Monday, November 24, 2014

Nasty Peace

Within the elaborate, hyperbolic mythology of Berlin, there's the rabbit-warren of Kreuzberg - a microcosm of fabrication, a hall of mirrors. Take a wrong turn here and you're lost in perception, forever trapped between echoes, jumping at shadows, believing in things which can't be true, and building a future that feels unreal.

Zoom in, and within the city's surrounds, there's Kotbusser Tor - 'Kottie' - a place famous for anarchy, as a melting pot for the growing pains of 90's Berlin, where the blend of Turks, neo-Nazis and Police publicly negotiated their co-existence amongst Ossies and Wessies. Going through here, even casually, it's quite clearly filled with a very recent, very dramatic, history. Hell - even the circular topography looks amphi-theatrical.

Harnessing this complex political space holds both a challenge and obvious potential in the work Nasty Peace, a site-specific audio tour of Kotbusser Tor staged by the group Copy & Waste in collaboration with the English Theatre Berlin (which is located in a different part of Kreuzberg). The work is broadcast in three different languages (Turkish, English and German) where participants can access narratives of its history and mythology, and contemplate its - inevitably capital-dominated - future. The war over capital development in this traditionally anti-development location is the cause of much debate in Kotbusser Tor, in Kreuzberg, and in Berlin, and gives this Nasty Peace it's title, and it's key theme.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

End of Species published in The Vernacularist (NZ)

My other life, very much intertwined with my critical writing, is as a purveyor of Dramatic Monologues.

Recently I have been touring the work End of Species, a monologue about my attempt to travel overland without flying from Australia to Germany, and Charles Darwin's travel in the opposite direction aboard the HMS Beagle.

The monologue did a mini-tour in the UK, traveling to all corners of the mother country, and has now been published in except form in New Zealand publication called The Vernacularist, run by Arts Depot, Auckland, in a special edition themed 'The Environment'.

Available here (free)

End of Species, left out of the Contents page because its revelations are so explosive, is page 74-76

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"The rain will not erase it" - Interview with Mladen Alexiev (BG)

Mladen Alexiev (1980) is a theatre maker from Bulgaria. He partecipated to the Terni Festival 2014 ( with two different works called “Standing Body” and “A Poem”, giving the name “The rain will not erase it” to the entire Festival.

By Carla Capodimonti and Richard Pettifer
Available in Italian at 

Carla Capodimonti: I found your works about “walking” very interesting. In the history of art we can find a lot of examples and inspirations about walking: in 1921, Dada organized a series of guided tours to various trivial places in the city, in the 50’s, the Letterist International began the 'theory of drift' which turned into situations experiencing creative and playful behaviours and unitary urbanism. Constant reworked Situationist theory to develop the idea of a nomadic city (“New Babylon”) introducing the theme of nomadism into architecture. From mid-century, artists started to use walking in nature as art. In 1966 the magazine Artforum published the journey of Tony Smith on a highway under construction. In 1967, Richard Long produced “A Line Made by Walking”, a line drawn by trampling the grass of a lawn. Since 1995 the group Stalker conducted readings of the cities in different parts of Europe from the point of view of wandering, to investigate the urban areas and the contemporary transformations of a changing society.1

Did you find some kinds of inspirations from the history of art for your work called “A poem”? What is your definition for “walking poem”?

Mladen Alexiev: Actually, the starting point for the intervention “The rain will not erase it” is that I did in Amsterdam in the Autumn of 2013 and its follow up – the photographic project “A poem”, developed in collaboration with the Italian photographer Eleonora Anzini and presented in the frame of the last edition of Terni Festival - originate from quite opposite interests of mine. For quite some time my fascination has been not with the act of walking but, instead, with the act of standing. At one point in my practice I wanted to strip down everything I know about theatre-making. I was thinking – what is the minimum physical expression an individual can do without any special preparations, what is the minimum (political) statement a single body can make? And I have chosen a simple entry point – a body enters a space, its appearance is already a statement – inevitably.
It is not about the walking but rather for taking a stand. Literally. To hold yourself back. To make your body visible through imposed discipline. To leave it somewhere. To deny the body the right to move, to make an attempt to put it into halt. I am touched by the state of emergency that this simple act suggests.

So I am not interested in the history of art in the first place. At one point in the process, links and references naturally occur. But I find it quite suffocating to have it as a starting point. In the end, the history of art is a graveyard in which we find ourselves aspiring or ascribed to certain lineages, attempts and illusions. Our loves make it alive.

"A POEM” (Design and Text: Mladen Alexiev – Visual concept, photo & graphic design: Eleonora Anzini)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Report: 3rd International Baku Theatre Conference

The International Baku Theatre Conference is a biannual conference held in Azerbaijan's capital, where speakers confer to share knowledge, information and networks.

The conference brings together some strange bedfellows - delegates from the USA and UK mix with regional friendlies Georgia and Iran, a surprisingly large Indian representation, and of course the omnipresent Russia - with more than a quarter of total delegates, and far more than the host nation. Conversation focused (or at many times strayed from) the central theme, which this year was 'Theatre art in a system of multiculturalism and universal values' - a theme somewhat diluted by the conspicuous absence of one neighbour to the near south.

The outcome was a strange cocktail of public relations, government interest, networking and a disappointingly small proportion of critical enquiry. The air inside the Music Theatre Baku stayed taut with officialdom and affirmation, with volunteers from the local tourism school acknowledging the two-pronged focus of the conference (Azerbaijan's culture and tourism department are one and the same).

At best, the formalities of government combine oddly with art, and coupled with this, the conference battled against a theme that many in the West would now find passé - multiculturalism was a horse flogged to death in the 90's, as waves of immigration combines spectacularly with capital interest in many places, and has given way to either resentful tolerence, a nationalist xenophobia or full-blown fascism - depending on your point of view.