One Question for four International Curators
TINFO and Finland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs invited a group of international curators to attend Tampere Theatre Festival's Future Is Present programme in early August this year. Two nights, six performances and a number of artist meetings and discussions later, what were the visitors' takeaways from the festival, what advice would they give to artists looking for international audiences and how do they see the future of international mobility in a post-Covid-19 world?
Anna Teuwen, dramaturge at Kampnagel in Hamburg, Germany
Although there was only time for a quick glimpse at new Finnish theatre during your visit, what are your thoughts on contemporary Finnish performance art based on the four performances and the reading you saw in Tampere? Did you find similarities in terms of the artistic expression, discourse and aesthetics you see around you in Germany, and at the Kampnagel in Hamburg specifically?
Anna: All five works I saw at Teatterikesä were very different in terms of their artistic signature and aesthetics and showed a great variety of the Finnish scene – from this it is of course difficult to deduce anything about Finnish performance art in general.
I had the impression though that the performers' attitude in the pieces I saw was often shaped by formal training, which is maybe less often the case in the independent scene in the German-speaking world. A critical look at normative (power) structures and at constructions of identity, has discursively shaped most of the works; this is an important topic for the artistic debate in Germany at the moment too.
The use of documentary material, the performativity of things and spaces, or the technical use of the performer's body are strategies that I found very strong in the works in question, and which for me constitute an interesting and remarkable aesthetic approach.
I so enjoyed being able to make the trip to Finland and to see the latest Finnish performance and theatre work live, thanks to TINFO once more for making this possible!
Kampnagel, which describes itself as an international centre for the finer arts, is the largest production centre for contemporary performing arts in Europe. Kampnagel's programme includes international guest productions and co-productions, independent local productions and festivals. For more information, go to Kampnagel's website.
Maria Naimark, executive director of the Rainbow Festival in St Petersburg, Russia
What is the Raduga – Rainbow festival focused on, in terms of its international programming? What advice do you have for Finnish artists and collectives looking to strengthen their ties and networks in Russia?
Maria: The purpose of the Rainbow is to search for contemporary theatre for young people, as well as directors, working with new theatrical forms that response to the current mood. The idea of the festival is to position the arts for young audiences as a highly artistic one. During its history, the festival has enjoyed hosting the works of the best theatre maestros from all over the world from the Baltic countries to Japan and China, from all over Europe and Iran; including such prominent masters as Peter Brook, Philippe Genty, Oskaras Koršunovas Theatre, Dmitry Krymov, Grzegorz Jarzyna, Rimas Tuminas, Elmo Nüganen and Krzysztof Warlikowski as well as very young newcomers. The festival programme draws on the most interesting Russian and international contemporary theatre works for young people and advanced audiences. So, first of all, it should be a high professional theatre in terms of quality, it should be relevant in terms of text and interpretation. Rainbow is primarily aimed at young, audiences, although not children, with a programme featuring new drama and young directors. Yet, fresh-minded theatre maestros and fresh interpretations of canonical texts are also very much welcomed. This applies to both our national and international participants.
Despite Finland and Russia, and St Petersburg in particular, being close neighbours and having, though a complicated, but long mutual cultural history, there are not many theatre visits from Finland to Russia. This may be because of a relative lack of awareness in Finland of what happens here and what we can offer, on the one hand. And by the same token, there is limited awareness of the Finnish theatre life beyond the major companies here too. I believe that TINFO could be a good matchmaker for this purpose, as there are a lot of festivals and other theatre events in Russia, which would be interested in inviting Finnish theatre groups to take part.
Anna Šimončičová, deputy director of international relations at the International Theatre Festival of Nitra, Slovakia
The city of Nitra is applying to become the European Capital of Culture in 2026. Nitra Festival is now seeking to work with cultural organisations and artists in Oulu and elsewhere in Finland, as it puts the finishing touches to its cultural programme. What are you looking for in terms of closer ties with the Finnish cultural sector?
Anna: Divadelná Nitra as a platform for cultural exchange between Eastern and Western Europe wants to use this opportunity to start cooperation with Northern Europe. Under the ECoC framework, we intend to organize a large presentation of performative (and inter-medial) artists from Finland with a progressive and innovative view.
Our dramaturgy is focused on discovering new names for the Central European territory and supporting international cooperation (without or with the support of titles). Nevertheless, the ECoC title would enable us to realize a showcase of Finnish performative art and to present it in its full complexity. Beside the showcase project, we want to continue with the tradition of workshops for young theatre critics and to widen the range of participants to young theatre professionals from Finland.
Kristina Savickienė, artistic director of the Sirenos theatre testival in Vilnius, Lithuania
This year's Sirenos Festival is starting on 15 September and will feature a showcase of Lithuanian theatre. Where do you see international mobility going in 2022, and over the next few years, as we navigate the post-Covid-19 world?
Kristina: I feel like the mobility is restarting, and people are both careful and eager to travel, meet colleagues, get inspired by new ideas. The pause that we have all gone through has made us stronger in a way and allowed us to rediscover internal, local landscapes.
I hope artistic mobility will soon be more or less back on track but there are essential changes in how we run the performing arts. We can’t disregard the climate crisis anymore and we have to acknowledge, as an industry, our part int it. For now, nobody knows for sure how to transform the industry to make it more environmentally friendly. But I think the think tanks will be omnipresent in the near future and will allow us to find new sustainable ways of working and creating.
The Sirenos International Theatre Festival will take place in Vilnius 15 September–7 October. The Lithuanian theatre showcase, featuring a total of 13 works, will run 22–26 September. For more information, visit Sirenos website.
TINFO / Linnea Stara, 11 September, 2021
In the photo collage from left: Maria Naimark, Anna Teuwen, Anna Šimončičová and Kristina Savickienė. Photo credits: Raduga Festival; Kampnagel, Jana Hrdličková and Dmitrij Matvejev.