DAS Theatre visits the Baltic Circle Festival

Photograph of two young women looking into the camera and smiling.
© Tani Simberg – Baltic Circle

Three students, their tutor (Lara Staal, independent curator and publicist) and artistic director of DAS Theatre Barbara Van Lindt visited the festival and proposed some moments of exchange. In January we invited artistic director of the Festival Satu Herrala to visit us, and engage in a conversation where we reflected upon our visit (and already anticipated a next visit, in the autumn of 2018…)

Here are some accounts from our students:

“The curation of the Baltic Circle festival gave me a beautiful insight in what it means to see curation as a practice of care in the widest sense of the word. Intimacy and transparency are key words that come to my mind when reflecting on how I experienced the festival – from the first leafing through the program booklet – carefully put together, giving us insight in the dramaturgy and urgency of the festival, to the conversations and the club nights. I feel very inspired by the vivid sense of genuine engagement expressed by Satu Herrala. The First Nations program touched me deeply. It laid bare how social justice and ecological justice need to be thought together, and what a long way we still have to go. I was shocked to learn about the situation of the Sámi communities. Many histories and stories remain hidden and untold. It is clear that art can play a huge role in bringing these voices front and centre, not by ‘talking about’, but by actually making spaces for listening. The contrast between the First Nationsprogram and Sharp Lenses, Soft Senses, estranged me at first. But looking back now I am intrigued by how well this interplay worked. With a focus on intimacy (MDLSX), sensitivity, pleasure (Sleeping Beauty) or actively getting put into someone else’s position (Think much, cry much), it provided a hint at how to deal with the issues of separation and exclusion that keep haunting our societies.”  Ingrid Vranken

“From the rich program of Baltic Circle festival what remains with me the most is the collaboration between Baltic Circle curator Satu Herrala and the Sámi artist and curator Paulina Feodoroff. This collaboration welcomed elements which I find crucial in the act of curating: pushing the limit of the function of an art festival by bringing relevant and sensitive issues, which can be considered on the edge of art. In this case it was by discussing the issue of indigenous rights in Finland, positioning it to similar issues in the rest of the worId. Moreover, not only inviting Sámi artists to perform but by co-curating the festival with a Sámi curator and giving a proper space to the community within the festival. I appreciate that the festival was not afraid to face these questions, even when it brings them and its audience to a sometimes uncomfortable place, a place we do not yet know, a place we have to constantly re-negotiate, where the power structures are being re-discussed. As a French, European white person, it provided me a place where I have to listen and learn. A place where as an audience, as an artist, as a curator I am led to question my practice and its limit. Asking myself what can art do in relation to social and political topics. Is it enough to simply talk about it? Can both spaces interact and encounter to give strength to each other? Can art, through its fictional potential and through a possible radical imagination add to such deep and painful topics? This festival was therefore a place which goes beyond the time of the festival, a place in which I find myself carrying a certain responsibility which keeps me thinking until now.“ Alice Pons

“The Baltic Circle program offered many forms and constellations of theatre and engagement for audiences. It was a smorgasbord of performance, text based theatre, club nights, experimental seances and discursive events. The discussion we enabled and hosted between Ingrid, Alice, Lara, Barbara and myself and the two curators Satu Herrala and Pauliina Feodoroff illuminated many of the complexities in working with issues of a highly important and sensitive nature to individuals, cultures and societies. The Village Council meeting we attended which was co-curated by Satu and Pauliina, was for me an interesting format, as a person from Aotearoa, otherwise known as New Zealand, where the indigenous peoples are known as Maori or tangata whenua. It made clear that incorporation of indigenous knowledges is slowly becoming more present. However, it is a very delicate thing and depends upon the people who have power. The Village Council meeting served as an interesting way to bring together knowledge and methodologies from indigenous peoples into a broader society.“ Isobel Dryburgh

DAS Theatre is an international Master program, part of DAS Graduate School (Amsterdam University of the Arts). At DAS Theatre, both theatre makers and curators in the expanded field of the performing arts share the program. More info: https://www.atd.ahk.nl/en/theatre-programmes/das-theatre/