Artistic directors of FAKI Festival: ‘People vastly underestimate the amount of work it is to develop something meaningful’

Artistic directors of FAKI Festival: ‘People vastly underestimate the amount of work it is to develop something meaningful’

Mixture of alternative theatre, dance, performance, all under powerful message? Sign us up! Introducing 25th International Festival for Alternative Theatrical Expression, or as we know it in Zagreb – FAKI Festival. This year, the week-long program features 16 international and local performances, events, workshops, and concerts across Zagreb and at Cultural Centre Attack (Pierottijeva 11). We have spoken to artistic directors of the Festival Sonia Borkowicz, Alja Ferjan, Richard Pettifer and Elsa Mourlam, who gave us inspiring insight into one of the most innovating theatre festivals! Read more:

1. The theme of the FAKI Festival Zagreb 2022 is “… enough!” What does “enough” mean in the context of theater expression?

The festival has always had a tendency towards stripped-back and minimalist performance, that is nevertheless completely over-the-top and theatrical. FAKI’s works normally reject the expensive production of ‘stuff’ on stage, relying on raw human resources: the body, emotion, voice, even bodily functions like digestion or crying. The theme explores the extremes of human gesture, but the search for those extremes is often an expansion inwards. The point is often that we had enough, already – we only did not know how to use it, or even know it was there.

2. Several works touch the topic of starvation, protest gestures and denial of time, money and other resources. Do artists focused on alternative theater have these problems in common?

We observe a sort of starvation happening in terms of cultural infrastructure. Togetherness, community, and exchange, some of the principles upon which are cultures are built, are threatened especially by the perpetual lurch from crisis to crisis and the soaking-up of resources by those who already have plenty. We are put in a state of constant ’emergency of now’, which removes the possibility to focus on what we could achieve together, slowly and with long-term thinking. We are kept under constant attack and provocation. Trying to make any act of free theatre, outside of the structures and confinements of the institution, is almost impossible. Each work of FAKI 25 is a huge act of resistance.

3. How is art capable of saying “enough”?

It was fascinating to read through the various applications of the festival this year, to feel and to try to deal with their energies. There were some cut-and-paste applications from artists wanting a platform or a trip to Croatia, but these were not the majority – mostly we had huge problems discussing the works, because they were articulated with such precision and care, and each of them like entire worlds. We did not expect this, nor to have this flood of applications. It was too much for us. Perhaps art can say “enough” best by what it does not say. Perhaps not applying was a legitimate reaction to this festival theme. Perhaps the proliferation of things in this world is exactly the problem.

4. We will see artists from many countries, how is sharing other cultural experiences benefiting the festival itself?

Croatia is often accused of having a racist and reactionary political culture, which is deeply engaged in nationalist projects and consolidating patriarchal power. This happens under the cover of EU membership, which stands as a façade or brand of ‘openness’. But authentic openness always comes from and engagement with an outside – from contact with the ‘other’: from meeting a different set of problems and pleasures to your own, and properly acknowledging them, even at moments when this is extremely difficult because of internal turmoil. Although we participate in exchange through trade, through politics, through military engagement, the encounter is always essentially a cultural one. The festival is very careful not to ‘mine’ other cultural backgrounds or identities, or exploit them for our own gain. The expectation is a simple one: we meet each other, in the space that the festival created, and there is the possibility that something can be developed from there.

5. What does working in this field and/or this festival mean to you?

People vastly underestimate the amount of work it is to develop something meaningful, and to have that be successful in today’s context, where people are trained into a superficial way of looking. The festival theme champions care, time, attention, focus, simplicity – these are in such short supply today. To work in a meaningful way creating the festival is another question that is related to this aesthetic problem. The festival demands a frenetic pace, but we have tried to slow down, and to stay focused on what we can achieve. It is an absolutely huge amount of labour. It will be worth it if we can insert something meaningful inside what is fast becoming a cultural wasteland.

6. What are you hoping the audience will take home with them after the festival?

There is a clear sense of alienation generally at the moment, and if we can overcome this with an audience, that by itself will be enough. If people go home with the feeling that somebody is by their side, this would be an incredible achievement, although difficult or impossible. The barriers are huge, and the forces that feed this alienation have massive weaponry at their disposal. But we are hopeful. Even reading this can be a particular act of communication that cuts through the mass of nonsensical rubbish.

7. What message would you send to a potential audience?

Do not necessarily look in the direction you are told – there are important things outside.

You can check the full schedule of FAKI Festival 25 here. See you and remember: Enough is enough!

FOTO: Manon Yanes