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16 - 25/06/2017

Prime Minister,

Let’s recapitulate the facts once more. The names of both curators of the 27th edition of Malta Festival Poznań – Oliver Frljic and Goran Injac, as well as the details of the program prepared by them have been included in the grant application submitted by Malta Foundation in November 2015, based on which in March 2016 you approved the decision to award funding to the Festival for the years 2016-2018. Therefore, the Ministry under your command had been fully aware of the role and the scope of cooperation of Malta with Oliver Frljic, at least since March 2016, i.e. three years after the would-be premiere of “Un-divine comedy” [“Nie-boska komedia”] at Stary Teatr in Cracow.

In your statement you quote the phrase used in our application that Malta is an “inclusive social and artistic event, involving its participants in dialogue and activity, opening them to the experience of art”. Let the selection of several out of several dozen of Malta events, which are free-of-charge, open to all ages, ethnicities and religions, suffice for an explanation of this phrase in the axiology of the festival: film screenings, monodramas by Danuta Stenka, Jan Peszek or Mariusz Bonaszewski; workshops for young journalists, animators and teachers, a play with the participation of young actors from Chechnya; culinary workshops with neighbours, artistic interventions in vacant properties; silent disco; forum discussions with philosophers, sociologists and cultural figures. Also the Balkans Platform Idiom program comprises of events targeted at an open, exacting audience interested in things such as the 1970s avant-garde Yugoslavian film, conceptual art of late capitalism, modern “critical theory” research methods, theatre and dance created in the countries of the region or the music of Laibach.
You refer to the legends of world theatre – Grotowski, Brook, Schumann – and then you write that Oliver Frljić “causes deep conflicts with his actions”. Do you think that these artists shied away from conflict and were guided by “not being a threat to the social, cultural and moral norms”, to the abidance of which you summon in the conclusion of your statement? Surely, as a participant of the theatrical alternative of 1970s, you must be aware that Grotowski, Brook, Schumann and many other modern classics (such as Tadeusz Kantor), when they set out new points of contact with reality, they often presented an aesthetic that was rejected and disdained by their contemporaries. Each of them were influenced by the thought of a figure, without whom the culture of the 20th century is impossible to imagine. Antoine Artaud almost 80 years ago wrote: “The action of theatre, like that of plague, is beneficial, for, impelling men to see themselves as they are, it causes the mask to fall, reveals the lie, the slackness, baseness, and hypocrisy of our world; it shakes off the asphyxiating inertia of matter which invades even the clearest testimony of the senses; and in revealing to collectivities of men their dark power, their hidden force, it invites them to take, in the face of destiny, a superior and heroic attitude they would never have assumed without it.”

You have decided that the Festival under the curatorship of Olivier Frljic “does not guarantee <<including the viewer into dialogue >> and <<opening him or her to the experience of art>>, but rather it may raise conflict and discourage a considerable part of the public to take part in the event”. Please do not project your vision of theatre onto Malta. For years Malta has enjoyed the trust of both the public and the artists due to its multidisciplinary and pluralistic approach to the complexity of the modern world. They are people who do not wish to forget about the often subversive power of theatre and are open to real dialogue. Because this conversation is about honesty – or as Artaud would put it – the “uncompromising drive”. Not everyone must share it, but – in a democratic country such as Poland – everyone has the right to decide what kind of art they wish to confront and to express their own opinions about it. Everyone is also entitled to expect state authorities to respect that right.
I invite you to come to Poznan. Practical experience, with performative arts in particular, is the best source of knowledge and cause for revision of own prejudice.

Michał Merczyński

Director of Malta Festival Poznań