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“Thoughts on culture and Europe” series: Exclusive interview with Michael Marmarinos

Michael Marmarinos


What is the role of politics in your work? Is art an efficient, or even subversive, form for addressing political questions?

Our work is governed by principles such as:

  • Theatre is the art of the history of people.
  • Under the appropriate gaze -the spectator’s gaze-, there is no moment in daily life that is not conceived as theatre.

Our goal is not politics in a straight way, because that if it were so, it would be politically inefficient. We are convinced that the reaction of Art to political questions offers the effectiveness of obliquity, together with the blessing of a painful personal witnessing. This actually means that “toward a piece of Art wounded by Reality”, we allow or even instigate history to infiltrate and interfere with our work -even if it undermines the artistic product.

The references in your work transcend the limits of the “canon” of contemporary theatre. What type of text can be an inspiration for the making of theatre?

The quest for us as usual is to force the stories we do know to yield the stories we do not know. A broad variety of sources marks our textual material, such as newspapers, philosophical essays, advertisement spots, personal diaries, lyrics, photos, plays, poetry, “useless” daily phrases and notes, scientific papers, etc, etc. -All kinds of stimuli, emerging from collective or personal history and referring to the apparent, as well as the hidden sides of daily life. Daily life is the symptom of Collectivity, which is a more essential synonym for politics. All these tested within the rehearsal process by the requirements of the so-called, EMERGING DRAMATURGY.

Europe apart from a political project reflects a cultural dimension as well. This, in terms of setting the boundaries of European culture and trying to pin down a European identity. Do you think this is feasible or even desirable? If you do, even if you don’t, where do you think this process might lead?

By this decision, European Politics created a “trap”. But the so entrapped Art and Culture, exploded in a way that offers politics a byproduct, albeit important achievement regarding the goal of this unification.

In my opinion, the privilege of United Europe (compared to the USA for example), is that long living nations and histories, with different but overlapping cultures, with different languages are determined to come closer to each other, and EXCHANGE their values. This can create a model of multi-cultural European identity, which, under some certain conditions and guarantees, can establish a delightful and positive movement against the worst disease of our era: FEAR. This model can also be a creative alternative to the process of globalisation, which is exactly what we consider both desirable and feasible.

In your play, National Anthem, you treat national identity as something immanent and personal. Do you think that all contemporary forms of identification are no longer fixed and static? Is this a form of liberation?

We insist that the title of our production is “National Hymn”, despite all anthems, the reason being that in hymn you may discover yourself along with others as part of a social body. And by a liberating process of expressing deeply felt personal emotions, to experience a COLLECTIVE identity. Through this process, you identify and name common wounds, common desires... Politics stems from Polis; that is a system or a condition of collective life, of living with others. An artist is first of all a living person in a city, an instrument conveying and magnifying the pulse of everyday reality. Everything is politics, even if one is not aware of it.

Debates on globalization usually suppose a tension between the global and the local or national. Is your work inspired by this tension or do you think that the global and the local/national might be thought as supplementary?

My work is reflected in all kinds of conflicts.

I think a response to this particular question is implied by the answers above. And I would add that globalisation -not by coincidence-, has been turned into a negative term. We have to listen and take into consideration the spontaneous social reaction it causes. And the main reason seems to be that in purely economical forums there is only one way which prevails: “the right of the most powerful”. The most active and fresh branches of a society cannot compromise with such a statement.

How would you picture/write/direct something that you would call ‘European’?

I imagine theatre is one of the last territories where people can deposit their personal experience and “exploit” -in a good sense- each other’s investments. It’s a MEETING PLACE, a place of encounter. It’s a place where we truly meet each other and transcend our limits of all kinds. Meeting means Exchange. The depth of the encountering is fully proportional to the generosity of the giving and exchanging. With the others, with the “strangers”, with the “foreigners”… This meeting opportunity between people of a wide range of social and cultural backgrounds, a meeting possibility over their common memories, wounds and desires, I would call European.



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