Starting to consider the Malta Festival Idiom theme ‘New World Order’ I was struck by two immediate lines of thematic connection.
The first was to think about the vast array of ways in which this phrase has been used to describe dizzying shifts in the social and political reality we live, since the last parts of the Twentieth Century and the first parts of the Twenty-First. New World Order invokes not only the paradigm-shifting of international relations, from Gorbachev and G. H. W. Bush ushering in of the post-Soviet era, to the First and Second Gulf Wars, 9/1, the War on Terror, the rise of Jihadism on the global stage as well as the upheavals and subsequent retrenchments of the Arab Spring, to name just a few of them. At the same time it invokes perhaps the other whirlwinds of change that have gripped much, if not all, of the world – the building narratives of imminent ecological disaster through global warming and resource scarcity, the austerity politics brought on by the banking crises, economic downturns and Eurozone upheavals and the technological shifts that have, in their different ways, re-organised labour, leisure, politics, commerce and social space from digital media, social and peer to peer networks to big data, globalisation, and electronic surveillance. I had no sense that my selection could address all these topics and tendencies, but at the same time I was sure that these still-moving movements, currents of change and transformation would be there in the background, bringing energy, questions and resonance to the selection. How can performance help us map and understand this already and always changing space? How might it help us to navigate?
The second impulse I had was to think about the idea of new world order in quite a different way, not so much from the social and political as from the philosophical, especially in terms of how art might help us see and re-see the world in new ways. Not so much a matter, perhaps, of seeing the worlds change as changing the way we perceive, frame and understand it.
In addressing these two impulses I’ve worked with Kasia Torz to create an Idiom strand for the festival that is looking both forwards and backwards in time, examining particular situations and histories of change and transformation and at the same time setting its sights firmly on the future – on where we are heading, challenges we face and possible solutions. [something about specific works]. The future in this ‘new world order’ is an anxious one, on a personal level and in terms of bigger geo political and socio-economic questions. The works in the Idiom program are not offering solutions for this anxiety but in inventive, playful, troubling, rigourous, comical, challenging and surprising ways they are, I think, helping us to map and understand the territory in which we find ourselves.