The Heirs of Avant-garde

The INFANT’s selection this year establishes a certain dialogue with the theatrical avant-garde whose theatrical heirs we are. The struggle for the uniqueness, authenticity and sensibility of a being, the freedom of expression, the victory of the spiritual over the material, the honesty and truthfulness of feelings and courage of the artistic expression is what characterised the life of Antonin Artaud, turning into a powerful cry which still echoes to this day. It is as if the resonance of his cry still moves tidal waves of energy which interlaced with the creations of Wassily Kandinsky, Les Kurbans, Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Eugene Ionesco and perhaps most of all Jerzy Grotowski – who are a kind of spiritus movens of certain plays (of the Amok Theatre, the Lublinsko Dance Theatre, The Youth Theatre, Tanzlabaratorium, Teaterlabor, the Zar Theatre*).    

Since the early 20th century theatrical avant-garde, through the establishment of Grotowski’s Theatre Laboratory (50 years ago), the contemporary theatre has come a long way and perhaps what is needed today is a more comprehensive overview of this tradition of theatrical exploration – which won its independence from the dramatic text and realism a century ago and turned the focus on the theatrical act of actor and authorship of director and other artists. This festival, with its 36-year-long tradition dating from the Little Pozorje through its transformation into INFANT, undoubtedly belongs to this tradition.  

Besides the varied stage expression which incorporates the techniques of avant-garde today (and reaffirmation of some techniques such as ‘Mime Corporeal’ of Etienne Decroux or ‘Biomechanics’ of Vsevolod Meyerhold), the theatrical explorations of theatrical laboratories during the 20th century as well as the new explorations of the media, the contemporary theatre today unites artists from different national and theatrical traditions and inviting us to draw a comparison with the ancient myth of Babel, when people spoke one language while they were building the Tower. The stage language established itself as more important and understandable than the verbal, textual and national one during the 20th century. Body in its entirety carries communication and speech is a part of a larger whole. Classical text is not a sacred thing while an author’s spirit inspires stage play (The Ister Theatre).   

Contemporary theatre overcomes the fear of misunderstanding and includes different languages and cultures in its plays (The Multicultural Theatre of Galilee, The Blue Theatre, The Efrat Stempler Company*). It is customary today to have artists from different cultures participating in a production which they weave their experience and cultural heritage into as well as into the interaction with the other participants. Many theatres include artists of different educational background into this process – dancers, actors, theoreticians, multi-media artists, street dancers, traceurs, capoeirists, who jointly create a new original language (the Studio for Contemporary Dance, Let’s… The Prodigal Theatre, Mimart, The Trickster Theatre*).  
Moreover, theatre artists today display a sensibility and obsession with the topics which are not limited by their geographical and cultural background (the Theatre of Yugen, the Dah Theatre)*. It could be said that it is a consequence of the globalisation process, the united European Union, but we believe that basically it comes as a consequence of the feeling of belonging to the humanity who shares a co-existence and space of the Planet. 

The programme of this year’s INFANT affirms theatres which create from an inner necessity, in the sense of W. Kandinsky, using their techniques and professionalism to make art contribute to a joint spiritual development, which connects people in the construction of a spiritual pyramid – or a new Tower of Babel, as a symbol of a community of people who live in mutual understanding. That is how INFAT 2009 affirms a true multi-culturality in the best possible way, which in its essence is a joint effort, respect and understanding of differences. 

Jadranka Anđelić


            *This text only mentions certain authors in a specific context, which serves as an illustration of different perspectives of contemporary theatre for this occasion, but with an awareness that none of them can be reduced to this feature alone.