A snapshot of the Czech Crash


A snapshot of the Czech Crash
[Trends] Review of SYMPOZIUM CZECH CRASH 2014

October 2014 was a very busy month in Europe with some festivals and networks’ meetings happening almost at the same time: the Trans Europe Halles’ 78th Meeting in Pilsen(Czech Republic), the IETM Autumn Plenary Meeting in Sofia(Bulgaria), the Culture Action Europe Conference in New Castle(United Kingdom) and the International Symposium on Festival’s curating part of the 4+4 Days in Motion Festival in Prague(Czech Republic), which is the focus of the present article.

Four Days is a non-profit, non-governmental association which since 1996 has implemented the international theatre festival(4+4 dny v pohybu) and also coordinated a great number of Four Days is part of the IN SITU network, the European network for artistic creation in public space. The programme of the two-day symposium “Czech Crash”, as part of the 4+4 Days in Motion Festival last October, attracted an interesting range of European and international professionals. The packed meeting proposed a number of discussions ranging from the definition of “curators” and “programmers” to the questions of identification of young and promising talents, or the multiple missions of festivals; what follows is a selection of topics that gives a glimpse of the contents of the presentations and exchanges.

Symposium Czech Crash 2014 poster

4+4 dny v pohybu 2014 poster

Symposium Czech Crash 2014 poster 4+4 dny v pohybu 2014 poster

Curators vs Programmers vs …?

The term “curators” comes from the visual art sector and has been introduced in the performing arts field since the 1980s. It contributes somehow to reposition the programming process in terms of time and space, particularly through the elements of performativity and a more collaborative/participative approach adopted progressively by part of the sector. As Florian Malzacher(Impulse Theatre Festival - Germany) mentions in his introduction talk, with the inclusion of the term of curatorship in the performing arts sector, there has been a shift to consider the art work in relation to other aspects of the performance than the production in itself. This requires from the curator a set of professional skills in order to combine elements that were not connected before, in particular in the case of site-specific works. This implies as well another intellectual dynamic that is different from the visual arts sector, where more direct information can be provided to the visitors or the audience. The question of the creation of conditions was then particularly highlighted by Silvia Bottiroli(Santarcangelo di Teatri - Italy): “Curators create conditions of what does not exist yet. It can be a work of art or a practice (…) Curators believe in miracles … which happen only to those who are committed to see them”.

The following discussions between the participants showed that some professionals prefer to use terms like curator or programmer, or even other titles such as art directors, to introduce themselves. It all depends on the specific contexts in which they operate, all the more since some notions do not even exist in some languages - like the term “programmer” which does not exist in the Hungarian language. “Dramaturg” is finally the notion preferred by Sodja Lotker(Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space - Czech Republic) as the term implies very much the idea to help the artists grow and expand.

East and West, the twain has met but…

Interestingly enough (or luckily enough?) one of the topics of the first session “Trends and aesthetics in the performing arts sector: stereotypes of Eastern, Central and Western Europe’s performing arts” was not directly approached as such by the speakers. The discussion among the panellists was more about the inter-related questions of innovation and creativity. There is a general impression that creativity must be in all aspects that surround our life. Artists and creators are therefore increasingly put under pressure, while this notion has become a mainstream and commercial one. This consequently devalues the term of creativity and leads for example to the fact that there have been less in-depth discussion and writing on the artistic works themselves. Janez Janša(Maska - Slovenia) raises this point through his double question: “How do you translate something which happens in the real life into an object that becomes a part of entertainment or cultural industries? How to operate as an artist in conditions which are already artistic?”

To a great extent, creative economy is going against an artists’ driven type of economy. Furthermore, despite budget constraints, many policy-makers and funders seem willing to invest more in infrastructures - “hardware” - than in nurturing spaces for expression, and this is hard for directors and programmers, creators of “software”.

Czech Crash 2014 ©Katarína Križanovič

Panel session on Festival beyond presentation (with Katrien Verwilt, KIT Festival – Member of the IN SITU network) ©Katarína Križanovič

Czech Crash 2014 ©Katarína Križanovič
Panel session on Festival beyond presentation (with Katrien Verwilt, KIT Festival – Member of the IN SITU network) ©Katarína Križanovič

Audience vs Participation: please have a “moving” seat!

Audience or public engagement and/or participation are nowadays trendy terms, very much used and referred to in funding guidelines, for instance those of the EU Creative Europe Programme. This emphasis on funding criteria should not however hide some very interesting projects and initiatives such as the EU-funded project Create to Connect that, among others, deals with the relations between the “international artists” and the local communities/audience they interact with.

The exchanges focused very much around the space of expressions left to the audience or the public (the latter term being used more for creation in public space). It seems that if people shape their own performances, they do not only add value to their own lives but also to the performing arts sector as a whole. However as Rainer Hofmann(Spring Performing Arts Festival – The Netherlands) highlighted it: “Who says that people don’t participate when they sit on their chairs? Moving your bodies is not automatically moving your minds!” Indeed participation projects require a strong strategic and managerial aspect, and it seems therefore highly important to include the audience or the public in the decision-making process and the development of the project. This was stressed in particular by representatives of festivals and events focused on creation in public space, like the KIT Festival in Copenhagen(Denmark): “We talk about public and not audience, and we want people to feel engaged in the process” (Katrien Verwilt).

Festival: Ask for the programme(s)

Beyond the productions and the works proposed to the public, festivals definitely include a diverse range of programmes and activities of educational, social and environmental kind. Such additional programmes can have various formats: workshops, training, residencies or gatherings for change like the WAKE UP, Assembly for a different Europe in the 2013 edition of the Spielart Festival in Munich. Here the panellists also discussed about the increasing number of festivals doing talents’ development programmes as a new way to attract funding, as well as about the blurred lines between the roles and responsibilities of producers and/or festival programmers.

Audience snapshot ©Katarína Križanovič

Czech Crash 2014 ©Katarína Križanovič

Audience snapshot ©Katarína Križanovič Czech Crash 2014 ©Katarína Križanovič

What’s next?

What about the impact of the process once the Festival is over? Especially when you work with local communities and/or people representing minority groups or refugees? The answer provided by several festivals and venues (including the very interesting Archa Theatre and Johan Centrum – Czech Republic), is that you have of course a sense of responsibility for these people and that the relationship you have built shall not stop with the end of the event. It is crucial to know the people you are going to work with, all the more since people from certain local communities or groups feel “tired” of creative works “coming to them” without any return, long-term impact or connection between the different projects they may experience.

As it often happens in such meetings, the Czech Crash raised more questions than the answers provided, which somehow is a very healthy way to initiate and develop a conversation on festivals’ curating. According to the organisers, only a limited number of Czech artists, professionals and organisations attended this symposium, despite the much effort done to invite a local audience; however the limited participation and engagement of local professionals in international seminars in a particular venue is a common scenario. Anyway, Prague passed its crash test and we shall continue to nurture miracles – and be willing to see them!

- Edited by Elena Di Federico, IETM

ⓒctyri dny/Four Days Website



Marie Le Sourd’ travel and accommodation were supported by the Institut Français of Prague



Marie Le Sourd_Secretary General, 《On the Move》
Marie Le Sourd_Secretary General, 《On the Move》

Marie Le Sourd_Secretary General,On the Move