarchy and gentrification, structure and chaos, art and life, Faki might be the perfect festival for these times. A nearly 20-year old institution, but one which still feels young, with works catching fire and seeming to burn out as soon as they are performed, making way for the evening revellers to do the same. As I wrote last year, this is not a place where you come to network or improve your CV - it's a place for art, and art only. (And mad techno parties).

Faki has always had a cross-cultural communication bent, expressing itself in plenty of interesting collaborations, especially over the former (?) east-west divide, but a glance at this year's program shows a particular interest in one-on-one collaborations across divides. Gabi Serano and Chan Sze-Wei’s Talk to me and I slap you is a collaboration between a UK and Chilean artist, Liv Fauver and Kata Cots Soft Associations work across the contentious North American divide between the USA and Mexico, a mish-mash of north and south informs Austrian/Italian collaboration Nordified while Beh Chin Lau and Katja Grässli’s work not only crosses a vast expanse of water (or land if you go the long way) but incorporates the work of a philosopher in the area of cross-cultural collaboration, Marc Colpaert. Even those works which don't have an outwardly cross-cultural component seem to be concerned with the world outside - Daniela Marcozzi's Right On! tells the story of her friends accused of terrorism and detained without charge for one year, Assimilation (Malik Sashad Sharpe) looks at ideas from Queer and black discourse which have made it mainstream US culture, whilst dance-specific works such as Emptiness/Fullness (Calamaleonte Primo Attaco, Italy) and  the significantly-named Klette or the Phenomenon of Surrealistic Clinging (Lab on Stage, Austria)  concern themselves with the internals and externals of the body - an age-old metaphor for the thin layer of separation between ourselves and the world.

If cross-cultural communication seems boring to you, or too corporate to be meaningful, you must have little concept of the troubles we face today (a day in which just 51% of Austrians voted NOT to have an openly fascist government). In a world where division and nationalism are everywhere, communication across divides is critical to subvert political agendas which seek to dehumanise – communication, precisely where it should not occur according to such agendas, can be a pivotal form of activism and resistance. Perhaps nowhere is this more obvious than today's Israel, where life-threatening barriers of all kinds - religious, economic, social and military - pervade, and a significant contingent from Israel will represent themselves at the festival. Two works from solo performer Dror Liebermann appear aimed at expressing an extreme frustration with communication, whilst Clipa Theatre’s Forever/Never looks at violence as a concept integrated into Israel’s way of life.

So we await for the night to begin: a festival filled with the potential - in addition to bringing people together as festivals do - for some kind of small but meaningful contribution to a world outside of Medika. Stay tuned for daily reports from your full-time correspondent, as I am reporting on the festival daily until Sunday, as well as running group critical sessions.

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