The 40th International Festival of Alternative and New Theatre in Novi Sad
Theatre and I

We live in an apocalyptic world. Not only that. Listening every day about numerous and multiple crashes around the world, we lie in our beds at night with the feeling that we have lived through an end of the world, and wake up expecting a new one. As if being trapped in a demonic circle of post-apocalypse (it’s year 2013, we have even survived the Mayan calendar). Life of contemporary man, contemporary man in Serbia in particular, could be described with the sentence: ‘A new crisis every day.’ Crisis is often defined as a person’s temporary loss of balance always preceded by a change in external reality. In the epoch of metachange, in the times of a universal multi-, in the space of the volatility of the existing galimatias, what is a person’s balance, actually? Or what is a person, actually? Can it be perceived without the use of a machine – the computer? Can someone be known, i.e. understood, without the mediation of all those institutions he is stretched between? Can the other be known if we are no longer able to put limits on ourselves?
Slavoj Žižek explains: ‘Apocalypse is coming close on many levels today: ecology, informational saturation... Things are closing in on ground zero, the end of the time is near. [...]Faced with this threat, our collective ideology triggered the mechanism of cover-up and self-deception, up to a direct will for ignorance: this is the universal model of behaviour of endangered human societies: instead of, while declining, focusing on the crisis, they become more and more blinded.’ (Žižek, Gunjević, 2008). Therefore, not being able to fight the inexorability of globalism, quasi-progress, we have turned to nihilism. And we don’t mean only the Serbian people. We mean the humanity. Moment after moment, the humanity struggles with the increasing lack of humanism.
This is the kind of atmosphere in which INFANT, now a mature festival of alternative and new theatre, is celebrating its fortieth birthday. It was born back in 1974, from today’s point of view in the happy times. It was first known as ‘Small pozorje’, but was so brilliantly renamed in the war year of 1995 by poet Vladimir Kopicl. For the forty years of the existence of the other and different festival, the cultural scene of Novi Sad has seen a parade of brilliant and unbelievably innovative plays. From the Sexual Perversities of Chicago by Omar Abu el Rub, through Romeo and Juliette by Budapest’s Moving House, to the first theatrical steps of Ivana Vujić. Now, for INFANT’s birthday, on the ‘broken-in’ stage of the festival will accommodate the plays by Jossi Berg, Kitt Johnson, Jasmin Vardimon, Marija Ferlin, Senka Bulić, Vera Mantero, Ontroerend Goed from Belgium and others. However different these plays may be, since they range from a dramatic multimedia picture of the collective unconscious, through biographical anesthetisations, choreographic stylisations, visual puns and painting as the base of the action triangle, to autistic performance art with no words, and a documentary, a direct struggle of autistic persons for their socialisation and acknowledgement, there is one thing they have in common. All the plays bear an obvious signature of the artists, their creators, that is, a marked authorship.  From the contemporary trash pile, from the global information scrapbook, the theatre creators have collaged and hybridised their identities. Sometimes they multiplied and broken them, sometimes they only chipped, sometimes scattered in words, but even these and such, re-examined and re-constituted characters have become bearers of the post-apocalyptic age.From the pieces of the fragmented and elusive reality, the said artists have made their own space, a mirror of their own, turning it towards the institution. The plays of this year’s INFANT pose the question of what happens when the institution becomes the Otherhood. As in the total uncertainty today, one thing is certain. Even the theatre is not self-sufficient any more. It has spilled out of its bed. It has turned to other institutions, media, rituals and shapes, got lost in breaking with conventions, going beyond the genre, attempts to create a new revolution, and a new revolution yet again, until a rule was born: one artist – one revolution.
Following this line, a particular curiosity of this year’s INFANT is our decision as selectors to support the mission called ‘The Magic Journey’ directed by Djordje Makarević and performed by seven young and talented people with special needs (autism). As each anniversary (in this case the 40th INFANT) calls for a new identity/a new idea chapter of the festival itself, the importance is undisputed of festival’s sensitivity for very courageous dialogues such as this play, after which you are no longer sure who is ‘healthier’ – you, as spectators, or the performers – persons with autism, as brave epigones of a new stage expression. Perhaps this post-apocalyptic world, this life after history, this last breath of man is supposed to be devoid of discrimination, full of integration of ‘us’ and ‘them’, if such a division is ever allowed to exist. As Rudolf Laban defined: ‘each human being is entitled to the movement and word’.
The theatre, therefore, still seeks. It steps slowly from one sprout to the other, observes all its meanders and armlets and realises that it has become even its own alternative. The artist has outgrown the institution.
Hence, the ritual of theatre-going can gain new forms. It can mean a dialogue with new young professionals (such as the young actors of the Faculty of Arts of Priština, who are still making their first professional steps as infants, as children, in the fields of the profession and their need to prove themselves to the society, and it can mean a visual experience similar to the one in the cinema or the gallery, it can exclude the uttered word and actor, acting. In any case it will certainly make you wonder: where am I in all this. Where do I see myself in this dialogue? Is there me in the theatre and the theatre in me, or I, too, have become part of the universal nihilism, so I’m no longer interested? Ask yourselves where you have been for the last forty years and come to INFANT’s birthday.

Selectors: Miloš Sofrenović, Milica Konstantinović