Just a few goodbye words

History crushes the stone,

As it lets out a blissful groan

Its nails are bluishly palled.

This world is pure dread!
This world is a tail with no head!

 This world is a dream with no way ahead!

A month after Brexit, at the height of terrorist attacks shattering the European illusion of safety here and there, while barbed wire fences sprout in our yards separating us from those we consider less worthy, and those who consider us less worthy, another BITEF is on its way. Jubilee!

The white bull, on whose back we have been riding for thousands of years, has begun shaking once again like the mechanical rodeo bull whose engine with fast breaks has obviously crushed and who throws off his back an ever-larger number of exhausted riders, some of whom, trampled by his powerful and heavy hooves in a blink of an eye, have ended their ride on the coasts of Lampedusa, on the island of Utoya, in front of a Munich shopping mall or a few hundred kilometres away from Belgrade. Other riders are still jolting, happy that they are still there – in motion, that they can still watch the birth of a new day and believing that, by some miracle, they will do better that their predecessors and that the ride will, perhaps, slow down.

History flows through water,

Currents make its blood go bitter

Its tears drown on dry land!

This world is pure dread!

This world is a tail with no head!

This world is a dream with no way ahead!

And so, we are preparing BITEF which is still, after its half a century long history we are celebrating this year, in the saddle. It still watches the world and tries to really see it – as much as it is possible – from the position of a rider at the twilight of the civilisation.

Nonetheless, it needs to be said that it is a very seasoned rider who has seen and remembers SFRY, the Cold War, Neil Armstrong on the Moon, self-management socialism, the Yugoslav wars, hyper-inflation, embargo, transition, liberal capitalism, post-transition, post-history, post-post-history and now watches this that many also call this-that-is-happening-to-us. Who will make a cake out of fog and clouds? – asked the authors of cult production Puppilia Ferkeverk a few decades ago.Today, I wonder: Who will eat the cake?

This is the last text I am writing for the festival catalogue as a BITEF curator although, or so I hope, I will still keep in the saddle as a citizen of Europe.  Naively? I don’t know. During the past ten years I have also seen many things. I’d like to forget some of them but there are more things I should like to remember forever. When programming BITEF with Jovan Ćirilov and then on my own, I endeavoured to think beyond real temporal and geographic coordinates and that was a rare privilege indeed. I endeavoured to believe (I am not saying that I succeeded in doing it) that theatre can indeed make a cake out of fog and clouds and that that cake can feed the world – or a part of it at least.

During that time – and I am proud of it – BITEF did a great deal to re-integrate the post-Yugoslav cultural space even though, geographically speaking, it is still more of an artistic fiction rather than a political reality. After the ‘identity crisis’ that set in when the former state which founded it, fell apart, after the knockdown in the Nineties and threatening demise, BITEF roused itself and entered a new stage of its existence. This stage has not been systematised yet because it is still ongoing, but I believe that for future researchers of BITEF history it will undoubtfuly prove interesting. I am proud that I was a part of precisely that phase in BITEF life.

And now, as the occasion bids it, I wish to express my gratitude to Jovan who invited me to work with him and who was such a good teacher, friend and a very attentive and inquisitive listener.

I should like to thank all my dear Bitefians for their nice and warm cooperation, broad smiles and hard work, and in particular the small team in an even smaller office with three desks and one armchair – the outstanding Operational Director Jelena Knežević and the equally outstanding Executive Producer Aleksandra Delić who always knew how to strike a balance between fog and clouds and the reality, which they, by doing some alchemistry with figures, knew how to make better than it is in spite of everything.

To Ivan, I wish, first of all, joy in his future BITEF work. I am sure that he will see that it is the most important ingredient if one is to make a good cake even when other ingredients have all been used up.

And to all of us I wish a lot of luck in this-that-is-happening-to-us and this -that-is-only-waiting-to happen.

History astride the time

Rancour exudes bilious slime,

Its lips are dripping blood!

This world is pure dread!

This world is a tail with no head!

This world is a dream and no way ahead!

(Aleksandar Popović, Second Door to the Left)

Anja Suša