Lukáš Jiřička: We want to hunt in various communities

The platform Terén started its activities in Brno at the beginning of October. Together with HaDivadlo and the Husa na provázku theatre it forms the third “scene” of the Center for Experimental Theater. Nevertheless, it is not a scene in the true sense of the word. It is profiled as a dramaturgical, production and distribution platform that is not attached to a specific location. This creative, production team places its projects within the Brno institutions while profusely working with public space. This openness is reflected in the way of self-organization and the theatrical or rather artistically diverse performative projects it seeks to implement. On this initiative, we interviewed the dramaturgist Lukáš Jiřička.

Terén has become a place of experimental forms, which is perceived as peripheral by the dominant theater players. Could you sum up the dramaturgical focus or profile lines of Terén?

First of all, I would like to say that I do not like the word “experimental” very much as it does not mean anything. It is necessary either to use or to invent an appropriate conceptual term that can define in more detail and more sensitively the area of art concerned. In my view, the word “experimental” is overused in its generality. It is usually used for the works of art we doubt about, we lack appropriate words, we are too lazy to think about them with more profundity, or we have the impression that by using this expression we define their exclusivity, perhaps even their progressive power. This does not mean, however, that the authors we invite to collaborate with do not experiment, yet they also develop impulses pretty explored or developed.

You have just mentioned the word peripheral. It probably fits, however, we are more interested in overlaps of different fields and areas, the friction of different media inputs, which may not be primarily theatrical, clash of communities, even the spectator ones, appeals addressed to artists to confront with certain tasks. We are not interested too much in figuring out the thematic bolts for the authors or forcing them to cope with the thematic dramaturgy of the season. We rather discuss over the possible aesthetics and confrontation with the urban environment or we encourage the authors to the new forms of cooperation.

We try to offer as wide and dynamic terrain as possible, to adapt the conditions to the needs of each particular author and not to tie him/her to one space, coherent dramaturgy or the need to focus only on the theater or performance, although these are obviously the main focuses of our interest. However, with no doubt we offer an overlap to installation, video, intervention, exhibitions or hybrid shapes on the border of disparate disciplines. For example, we call on visual artists to make productions, musicians to set the scenes. Our aim is not only to connect the people who have not met so far, but also to connect underground acts with more official, institutional culture.

The periphery often sounds like a condemnation, as a second category, an inherited, God forgotten area, a place full of the poor and battered fences with shaded color or industrial zones where you have no reason to go. Our focus is the whole town, but during the movements of lithosphere plates changing the tectonics and regrouping everything. The periphery has its specific charm, it offers exploration of the places where nobody goes too much or is not targeted by those who revel in trends. Perhaps even this corresponds with us, but I wouldn't say that completely.

What are our dramaturgical lines? In short, there are three basic ones.

Obviously, most of our time is devoted to the projects of a larger scale, which we would like to introduce repeatedly. Usually these are the staging projects that require a longer period of preparation, discussions and rehearsal.

Furthermore, we develop a cycle of one-off projects called Nové sady. It may look like a laboratory, but we want this cycle to be a space where rapid, spontaneous, provocative projects would arise. We want them to take place in the city, in the natural environment of the Brno residents. Nevertheless, we allow these interventions, performances, quick productions, art projects to be realized even in the theaters or galleries, if they need such space or technology ... Although we are primarily interested in a quick work, in ephemerality of these projects, we are pleased if such an event later becomes a project of a larger type, even if implemented by another institution, yet in cooperation with us.

The last line is a cycle where our aim is to introduce guest artists who are in compliance with our aesthetic focus. Sometimes, these artists are presented to the Brno audience for the first time with the knowledge that we will cooperate more closely with them in the future. On the other hand, some artists perform just once, complementing our program and enriching the program in Brno generally. The program for families and children is of our interest as well as this area is quite ignored. We are not just aesthetically defined beasts, but we try to make our program capable of addressing a wider audience, having a social impact, stimulating discussion, but also offering sensitive and quality projects for families. The fairy tale by Dagmar Urbánková or dryáčnický punk by Tereza Říčanová offer far more quality than agency freaking fairy tales for children without a bit of imagination.

Terén focuses on a wide range of performativity that you follow beyond the borders of the institutionalized art towards public space, everyday city life, as well as scientific discourse. Could you specify its target group?

As I have said before, ideally it is everyone. We want to attract people from various communities, and sometimes we succeed. For example, the performance of the ensemble Gob Squad attracted such a varied audience that we were in shock because there were people who hardly ever go to the theater. The same thing happened with the theater project of the Rafani art group, to which the audience associated with the art scene suddenly headed. However, we also organize performative concerts, night programs of the club scene, we cooperate with the Moravian Autumn Festival, so we do not reject the classical audience. A number of projects is implemented directly in the city. We really do not have an ideal viewer in mind. It may well be an employee of the Tax Office who passes by from the shopping and stops because she is interested in an event, FAVU student as well as JAMU, a lost foreigner, a senior interested in the classical 20th century music or a techno party visitor attracted by our program.

Such activity realized by the state-funded institution is not often seen in the Czech Republic. Isn't the concept of your activity a bit confusing for your founder? The search for the different shades of performativeness frightens even the experienced theater practitioners in Prague.

If you refer to the municipality, we have not received any negative reactions so far. Quite the reverse, during the opening show called “Terénní úprava", which started our activities, practically all the events were attended by the people from the municipality and no one was complaining about the noise concert of Yoshihide Otomo or the urban intervention Gob Squad. The Center for Experimental Theater (an organization formed by our organisation, Husa na provázku and HaDivadlo), is a fan of us and we have very friendly relations with other two theaters. Rather than the competition, we perceive each other as a complement with different programs, starting points and realizations, but fair and with good quality. On the other hand - we have been operating since October 2019, so we have not gathered many experience yet. And who knows what upcoming projects will generate.

Do you count with the "import" from Prague or abroad? Yet, regarding the theater milieu of Brno, the conditions for the development of an independent art sphere are not very well developed, at least as far as theater is concerned.
Yes, it is related to the fact that we are interested in cooperation with a number of artists based in Prague and the fact that I work as a teacher at DAMU. We are very interested in abroad and we seek to arrange the projects with artists from Poland, Slovakia, Germany or Austria. Obviously, mostly on a co-production basis, but that is more of an advantage. We also want to give a chance to the beginning authors who find it difficult to start. We are not interested just in presenting the known names, but in taking risk as well.

Do you cooperate or plan to cooperate with other Brno institutions, places for independent projects?

Yes, apart from the above mentioned HaDivadlo and Husa na provázku, we cooperate with the Moravian Autumn Festival, FAVU, Mendel Museum, Brno Contemporary Orchestra and others.

Are you planning a festival similar to the opening one?

We would like to start a season with a festival like this every year. However, it is both financially and organizationally demanding. There are six of us working in the Terén. Apart from me, Matyáš Dlab as the artistic director of the whole platform, Soňa Borodáčová as an irreplaceable manager, Barbora Doležalová who is in charge of PR and Jonáš Garaj and Jozef Fertaľ - very experienced and creative technicians who are more co-creators than just process operators. So, for us the events like the opening festival are huge burden. Unlike other festivals, we cannot immediately relax and doze all year long, but vice versa - we must implement our program, the foundation of our existence.

Maybe it’s an untimely question, but have you thought about the possibility of publishing a magazine reflecting performance genres? It seems to me that even Prague lags behind in this respect.

The Center for Experimental Theater publishes the new magazine CEDIT, whose editors are Jakub and Barbora Liška. Soon, the second issue will be released. Obviously, we also want to focus on these areas, but we cannot fully cover everything. The problem is rather to find the authors than the platforms where to publish.

What has recently pleased you in the field of culture?

In the last year, I was pleased by the productions of other Czech theaters like Oči v sloup Jiřího, Virtual Ritual and Fatherland by Jan Mock, Škůdci by Wariot Ideal or Šest příběhů o vzniku a zániku by Peter Gonda. Moreover, I am pleased, but on the other hand also terrified by the quantity of the events in Prague making it almost impossible to see and reflect all the theatrical events and festivals. Furthermore, I would like to mention the existence of a pretty extensive network of independent theaters and centers in other towns, from Osmička in Humpolec, through the Galerie in Liberec to Plato in Ostrava.
I cannot name all the books, albums, concerts and exhibitions as I would have to search in my notes and diaries for a long time to find the information about them. I don't remember everything.

On the contrary, what has disappointed you?

Probably other things than what happens in culture. A lot of bullshit and uselessness in music, theater or film is very normal. In my view, it is better to concentrate on what has a certain sense thus building an overlap.

What are your wishes?

I wish Malá inventura finally buried its chicken.

The interview was prepared by Petr Pola.