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23/06/2006 11:34 Local Time 
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"Thoughts on culture and Europe” series: Exclusive interview with Dario Fo

Dario Fo

 

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

Every artistic expression is either influenced by or adds something to politics. Theater, all great theater at least, was involved with politics or it has created bridges with political activism. I am referring mainly to satirical theater; for instance, the plays of Aristophanes, the Italian greats, Goldoni and Ruzzante, even Moliere.

All creators desired to participate in social life, through their every performance; taking issue with the injustices of life, making satire and grotesque, denouncing: injustices and the lack of freedom, castigating the suppression of human dignity. In this respect, the people of theater were involved in politics.

I am interested, too, in satirical theater, in the grotesque, or even in tragedy at times, but I am mostly comfortable with comedy. With comedy I can search for the profound. Comedy makes the subversion of the existing state of affairs possible.

Your work has often been accused of being ideological. Do you think that theatre should be criticized according to this standard?

I do not understand why the notion “ideological” is an object of criticism. Although, this is often used with negative connotations, I see ideology as an inherent part of culture.

What can prevent humor and satire from becoming incorporated in the systems of power?

It is hard for power to enjoy or incorporate humour and satire in its system of control. All forms of power —even based on the consensus of the democratic system— react when they are being attacked, or when those who exercise power become a target. There are examples of this violent reaction since the times of Ancient Greece, and these persist in the contemporary world.

You have been active in taking a stance against the war in Iraq. Why do you think there is such a growing dissent against this war throughout Europe? Is this necessarily a sign of optimism?

This war induced everyone with a basic intelligence to feel disgusted. Everyone that had some knowledge of the situation, because having access to good information was crucial in this event. George W. Bush and the American side distorted something that was evident. They were aided by the right-wing European governments, the Italian government included. It is true that we were pronouncing that humanity should be protected from the possibility of an attack on the part of Saddam Hussein, that he had weapons of mass destruction, etc. Still, till now, and since the total destruction of Iraq, there are no signs that these weapons existed. Saddam is undoubtedly a criminal, he is a cold-blooded murderer. It is right to try to confront him, to undo the destruction and the repression he has perpetrated.

Nevertheless, the mode, the justification, and all the games involved in this war were dishonest. In a way, the American side descended to Saddam’s level, which happens often in these types of circumstances. That is why the people in Iraq do not accept the current state of affairs. The Americans – and we should say the Bush government, instead of the Americans— as they prove every day, are not interested in Iraq, in bringing democracy to its people, but they are trying to benefit from the situation in every possible way; to exploit the oil, water, and transportation resources of the country, and the region in general.

That people came out in the streets to protest is vital; this popular action created a new kind of conscience. In Italy, this was a momentous event in the context of the last 5-6 years. The anti-war protests were a clear blow to the Berlusconi government two years after it resumed power; in the case of immediate elections, the Berlusconi government would loose some millions of votes.

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?

It is extremely dangerous to talk about limits or borders. It is vital, instead, that we remain completely open, that we are always involved, and that we aim to contribute personally in social events. The great advantage that Europe always enjoyed was that it promoted a culture inspired by common popular concerns. Even before Europe was united in an economic level or was conceived at the level of economic interests and trade, it was culture that united all the countries of Europe. The arts, literature, music are the connecting link of Europe.

 


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