Interview: Marija Krtolica
Luca Curci talks with Marija Krtolica during FRAGMENTED IDENTITIES and FUTURE LANDSCAPES, second and third appointments of BORDERS Art Fair 2020, at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space and at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
Marija Krtolica is a movement artist/choreographer, and dance scholar/teacher. Her doctoral dissertation “The Embodiment of the Unconscious: Hysteria, Surrealism and Tanztheater” (2018) examined hysterical scenes, and politics of spectatorship. Marija has been choreographing since the early 1990s. Her main interest lies in articulating the unseen and unpronounced aspects of the subjective experience within the overlapping historico-political contexts. Her current project “Re-Inventing Love” is inspired by the writing of the French philosopher Alain Badiou, and involves exploration of the love relationships in the context of urban alienation. For the video project, Marija was collaborating with a group of artists: Julie Fotheringham – dancer, and psychoanalyst; Sean Lewis – director, writer and actor, and Michael Mangieri – dancer, improviser and chef. For the live performance of “Re-Inventing Love”, Marija is researching the music and theoretical texts of the composer Luigi Nono, as well as literary sources from several authors.
Luca Curci – What is your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
Marija Krtolica – Although I have been dancing since an early age, I decided to pursue choreography in 1990s. However, I now identify as a dance-theater artist, who has for a long time been an avid reader of modernist literature and poetry. More recently, philosophy and psychoanalysis have provided theoretical background for my studio practice. The shift of linguistic landscapes once I moved from my native Belgrade first, to California and then to NYC, has given my work certain kind of dramatic impetus, that is, a communicative urge that is unique to the experiences of both displacement and non-verbal translation between cultures.
LC – Which subject are you working on?
MK – Since February 2020 I have been working in collaboration with several New York City based artists, on a piece exploring the ancient theme of love in the context of urban alienation. Julie Fotheringham – psychoanalyst and dancer; Michael Mangieri – chef, communal worker, and dance improviser; and Sean Lewis – actor, director and writer, in a major way, contributed through discussion, shared readings, and creative input to the film shown at the festival in Venice this fall. The work was instigated by the writings of philosopher Alain Badiou in which he posits love as one of the truth procedures. For me as an artist that proposition meant that I would interrogate how truth appears in the process of creating a dance-theater piece which centers on the challenges love faces in the today’s world. Questions linked to the body and subjectivity when falling and staying in love are juxtaposed with the socio-political problems such as inequality, radical injustice, cruel economic competition, and labor alienation. As a group of artists, we were searching for the ways of seeing, hearing and understanding each other in both deeply honest and clandestine, subtle ways – through movement, gesture, kinetic intensity, image, metaphor…
LC – What is your creative process like?
MK – I tend to start alone by doing preparatory readings, taking notes, finding resonant images, and generating movement material. Often, music or sound will help me structure original kinetic ideas. With performers I combine methods: I work with improvisational structures and themes; I ask performers about their understanding of the theme; occasionally, they bring their own sources, but also share my own sources with them. Movement is still at the heart of my work, but discussion and readings play an important role when working with the philosophical concept. For a live piece, I create movement phrases and/or scores. In this specific case, since we were working in isolation due to COVID-19, the material was generated through a kind of internet dialogue. The major themes for solo studies were “fragmented body” and “infinite subjectivity”. Both my choreographic process and, in this case, video assembling include editing, and recombining. I aim to create a chain of evocative associations rather than a linear narrative.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
MK – As an artist I often re-iterate similar questions – once that have had prominence in my adult life – both subjectively, and as a member of various artistic/dance/academic community. First, as a human being, I return to the role dreams, memories, and peripheral details of our everyday existence have in how we interact in social situations. Second, I aspire to be an artist that communicates beyond the national borders. I am interested in the ways we as viewers tend to hierarchize images and visceral impressions as well as in how we can discover innovative modes of translating our deepest feelings and thoughts beyond language barriers. I am also fascinated with the ways movement and language activate or neutralize each other, that is, with the very process of meaning making.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
MK – Covid-19 and overall economic crisis have deeply affected the artistic communities. The artists who try to make living through their art are experiencing great difficulties, as many events have been cancelled, and many of us did not have any professional contracts that would guarantee basic benefits such as regular salary or health insurance. On the level of pure artistic creation, since so much of the everyday activities have been limited, there is more time to reflect or engage in solo practices, and innovative online exchanges. Hopefully, this world crisis will lead to more maturity in the performing arts world, and allow younger art-makers to re-think their motivations for becoming artists, and put in words their needs as up-and-coming communities of creative people. I think that if we act together, while respecting individual differences, as artists we can provide some great examples for cooperation. After all, we are in some ways lucky, as the artistic labor that does not bypass natural human propensity towards creative expression.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
MK – Since this is the second time that I am participating in ITSLIQUID’s Festival, I can say that I’m impressed by the organizers commitment to the transformative role art plays in the society. I appreciate the multidisciplinary and international nature of the festivals. The theme “Fragmented Identities” is relevant not only because of the complexities that recently arose with the epidemics, and subsequent economical hardships, but also because of the ways in which the new technologies challenge both historical sense of the self, and the moral traditions based on the existence of solid individual identities. The theme invited both the participants and the viewers to engage with the major ethical, social and esthetic questions, and to offer the new ways of thinking about who we are right now and who we can become as individuals and communities.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the festival’s theme?
MK – The video-collage “Re-Inventing Love” came out of a situation peculiar to NYC at the beginning of the pandemic. The video encompasses memories from the shared, live rehearsals; images from the destitute city; documentation of performers facing solitude; footage from the social protests, and ways in which call for justice and racial equality echo through performers’ bodies and thoughts. The fragmentation in this case arose from drastic changes in New Yorkers’ everyday experiences; the sudden emotional and physical isolation; and direct encounters with the previously hidden injustices. The racial, gender and class identities became a major topic of public discussion, as they suddenly appeared intrinsically linked to existential struggle and survival. As performers, we worked with our bodies, and minds while faced with the major socio-political upheaval. The theme of fragmented identities in “Re-Inventing Love” has to do with being an American citizen; living through the pandemic; understanding racial difference; witnessing the incessant death of the old and vulnerable populations; reading about the suffering in the other countries and other eras; remembering our personal histories; thinking critically during the riots; witnessing violence; and longing for closeness.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
MK – I think that it is very ambitious, but definitely worthwhile to organize this kind of an international event during the time of a major world crisis. Unfortunately, I could not be present in person this time around, but from what I have learned via media, the event was well attended and unfolded smoothly. I congratulate the organizers on being able to create a time and place in which art can invite personal reflection, and allow for relaxation from the repressive social mechanisms that are especially powerful in the situation when fear and anxiety have to be heightened.
LC – Would you suggest collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
MK – I think that participation in an ITSLIQUID festival can be a great learning experience, a way of meeting the artists from different disciplines, and a aesthetically pleasing environment for sharing one’s work with a cultivated, international audience. Of course, it is an especially valuable experience when one can afford to be present in person. In this way, the work can be discussed informally, and new ideas can emerge. But, I believe that ITSLIQUID is successful in keeping the Internet communication going, and giving each selected art work the attention it deserves. I am confident that even when the artist(s) is not present the work is promoted in a way that allows for the audience to experience it, and think about it.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID group can represent opportunity for the artist?
MK – Since I am primarily choreographer, who is dedicated to artistic creation and intellectual discourse, I can truly speak only from that perspective. At the same time, my sense is that more commercially oriented art makers can benefit in a different way from the participation in the festival. As a choreographer/performer, I got a sense that performing live at ITSLIQUID engages not only the creative contribution of the artist, but also the uniqueness of the site where the performance takes place. Since, this time I participated with the dance-theater video-collage, I can say that the question of space and time is in a different way present in visual art. The video is more independent from the environment than live performance, but it is also affected by the way in which it is presented. In both cases, the exchange is unique and involves artists’ enthusiasm, organizers’ attentiveness, and audiences’ focused attention. I think that ITSLIQUID presents a great opportunity for both artistic exposure and intercultural dialogue amongst artists, and audiences.