Ewan McLaren’s Energy Pathways

Photograph: archive of the Alfred ve dvoře theater

The seven­th edi­ti­on Baza­ar Fes­ti­val is just star­ting. Its the­me this year, We the Land­s­ca­pe, marks a defi­ni­ti­ve shift towards envi­ron­men­tal issu­es. I spo­ke to its dra­ma­turg and “spi­ri­tu­al father” Ewan McLa­ren about the land­s­ca­pe of the fes­ti­val today.

I con­si­der Baza­ar a poli­ti­cally defi­ned fes­ti­val sin­ce its begin­nings. What made you as its dra­ma­tur­ge switch the focus from soci­ally ori­en­ted topics, human rights atop them, to the so-called anthro­po­ce­ne? Do you rec­kon cli­ma­te as a poli­ti­cal matter?
It’s true that from the start seven years ago, Baza­ar Fes­ti­val was most­ly for (Cen­t­ral and East Euro­pe­an) dan­ce and the­a­t­re artists dea­ling with ques­ti­ons of iden­ti­ty. Things have shif­ted natu­rally to a wider focus and now it’s a fes­ti­val of inde­pen­dent inno­va­ting dan­ce and the­a­t­re cre­a­tors reacting to the poli­ti­cal and social situati­ons in the­ir cities and coun­tries. I was luc­ky to get the fun­ding for lots of tra­vel in 2019 befo­re COVID struck, and what I noti­ced was that many artists in Slo­ve­nia, Poland, Ukra­i­ne, Hun­ga­ry and others were dea­ling with envi­ron­men­tal ques­ti­ons in the­ir work. This tied in with my own past with the Ener­gy Pathwa­ys site spe­ci­fic per­for­man­ce pro­ject on oil, coal, ura­ni­um and water his­to­ry (Ces­ty ener­gie, 2009 – 2015) with Miroslav Bam­bu­šek. Plus, we have been having lots of dis­cus­si­ons with Baza­ar team mem­bers Lucia and Bara about wor­king with com­mu­ni­ties out­si­de the „city cul­tu­re bubble” in futu­re and gre­e­ning the fes­ti­val, many things poin­ted us towards this new directi­on. In any case, in order to deal with envi­ron­men­tal ques­ti­ons seri­ous­ly, we find they are beco­ming ques­ti­ons of iden­ti­ty — hen­ce the We the Land­s­ca­pe the­me — and the urgen­cy of the situati­on means this is a poli­ti­cal and social theme.

From ano­ther per­specti­ve, the­re was a dan­ce cre­a­tor from Poland we have followed for a time — Aga­ta Sini­ar­ska, and her past works were very much about iden­ti­ty. Such as Mothers of Ste­el which she cre­a­ted, with our sup­port, with Roma­ni­an dan­ce cre­a­tor Mădă­li­na Dan. But in 2019 Poland’s Nowy Tea­tr invi­ted us to see shi­ny new Polish works of the­a­t­re and dan­ce — and the­re she was! With top Polish dan­ce per­so­na­li­ties on an island in para­di­se but with a jarring, haun­ting lighting design, pre­sen­ting the first work of her tri­lo­gy on our relati­on­ship to the natu­ral world! The move­ment from per­so­nal iden­ti­ty to our envi­ron­men­tal iden­ti­ty seems to be hap­pe­ning in more pla­ces at once. From this impul­se the dra­ma­tur­gi­cal focus springs this year on dan­ce and the envi­ron­ment — following Agata’s YOU ARE SAFE we also bring Czech POCKETART’s Tre­at­ment of Remem­be­ring and works from Bra­ti­sla­va (Jana Tere­ko­vá’s work FETTERED TO THE MOMENT) and Buda­pest. Hungary’s Zsuz­sa Roz­sa­vol­gyi is a phe­no­me­nal dan­ce cre­a­tor who has moved between lar­ger cho­re­o­gra­phic cre­ati­ons on the natu­ral world and ques­ti­ons of iden­ti­ty sin­ce 2014 — Baza­ar audi­en­ces will remem­ber her pro­vo­ca­ti­ve per­for­man­ce “1.7” about women being expec­ted to have more and more chil­dren in 2018 — and now she is back with a “lectu­re dan­ce” on the dif­fe­ren­ces between human and ani­mal ana­to­my called Anthro­po­de­ny — is that about iden­ti­ty or the envi­ron­ment? Both!

We tried to find out what to do with a unique, six-hour-long, award-win­ning Slo­ve­ni­an per­for­man­ce Toge­ther by Leja Juri­šićMarek Man­dič that we were not able to put on stage last year due to covid rest­ricti­ons. The­ir the­me is not the natu­ral world. But then we rea­li­zed that these con­sum­ma­te artists — one of them a daring dan­cer and per­for­man­ce artist, the other a starring dra­ma actor of the Slo­ve­ni­an Nati­o­nal The­a­t­re with a rare knack for per­for­ming with his who­le body — do an out­do­or ver­si­on of this ever-chan­ging per­for­man­ce about how to live, work and love Toge­ther — and we said: We have to bring it to our audi­en­ces at last! It will take pla­ce in the ama­zing gar­den of Stu­dio ALTA — and if it is not per­for­man­ce about the envi­ron­ment, at least it will be envi­ron­men­tal performance!

The Ama­zon Basin, Aus­tra­lia, Cali­for­nia, Sibe­ria, current­ly Gre­e­ce, or Tur­key – they all were or have been on fire. Cana­da was also hit hard by the heatwa­ve. Is this a per­so­nal topic for you?
Very per­so­nal, as I was born in Cana­da, name­ly Cal­ga­ry in Alber­ta, the capi­tal of oil.

Even thou­gh I stu­died the­a­t­re and acting at the uni­ver­si­ty in Toron­to, they for­ced me to take one cour­se of natu­ral science. It was 1987 and I found myself in a lectu­re hall full of rou­gh scien­tists and experts on cli­ma­te. They spo­ke about models which were able to pre­dict the results of gre­e­nhou­se effect such as abrupt weather chan­ges or gla­cier mel­ting and com­pa­re them to the natu­ral tha­ws in the past. They expla­i­ned how polar gla­cier mel­ting would chan­ge the sali­ni­ty of oce­ans enou­gh to slow down impor­tant sea currents (e. g. the Gulf Stre­am) who­se job is to warm Euro­pe. Peo­ple will get con­fused because some parts of the world would face a tem­pe­ra­tu­re drop, and they would think: “What (glo­bal) war­ming and drou­ght? It’s cold and plen­ty of flo­ods.” Tho­se peo­ple for­ced us to ima­gi­ne the futu­re, i. e. what hap­pens if human­kind does not rea­li­ze the risks in time and does not rest­rict the use of fos­sil fuels. I was an actor-to-be and as such, I had no idea what to do about things. No one had a clue that Com­mu­nism in Euro­pe would fall apart befo­re long, that the mar­ket would open, and Chi­na would grow eco­no­mi­cally and industri­ally… After almost 40 years, Cana­da faced an extre­me heatwa­ve this year (ima­gi­ne 49 degre­es Cel­sius!!!). Also, the forest fires came ear­lier than usu­al, and per­se­ve­re. Euro­pe had to adapt to torren­tial rain and extre­me flo­ods. The first reports sug­gest that the Gulf Stre­am is collap­sing… And tho­se are just some of the para­do­xes of envi­ron­men­tal science. I rea­li­zed that the­re are mid­dle-Euro­pe­an artists who are try­ing to under­stand such para­do­xes and descri­be them to the audi­en­ce via exam­ples from the­ir surroun­dings. They are exa­mi­ning open pit brown coal mining in Ger­ma­ny, Czech Repub­lic, and Poland; the sta­te of water and forests; our depen­den­ce on oil; the loss of bio­di­ver­si­ty; the necessa­ry distan­ce from human beha­vi­our only geo­lo­gi­cal time can pro­vi­de. All this is part of an impor­tant cul­tu­ral shift. It is worth invi­ting such artists to meet Czech audi­en­ce. And not only them – this year we have also invi­ted lea­ding Cen­t­ral Euro­pe­an scien­tists to join us!

The recent report by Inter­go­ver­n­men­tal Panel for Cli­ma­te Chan­ge (IPCC) is clear: glo­bal war­ming has been caused by men. Yet, many peo­ple fly to per­form at inter­nati­o­nal fes­ti­vals. How about that? Whe­re do you see the futu­re of inter­nati­o­na­li­zed fes­ti­vals that are of such impor­tan­ce to dan­ce, per­for­man­ce, and theatre?
I think we alrea­dy made a rea­so­na­ble cho­ice when we cre­a­ted this fes­ti­val: inste­ad of focus­sing on being inter­nati­o­nal in the sen­se of over­se­as con­necti­ons and inter­con­ti­nen­tal ones, we said: Let’s focus on the fas­ci­na­ting and half-for­got­ten cul­tu­ral pathwa­ys of Cen­t­ral and Eas­tern Euro­pe, on occasi­on stret­ching further to the Mid­dle East. In past edi­ti­ons we did fly artists here even from clo­ser coun­tries but we have been chan­ging our appro­ach in line with our con­victi­ons and our fes­ti­val the­mes. For this year’s We the Land­s­ca­pe edi­ti­on, to the best of my knowled­ge eve­ry­bo­dy is coming by tra­in, with the one excep­ti­on of the Rus­si­an ensem­ble AKHE who have to get here from St. Peter­sburg. For our fes­ti­val it should be possi­ble in futu­re to keep fli­ghts at a mini­mum. Yet I think we will alwa­ys have one artist or pro­ject that will fly here because it is our job to keep Czech audi­en­ces in touch with the world — and get­ting them to Pra­gue by sur­fa­ce tra­vel from Leba­non for exam­ple, or Rus­sia is no easy project.

What is your idea of susta­i­na­ble theatre?
That is ano­ther para­dox — we all know it is more susta­i­na­ble to focus on “local” works and artists, but if our job is also to put the peri­s­co­pe UP and show audi­en­ces what is around out the­re, farther away we have to be care­ful to pick and cho­o­se at least seve­ral impor­tant works and artists from further afield to “pro­vo­ke” our audi­en­ces’ and artists’ ima­gi­nati­on and expand the­ir consciousness.

You can com­pa­re the situati­on here to that in Euro­pe and/or the world. How do the the­a­t­res the­re reflect on susta­i­na­bi­li­ty, if so?
Many fes­ti­vals are say­ing they will only accept artists fly­ing if they live more than 700 Km away but are care­ful to make sure the­re are just still a few such pro­jects coming in from farther away. Just as the­re is the Gulf Stre­am in the oce­ans mode­ra­ting tem­pe­ra­tu­res on the sur­fa­ce of the pla­net the­re is a life giving cir­cu­lati­on of cul­tu­ral ide­as and appro­a­ches and we must pre­vent that from get­ting cut off completely.

To be a bit more opti­mis­tic: Satur­day Baza­ar pro­vi­des a cru­cial con­tri­bu­ti­on to local cre­a­ti­ve envi­ron­ment. Are you satis­fied with its deve­lo­p­ment? Did you expect it to grow like this?
We are alwa­ys loo­king for ways to impro­ve how the Satur­day Baza­ar part of our fes­ti­val ser­ves as a way to let artists take the­ir works in deve­lo­p­ment a step further with new impul­ses and inspi­rati­ons from “con­fron­tati­ons” with curi­ous audi­en­ces befo­re the­ir pre­mie­res, and also bring audi­en­ces to under­stand the artis­tic pro­cess of inde­pen­dent per­for­ming arts cre­ati­on bet­ter. We stru­g­gle to keep the event inti­ma­te, but the demand in terms of the num­ber of worthy artis­tic pro­jects in deve­lo­p­ment is higher than we can sup­port. This year we fea­tu­re six ama­zing pro­jects, inclu­ding two by Czech-based artists: Kate­ři­na Szy­man­ski and Ali­ca Minar, plus works for Ger­ma­ny, Poland, Hun­ga­ry, and Slo­va­kia. Eve­ry year we make sure to pre­sent at least one of the now full-fled­ged, finished works the Satur­day Baza­ar hel­ped deve­lop last year. This year it is POCKetART’s Tre­at­ment of Remem­be­ring, in its out­do­or version.

In what ways do you expect Baza­ar to deve­lop in the future?
The growth of Baza­ar Fes­ti­val audi­en­ces sur­pri­sed me. After 2019 we star­ted loo­king for the­a­t­res with big­ger capa­ci­ties to ful­fil demand and bring up our ticket sales, but then the pan­de­mic hit… This got us thin­king about ano­ther kind of growth. How can Baza­ar Fes­ti­val be about inno­va­ting per­for­ming arts from our coun­tries that are in dia­lo­gue with small towns and dis­a­dvan­taged com­mu­ni­ties? We are only just explo­ring how this could trans­form the fes­ti­val in the next three to five years.

We belie­ve that eco­no­mic chan­ges are coming, because of cli­ma­te chan­ge and resul­ting chan­ges in the eco­no­my that will make life very hard for lar­ge groups of peo­ple. By then we need to know how to be not just in dia­lo­gue with these peo­ple but allow them to express themselves.

In the mean­ti­me we are explo­ring the­mes like the migrati­on of labour, goods and birds in 2022. And for 2023 we are loo­king at Devět­si­l’s Baza­ar moder­ní­ho umě­ní of 1923 as inspi­rati­on for a Baza­ar živé­ho umě­ní. Exa­mi­ning how dan­ce and per­for­man­ce work as visu­al art and in galle­ry spa­ces, and vice versa.

Translati­on: Mar­ké­ta Polochová

V rubrikách Rozhovory

Od Martin Macháček

Bývalý editor internetové verze časopisu Taneční zóna. Absolvent Katedry divadelních studií FF MU v Brně, dávný spolupracovník studentské platformy divadelní kritiky RozRazil online, exredaktor Českého rozhlasu Wave, občasný přispěvatel do Divadelních novin, časopisu A2 a nedávno i festivalových zpravodajů (např. Divadelní Flora Olomouc) či jejich příležitostný vedoucí (např. OST-RA-VAR, Setkání/Encounter Brno). Tři sezóny působil jako člen dramaturgické rady České taneční platformy. V současnosti zasedá v dramaturgické radě festivalu Regiony v Hradci Králové a je členem činoherní komise Cen Thálie. Jeho hru Storáče uvedla Stará Aréna Ostrava. Zakladatel několika divadelních skupin (PuMoWo a MeNe KeKeL), která se řídí heslem: "Divadlo, které nic nedělá, nic nepokazí."