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My Country?

I came across this excellent post by Will in his personal blog Bohemian Breakdancer. Although i’ve not lived in Northern Ireland or even ever visited it i have had experience of the “troubles” as the UK press likes to coin it. But i’m not here to discuss my experiences. Will’s post got me thinking about how the Prague Quadrennial brings together people from hugely different backgrounds. Will must live about 300 odd miles from me, in the same country (UK & NI) but we have a massively different life experience. Part of my ignorance of his situation is down to the way in which the UK press ignores anyhting but the most spectaular and “explosive” of Northern Irish news… news of unemployment figures, social conditions, arts funding rarely makes our screens. But i also suspect that like many in the mainland i am ignorant because i choose to be.

His post remminded me of a discussion i had with theatre designer Ivana Vasic, Ivana lives in Serbia and has first hand experiences of living and working in a war zone, she recently expressed similar feelings about her culture’s feelings about art and theatre… its not easy being an instinctively creative being in a world which doesn’t see the need for your talents, Yet despite being unable to move across Europe as she would wish to work (hopefully that will come when Serbia is accepted into the EU) Ivana manages to have a excellent portfolio of work, although like many in her situation she has to supplement it with regular commisions for commerical projects.

PQ07 is already bringing many people together, i’ve had many discussions with the contributors to this blog, a number of the Scenofest Publishing Team on the phone or skype or msn and already people are sharing their experiences of being an artist… a Theatre Designer in Greece, Serbia, Canada even more exciting are the discussions i’ve heard about collaboration. People planning to meet up after long after the PQ, I already have two invitations to visit newly made friends before PQ has even begun!

Will’s last paragraph is brutally honest ~ “Life doesn’t have to be like this, and if I were a better person I would stay in Northern Ireland, and I would try to show people that if you let things slide, you can spend more time making things better for yourself. But I only have one life, and I want to live it doing the things I love.”

PQ will be a very exciting event, it will be the start of manu new friendships and artistic collaborations… but it’s also a reality check for some of us too. I often feel my country is a hard place to work and live as an artist… but the truth is i really don’t have any understanding of the difficulty people like Ivana and Will face as they try to be true to themselves and their art.

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Discussion

6 thoughts on “My Country?

  1. I’ve been to Serbia, it’s full of very talented people who are trapped. For better or worse Western Europe stomped all over the world, the result is that as Western Europeans we can travel pretty much anywhere, live wherever we want and do what we like. Very few people in this world have that luxury. Even though I live in a dump, I have the option to leave it and live elsewhere.

    You’re right Martin, PQ will be very exciting. I have to admit, I got my own reality check when I stayed in Belgrade!

    Posted by Will McNeice | April 11, 2007, 10:25 pm
  2. During the war in Serbia, when USA and other European countries were bombing Belgrade, here in my town (and also in other towns) people were down in the streets asking for the end of the war. Small theatres and artist were producing antiwar plays and people were very ungry about the war!
    Those days, terrorism was not an everyday fact, but after the tragical 9/11, every action or reaction, was named as “terrorism” for the needs of oil companies and gun factories.
    The point is not only to discuss about a war that has happent but to activelly say NO to a war that is going to come. Ok, I live in EU were there is no fear for a war, but there is no reaction, about the war in Irak, from the theatrical community.
    Like it or not, theatre is not only for fun and shows. Is not only for intelectual sets and costumes, but deep inside is for telling the truth.
    Its in our hands to do something or everything we can about humanity and its values, before we take down our pants and give it to oil and gun companies. Maybe its time for action and not for reaction (as it is named as “terrorism”).

    Posted by nikos | April 12, 2007, 8:29 am
  3. I was in Greece during the war and saw some of the protests, some were very impassioned.

    It was outrageouse that the European continent let the former Yugoslavia fall to pieces in the way it did… sure allow them to devolve into smaller states but sitting back and allowing the genocide and forced migration to be carried out was a disgrace – I don’t like the way in which the EU hold ordinary serbians accountable for what happened, sure there is some responsibility there… but this is not the way to heal these wounds. Hopefully they will however get entrance to the EU soon and things can improve, but i think more needs to be done from our point of view

    Posted by admin | April 12, 2007, 8:40 am
  4. hello. everyone.
    i must humboltly admit i saw these blogs only today, being soooo busy in the dreamland serbia. and as this topic involves my name and country that happens to be “mine”, i feel responsible to let my voice out too.
    as for the bombarding, i must say it is a situation very extraordinary, surreal, uncomparable with majority of other things, deeply complex and extremely hard to comprehend. and it started off on my birthday exactly, so i even have this slightly arrogant personal attitude towards it. the air raid sirens were the first horror. then i was sure it was about to be as in the ww2, but it happened to be a video game. which was clear after just a few days, and so we reconsiled our formations in the subworld of belgrade, and the 2.5-month party was on and bouncing. THE venue at the time, industria, was opened from 2p.m. and closing at 8p.m, when the curfew and darkening would start. records rolling everywhere. it is when i started drinking seriously. at the age of freshly 23. so, while most of others outside the pandora’s box were practicing life, we had plenty of time to practice the theory and philosophy of life. not an exact match, but hey, better anything than nothing. and facing the fear of death. but not the death itself. for the bombing was a very precise game. we knew the targets. but there were also mistakes and so-called “collateral damage” happening as well. exceptions prove the rules, i assume. it was very hard to percieve what was happening. we litterly had more information available than any of the age anywhere else. i saw the 5th element one day after the cannes premiere. long live pirates. intravenosly connected to the internet at all times, pissed as hell the world was out there somewhere and we could almost smell it, but not take part in it at any cost. so, trying to comprehend what the essence of existence was, we had the very luxurious opportunity to see one of the very bad possible scripts of life. as the time passes, i have more and more difficulties to believe it really happened and wasn’t some very vivid dream.
    much worse than the bombarding is the damn isolation. the humiliation at standing in lines in fornt of embassies, trying to figure out if we may say we just want to kill the claustrophobia and see a piece of the world at the other side of the mirror, or if we maybe shall start plotting a lie which would sound convincing enough, so the person at the desk will put that stamp in the passport… i believe i am very lucky, for i keep getting them. the visas. but it wasn’t so always. we cannot just see a place, like the place and decide to inhabit it. takes a lot of papers, stamps, insurances, time and money. and some other passport.
    the curiousity is that we still use the passports on which in golden letters stands “yugoslavia”.. i was born in one land, this is the 4th i live in and i’ve never moved from belgrade.
    so, living all of these obstacles and crap, i do theatre both as a way to say all that is in me, and it’s a large variety of life experiences and to escape into the realm of parallel reality. i grew up reading comic books and worshiping super heroes. guess i feel as one when i can participate in building a reality which isn’t the one i meet on these streets.
    someone once told me “surviving a war is sexy. every time i said i was from belfast, i got laid”.
    now, how about that?
    🙂
    cheers

    Posted by ivana vasic | April 13, 2007, 8:00 pm
  5. “surviving a war is sexy. every time i said i was from belfast, i got laid”.

    Damn, I never tried that!

    Posted by Will McNeice | April 14, 2007, 8:15 am
  6. it is called “war profit”
    well, one of, at least
    🙂

    Posted by ivana vasic | April 14, 2007, 9:24 am

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