IN THE OPEN SEA: Piersandra Di Matteo in conversation with Tihana Maravić and Tomas Kutinjač

9 June 2017

BLITZ. International Performing Arts Festival in Rovinj, 2017
Photo courtesy: Ognjen Maravic

 
A conversation between Piersandra Di Matteo and Tihana Maravić and Tomas Kutinjač, founders and co-curators of the fifth edition of the BLITZ 2017 International Performing Arts Festival in Rovinj, Croatia, in motion from the end of summer to the end of spring (from September to June).

 

Piersandra Di Matteo: I’d like to start from the beginning. How did BLITZ. International Performing Arts Festival in Rovinj get under way?

Tihana Maravić: After having spent a formation period abroad (we both studied theatre sciences at the University of Bologna), it was important for us to bring our knowledge back home and to create something culturally relevant in our country of origin. As is the case with most of the small countries, Croatia is culturally and economically centralized, so we consider politically important to work in a focused manner in the field of performing arts in the Istria region.

We believe that our work also has an educational task, which on the one hand is very satisfactory because the audience is intelligent and has started to believe in the quality of our program accepting new, apparently difficult forms of arts. On the other hand, we still have to work hard to increase their attention because “going in the theatre” is not natural for most of our citizens. Contemporary art can be frightening, so with our very carefully balanced programme, we try to change this myth and transform fear into desire. Tourism in Istria is really developed so the contribution of our Festival is also to raise the level of its cultural proposal which still has to be enhanced. Our drive is to make the subtlety, the complexity and the contradiction of artistic thought survive in the chaos, velocity and vulgarity of our contemporary society.

Tomas Kutinjač: Our aim is also the connection between foreign and Croatian artists which keep themselves up-to-date with the European dynamics and tendencies. For this purpose, we insist on our program section Croatian Scene Focus. Our choices are not limited to theatre artists but are often also oriented towards visual artists who consider theatricality and performativity in their artistic process. So, after having hosted Davor Sanvincenti last year, this year the festival will be opened by a performance specially created for BLITZ by the Croatian visual artist Dragana Sapanjoš.

 

PDM: Blitz Festival stands out for its nucleus of themes that, each year, suggests a trajectory, a posture, a way of looking into the folds of the events and performances proposed. After Roots and blades of grass, the title of last year’s edition, we now move In the open sea: from the mainland to the sea. Here, however, more than to a simple twist, the allusion is to the need to courageously open oneself up to the unknown. How does this translate into the festival’s programming?

TM: The title put in result one of our urgent needs, it keeps us on fire while creating and we hope that the spectator can use it in the similar way, while connecting the things seen, heard and lived, while sharing her/his understanding with others. It is a tactic to deepen and complicate the experience, to open towards new thoughts. Usually behind the title there are a few questions: in 2013 its was The beginning (What does it mean to create something new in the middle of the crisis?), in 2014 Holidays (What is necessary to make the every day become a holy day?); in 2015 Roots and blades of grass (What are my connections to the ground, to the territory?): in 2016 I am not alone (Is everyone responsible for everyone?); and behind the 2017 title In the open sea there are the questions: How can I dare more, be more courageous, more spacious, in the rhythm? How can I make true my apparently utopian dream?

TK: An example is Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki incredible adventure from 1948. We haven’t succeeded in organizing a show in the middle of the sea but, in the cinema traversing the Pacific Ocean we will have that feeling, we will experience the beauty and the danger of the unknown. That black and white documentary movie from 1950 still has this power. For the closing performance, Cristina Cristal Rizzo’s BoleroEffect, we found a very special location: Mulini Beach where the dancers and the sea in the background will gradually lose their limits. Hopefully we ourselves with them too.

BLITZ. International Performing Arts Festival in Rovinj, 2017
Photo courtesy: Doris Fatur

 

BLITZ. International Performing Arts Festival in Rovinj, 2017
Photo courtesy: Doris Fatur

 

PDM: Blitz Festival will spread out over the city, occupying outdoor spaces, the Theatre Gandusio, disused spaces and, this year, the open sea as well. What kind of logic are you developing while creating this map of places that is grafted onto the unique frame of an extremely beautiful maritime city? And how is it changing over the years?

TM: Our dream is to create always more site specific works or new productions made specifically for unusual non theatrical beautiful locations, which Rovinj is full of. But technically this is very demanding and behind us there is no big theatre structure with full technical equipment and technical staff who would accompany us in this work. So, we try to look from a new point of view, leaning on existing local realities.

This modality can be inventive and connective too. Two of our major partners are the Municipality of Rovinj and the Open University of Rovinj and in collaboration with them we always try to invent something for presentation at the baroque style theatre Gandusio (here we usually present cinema and theatre for children) and Multimedia Center where its open and empty space is more suitable for contemporary theatre expression.

Every new location means a new partner and a new connection, so after the Delfin swimming pool, a private apartment, an old tobacco factory halls, Angelo D’Oro Hotel etc. in the previous years, this year the novelties are a superb high design Mulini Beach for a closing night with Rizzo, and a typical old town terrace of the easy going Circolo Bar where two evening performances will take place: Davis Freeman’s Karaoke(Art) and Raška Topssy’s Self Whispering, the latter one a performing radio broadcast. So, every year we try to surprise ourselves and the audience with new perspectives.

 

PDM: The layout of the fifth edition follows a specific slant: it looks into the work of female artists and performers including Croatian visual artist Dragana Sapanjoš, German choreographer and filmmaker Antonia Baehr and Italian choreographer Cristina Kristal Rizzo…

TM: We’ve planned neither a women’s edition nor a female oriented thematic, but in one moment we realized this “coincidence” and we decided to look at it with care. We were working on the “emotion of courage” against the “emotion of fear”, and we found ourselves facing three women artists who in different ways but all very boldly persist in being themselves in the context of the art they’re creating.

TK: As we believe in the importance of female creative strength in a man’s world, we are definately happy about this convergence: Dragana Sapanjoš gathered men and women from seven Istrian choirs to sing verses from Franco Battiato’s Povera Patria, until exhaustion; in an extravagant and charming way Antonia Baehr will present some extinct animals and make us think about the complexity, fragility and cruelty of being humans. Playing with Ravel’s theoretical heritage and electronic dance floor modalities, Cristina Cristal Rizzo will show us how to lose control, how to experiment the body condition in its “maximum opening”. We need artists to dare; it helps us to look forward. And that’s what a festival should be about: creating the possibilities for the artists to dare.

 


PDM
: A particular space is given to listening, and the possibility of giving way to an acoustic encounter between the spectators…

TM: Yes, among the senses, maybe listening has the privilege to capture more easily things that otherwise would pass unnoticed. And theatre authentically has to do with attention. This year, the listening is directly connected to singing which may mean: opening the mouth, saying it loud, taking a position, acting out. For the spectators, there is the possibility of participatory singing both in Sapanjoš’s Malebolge and in Freeman’s Karaoke(Art). In Sound Kitchen a Slovenian artist Peter Kus will work on creating and playing with sounds with children. Finally, with a performing radio broadcast Self whispering by Topssy Raška we will celebrate the radio waves with their communicative power and responsibility.

BLITZ. International Performing Arts Festival in Rovinj, 2017
Photo courtesy: Ognjen Maravic

 

7 – 10 June 2017
BLITZ International Performing Arts Festival
www.blitzfestival.com

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This interview is part of theseries VOICETOPIA. Conceived for NERO and curated by Piersandra Di Matteo, it is a space dedicated to the performing arts, contemporary theatre, performative formats as procedural phenomena, the topology of speech and tactics of interaction between practices and theoretical hypotheses, a platform for dialogue with artists, curators, performers.