ANA OGRIZOVIĆ: ZOOM FESTIVAL IN RIJEKA – NOT THROUGH ZOOM
22 December 2021
The engaged Zoom Festival took place in October 2021 in Rijeka, with the intention of encouraging once again the involvement of young artists into the of social problems through alternative forms of performance. The festival was launched in 2010 and is organised by the Rijeka-based non-profit organization Drugo More (“The Other Sea”), which strives to create a platform for young artists. In cooperation with the Create to Connect – Create to Impact project, the authors of the performance received additional funds to test the limits of the established theatrical forms. The collective goal was to engage the audience in recognizing and discussing current topics such as the position of women in contemporary society, ecology, and mass privatization as a result of capitalism.
The installation with the dance performance Pinky Swear deals with relationships among women in a unique way. The installation was conceived by the Rijeka-based artist Rina Barbarić, while the performance and stage design are the work of Andreja Brozović Adžić-Kapitanović, Kristina Paunovski and Koviljka Ljuština. Visitors to the festival had the opportunity to see a short performance at the former Exportdrvo Rijeka factory, and the accompanying installation remained available for tours the next day. In this way, visitors were encouraged to return and see the installation from a different perspective, as an exhibition separate from the performance.
The author Rina Barbarić presented the friendship of three women as a manifestation and relationship of three materials – metal, glass and plasticine. The guests attending the opening of the Pinky Swear witnessed three girls struggling to get up, which they succeeded in the end with gradual, joint effort and mutual support. The costumes were reduced to leotards, and the scenography to a basic representation of the material, which makes the story universal in terms of the time and place of performance. The authors use the movement to narrate the pain with which every woman navigates through everyday life, as well as the strength of the women’s collective. The artists use dance to depict the characteristics of their own materials: the rigidity of metal, the flexibility of plasticine, and the clarity of glass.
The fate of women and their materials is intertwined, which is further emphasized by elements of scenography. Each construction on the stage is composed of one primary material, reinforced with traces of the other two materials. Indeed, the mirror on the stage is made of glass, but it contains metal spikes and a plasticine stain at the base; the plasticine snake lies on metal shavings, and the pillar made of metal rods is surrounded by plasticine flakes. The main properties of the material are upgraded by this mixing process, just as the characters of the protagonists from the beginning of the performance are complemented by their joint movement. The thesis of the Pinky Swear authors –that unity does not have to come at the cost of personal identity, but that the greatest strength lies in the community – is shown both through people and objects.
The documentary performance Grannies addresses women’s relationships by putting the victims of modern bureaucracy at the centre of events. The performance was dramatised and directed by the
Ljubljana-based theatre director Tjaša Črnigoj, and is performed by Sendi Bakotić, Vanda Velagić, Anja Sabol and Ana Marija Brđanović from the Rijeka-based Igralke collective. The audience gets to know real-life stories of retired senior women presented under the pseudonyms Albina, Marta, Suzana and Ljudmila. They are women whose seniority has not been recognized by the state, leaving them very little or no pensions and making a living by collecting recyclable bottles. Although each of the grannies has a full working career behind them, they have been forgotten and discarded like the bottles they are collecting.
The problem of counting the length of service and unworthy pension is backed up by information and statistical data. During the performance, the audience learns that the pensions of the grannies range from 1,222 Kuna (about 160 EUR) to zero Kuna, and that women over 65 are the most vulnerable group in Croatian society. The authors presented this information only after asking members of the audience for their opinion on the amount of the average pension or the gender pay gap, thereby transcending the traditional barrier between the performer and the audience. The performance is both socially and environmentally engaged, reminding the viewers of the invisible world of waste and the precarious living conditions behind hypermarkets.
The spectators were also able to buy the performance booklet ahead of the performance, with all the proceeds going to marginalized women whose personal stories were the basis for the performance.
Private Property – Access Forbidden
A novelty at this year’s Zoom Festival is the introduction of virtual performance space as a new, modern theatre space.
Slovenian programmer Jaka Železnikar, in cooperation with Ljubljana’s Bunker Association, presented the online exhibition Private Property – Access Forbidden. The installation includes a virtual map set in 2026, which presents a completely privatized world in which no state or body of water is no longer accessible to an unprivileged individual. By clicking on the exhibition link, the viewers gain access to a detailed map where they can find information about the accessibility of a certain territory or resource with one click. At best, one can gain access to France for 50 euros, but only a mile away can be a territory where the intrusion is punishable by death. Given that we are witnessing new forms of privatization on an almost unimaginable scale on a daily basis, the exhibition is a reminder of a possible world in the near future.
The artists of the Zoom Festival 2021 recognized the need to encourage their viewers to reflect on and ask questions about the topics such as gender relations, freedom and mass privatization.
The festival’s mission to begin new kinds of performance forms has been successfully completed, especially in terms of audience participation. The uninformed, previously silenced theater audience in the dark has now gained a way to become part of current events only with its voice and appearance, as well as to get to know the world outside the confines of its theatre seats. A single performance cannot change national, let alone global problem of gender inequality and bureaucratic hell; however, the importance of engaged art lies in keeping these topics alive through conversation. The performers still have a long way to go to change the audience from passive observers to active
participants, but the audience of the Zoom Festival has shown their readiness for and interest in new theater forms. That’s why it would be interesting for the next year to see performances that further explore the possibilities of confrontational theater.
photos by Tanja Kanazir
Link to the article on Off Novi Sad platform.