Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Faki Day 1: Sexual Violence and Capitalism

It's the second day, and residents flit around in a banal way, mingling with the over-active dogs and chewing on unassuming breakfasts among the-night-before's lingering smell of cigarettes and the blast of 90's pop from the radio. So much has happened but, in true casual contradictory Croatian style, it feels like it could also be nothing. We're all deeply involved, in a superficial way, in the process of unpacking and simultaneous forgetting.

If that sounds confused, then that's not because of yesterday's shows, which were nothing if not bang on point. Opening the festival, Jirjirak, a group from Tehran, Iran, offered Braille, a meditation on a rape event, seen through the perspectives of victim and society (including the perpetrator).

Following this, Serbian choreographer Dušan Murić's Doći će partizani opet (roughly: The Partizans Will Come Again) offers an eclectic anti-capitalist riff, billed as "a threat - directed towards those who make life unbearable". 

Both shows provided plenty of food for thought, as the ensuing conversation with fellow critic Monika Jašinskaitė shows.

Richard Pettifer: What’s your impression of the Faki Festival and the place, the former medical factory Medika

Monika Jašinskaitė: My first interest in art came of an experience in Vilnius, Uzupis Republic, and one of the most important features of this republic was a squat on a riverside, where artists started to live in early 90s and in 1997 opened a gallery called Gallera there. Later it got European funding and became an Uzupis Art Incubator. It changed. For me, when I come here to AKC Medika, I come back to a world that’s already gone. It gives an opportunity to rethink the world I live in now.

Pettifer: I have been coming here 5 years now, and it's become boring for me, in a good way. Like, I do not have to do so much of the labour involved with integration anymore. And what I like about this festival is they give you what you need - you need a place to live, you need food. It doesn't give you extra. A lot of situations now for artists are giving you what you don't need, and they don't give you what you do need. So they say "ok, you come to this festival, we give you a brand on our CV, we give you advertising, it's good for your career", and etc, but they don't feed you. You know?

Jašinskaitė: (Laughs) Yeah, I understand. That's very funny to think about.


Pettifer: I thought it was an amazing performance from Darya Nazari The gender politics was interesting. She plays the victim in this performance, one actor playing her husband (Mehdi Sheikhvand) and another, the perpetrator.

Jašinskaitė: But one of the two male characters is also a victim’s story – how a victim becomes an aggressor.

Pettifer: But this I feel is really problematic, when you start to talk in this way, “oh, the rapist is also a victim, we should see his point of view”. You can do it, in a way, but it’s dangerous. The perspectives are not equal.

Jašinskaitė: But that is what I like in this performance – that they are really trying to touch the most sensitive areas of this problem – being an aggressor but being a victim at the same time, it’s very paradoxical. In Lithuania it works. In Lithuania we have one word for the rape of a woman and the violence of a society - it is prievartavimas. So all people in society experience violence at the same level. Of course this is in a way a sad thing, but on the other hand, it gives me a hope, an idea, of how the violence against women’s bodies can be stopped. That it may be stopped if the violence in men’s world can be smaller.

Photo: Ivan Marenic

Pettifer: I just don’t think it’s equal. I agree that it’s good to think about why people become rapists, I just think being a rapist and raped is totally different. When you equate them, it’s dangerous.

Jašinskaitė: In the Soviet Union, we had a lot of women who were very 'equal' to men, the builders for example. Many women were well fit, they were doing their work, and then they were coming home and doing the housework. So this is the image of Soviet equality.

Pettifer: So it’s really not equality, then.

Jašinskaitė: It’s absurd. 

Pettifer: Rape is an expression of gender inequality. In contrast to this, the way the guys made space for Nazari to lead, it was important. They create equality through inequality.

Jašinskaitė: I was impressed how many things they have shared between them to create this performance. You were talking about their complicity, you have noticed in their work. I think they have achieved it, because they discussed a lot of aspects of the problem they point to.

Pettifer: That she was leading, this creates the complicity. It’s necessary for the piece – in a way more powerful than the content itself. 

Jašinskaitė: I feel that while creating the piece, the actors were very open and sincere with each other. This complicity can only occur when you feel free whilst being together with other people. Faki gives a possibility to explore and practice this.

Pettifer: But then it becomes problematic when you get the video of the rapist and the psychiatrist. When I saw the taxi driver I was like – wait, is this the real rapist? Or an actor?

Jašinskaitė: (Laughs) Yeah, but it doesn’t matter to me if he is a real taxi driver, because he is just a representational figure, he represents people of this society, anyway. But the guy who is a doctor – I was really surprised he was a psychiatrist.


Pettifer: The second piece we didn’t follow so well, because neither of us speak Serbian language. I understood it as a critique of advertising and TV etc.

Jašinskaitė: Why do you think that it was critique? Just because they were putting these things on stage? Sometimes artists are putting this on stage, just because it’s cool. Sometimes maybe I can’t read the language, and sometimes I think there is no language.

Pettifer: I don’t think it always is – I just think it was this time. We didn’t understand the spoken language, so we didn’t understand the critique. With animals, we learned later that it was a critique against hunting, a type of advertisement for human body parts (like animal body parts). But what you and I saw was just people pretending to be animals.

 Photo: Ivan Marenic

Jašinskaitė: I was always like ‘why are they showing us this?’ There wasn’t something very significant in the movement language. For me it didn’t work because I didn’t follow the spoken language. I can only imagine how it would have worked.

Pettifer: It was a piece of propaganda, in a good way. They were not worried about making an extremely stylistic aesthetic, but about the message.

Jašinskaitė: Why do you say propaganda instead of communication? For me it was not a piece so much about inequality but about the violence we create.

Pettifer: What’s the difference? Violence creates inequality, no?

Jašinskaitė: No, I don’t think that only violence creates inequality. Work also does.

Pettifer: I agree.

Jašinskaitė: So that’s why – this was about violence and about destruction, and maybe this violence comes for us being somehow unhappy with the situation we are in, not because we are unequal, but because of some other reasons.

Pettifer: More a general dissatisfaction or antagonism.

Jašinskaitė. Yes! Thinking about the Chinese plastic factory being built on fertile Serbian land, I am sorry for that. If I lived there, I would be unhappy with that. But I’m sure that – I mean there should be mechanisms that let my voice be heard. But it’s not about inequality or equality, it’s about power.

Pettifer: But rights or voice is about equality, no? When we have equal rights, we have equality.

Jašinskaitė: In Lithuania we have 99 km of seaside, which we value very much. In the 90s, when the system broke, people were shocked to find that the seaside elsewhere had huge hotels and so on, while we have nature on the seaside. Yes, we have to walk 3 km, but when we get there, there is only nature. And somehow, they managed to protect the sea from this huge investment.

Pettifer: Still?

Jašinskaitė: There are some illegal buildings in Neringa, but I think they were at least told they have to destroy the buildings. And if the Serbians value money more than their fertile land, then the factory is coming.

Pettifer: I still think these are economic questions. Governments are increasingly pressured to sell common interest for the profit of only a few. This is especially happening with land and natural resources.

Jašinskaitė: People can still say no to this, because they feel this fertile land is still important.

Pettifer: I’m always suspicious about when you see World Bank statistics for global development. Because you might see, oh, in some ‘extremely poor’ situation, they used to make $1 a day, now they make $2. That’s supposed to be progress – a 100% pay rise. But wealth is more complex. Like, if I had a cow that offers me milk, then in the process of development I sell the cow so that production can become more efficient, then I have to buy milk. And I have more money, but I have lost the permanent means of survival. It becomes a question of how wealth and resources are defined.

Jašinskaitė: They got money, but they lost control. And I think this control question is very important for inequality. Because I think the questions of inequality should not be always economic, they are questions of power. I think it’s very common to mix these things, because money and power are increasingly conflated.

with Darya Nazari, Mehdi Sheikhvand, Orfi Mehran

Doći će partizani opet
Choreography/Author: Dušan Murić (RS)
Performers - Dušan Murić, Hristina Šormaz, Jana Milenković, Nemanja Bošković, Miloš Janjić


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