Photo: Jelena Janković
Photo: Jelena Janković

- Hello, Ehsan, Yasen, nice to meet you. First, I would like to ask you about the process of doing this performance, and its most challenging part.

Ehsan - It’s still a very challenging process, even after we’ve been performing it for two years. The challenging part is that it is a very international group, I gathered people from different places, I communicate with them in three languages and sometimes I’m lost. (laughter)

Yasen - Yes, those people didn’t work together before.

Ehsan - Yeah, they don’t know each other, not all of them.

Yasen - They come from Japan, Iran, from Belgium, Italy, and I’m from Bulgaria. It’s really international.

- How did you decide to get these people together?

Ehsan - Through the research process. The three performers I work with, they participated in my research process, which had three phases. At the end of this research, I went to Sofia to do dramaturgical workshop and there I met Yasen. We directly had a very good “click”, and the same year he came to the creation of I Put a Spell on You, and he generated the text. When he joined the project, I had already made dramaturgical decisions for this work, so he couldn’t interfere with dramaturgy that much. Of course, the text he wrote also has some dramaturgy itself, but for the next project we are working together from the scratch.

- Can you tell me something more about that project?

Ehsan - It’s a solo, where I’m looking for a sculptural quality. I work with an object, it’s a big brass sheet of 2m x 1m. My focus is on reflection and echo, and for the content, we are looking into very different things. We are looking at Rumi, for example.

Yasen - Some Iranian poetry and mythology, and then some contemporary philosophy, and a little bit about Earth as a living organism and humanity which is just one part of it, and not above all.

Ehsan - Yeah, planetary consciousness.

- On stage, your main means of expression is the human body, but you are also working with a drone as an object of technology. Do you think that the body on the stage can be endangered by these contemporary, digital, and virtual means of technology and communication, or maybe we can use it somehow to our advantage?

Ehsan - We can use it, of course, if we are smart enough, but at some point, it’s beyond our control. With this piece, our focus is on privacy. Our notion of privacy is not the same notion that our children have. They don’t know the privacy that we had, and we don’t know the privacy our parents had. So, we are losing privacy to the technology. But in the end, I think all these devices, they are made to make our lives easier.

Yasen - As for theatre and live art being endangered by technology, I don’t really think they are, because I think, even under these Covid-19 circumstances, humans have this internal need to congregate and to be together. I think that physical gathering in a single space, to be together for two hours for example, will be even more valuable in the future. As this technological advancement is progressing more and more, we will need more and more to get back to our bodies. And that’s the title of our next piece - it’s called Everything Brings Us Back to the Body.

- What can you tell me about your personal experience in this Covid-19 isolation? How did it affect you and your work?

Yasen - I think that this new solo work that Ehsan is doing, and we are developing together, was kind of influenced by Covid, and came out of it. He was isolated in a studio by himself, and he couldn’t have anyone in the studio. I couldn’t travel, and he couldn’t bring dancers in, so he started working with an object. Actually, from being restricted, he became very productive. And for myself, I went back to writing a little bit, which I had abandoned before, because I was doing more travelling and working live, and the festivals, so I didn’t have much time to just sit and reflect. Something that I was also telling today to people here asking about the Covid measures, and economy and stuff, it was very strange that in my country, in Bulgaria, which is very close, we didn’t have any funding for the independent art scene before Covid, and suddenly after Covid we have a lot. So, for the first time in my life, I could actually work and get paid. So Covid also brought some good things and positive change.

Ehsan - In Belgium, we are spoiled, actually. The thing that the Covid brought to me is very strange. Back in Iran, we have this uncertainty about everything. You never get a clear answer to your question, it’s always like - “let’s see how it goes, and maybe if God wants...”. The main answer is “If God wants”, so you don’t know anything. And the Covid situation brought the whole world to the similar situation and this uncertainty spread out through the whole world. Now it’s everywhere like in my birth country. (laughter)

- Slogan of this year’s Bitef is Edge of the Future. What do you believe our future can bring and what can we do about it?

Ehsan - It’s a very difficult question to answer. I think we are now at some point where we all know that we are going in the wrong direction, but individually we can’t do anything about it, or even in big groups we can’t do much about it, because, somehow, we have lost control. But I believe, if each and every one of us finds the urge to be able to correct this direction, instead of going towards this wrong one, this destination that the whole world is going towards might change. I believe we have to stop producing, we have to recycle all what we have produced so far, and once everything is finished, we can continue producing again, but this regime of constantly producing is making us powerless.

Yasen - We are now on an ecological breaking point, but there are people who are deniers of it. And at the same time, we are on the economic breaking point, while there are billionaires that can buy entire countries or even continents, and they are heroes, they are role models, and I think this is very disturbing. We should start from having class consciousness and political education in order to be able to understand who the real enemy in this situation is. And then maybe things will get better. Or we will die, self-destruct, it’s possible.

Ehsan - What’s motivating is that the Covid was the alarm for all of us and I think it’s a clear message from the nature about how we need to continue. I always remain optimistic, I think the future is bright, but we need to look after each other more, rely on each other more in difficult situations, and not to think that this is not my problem, not to detach from what is happening next door. Covid is great example because in the beginning everybody thought it’s a Chinese problem and it’s going to remain in China, but soon it was everywhere, and so is the future. Future is for all of us, and we all have to give our best for that.