A Wonderful, Wonderful, Wonderful Disaster

Dance performance
2012 / 90'

“Either endure the minimum or demand the maximum?”

Even before we entered the dance hall as the authors of the potential performance A Wonderful, Wonderful, Wonderful Disaster, the five of us women (Selma Banich, Deana Gobac, Nataša Govedić, Roberta Milevoj, Iva Nerina Sibila), who all come from very different spheres of artistic creation, were primarily interested in in the exact frameworks that we were getting ourselves into. Do we have the “keys to the city” in which we perform? Who do these institutions’ keys exactly belong to? Why can we rehearse in the private Tala Dance Centre financed through the organisation of dance classes and workshops and not in the facilities declaratively funded by the city authority to provide space for art research that, as a matter of fact, give priority to the commercial, often festival-oriented projects? Should we then dance in the street (to found Zebra Dance Centre), in the public library, in the shopping mall, at places still considered “commons”, or should we conform to the hierarchical interpretation of public institutions claiming that the keys to the city space belong only to the authority and by no means to citizens?

And should we keep on working, endure over and over again, count primarily on being accustomed to our never-ending poverty and minimal work conditions even when we know in advance that the production of a potentially most challenging or acclaimed dance performance is going to die after a few performances – simply because the independent scene in Croatia still hasn’t managed to acquire any repertoire continuity within the “party” nomenclature of local and state authorities for whose officials art is pretty much the same as sport? Culture industry managers are only interested in the sponsorship potentials of an individual event, in a spectacle attracting a huge audience and nothing whatsoever in research, multilayer or politically “non-standard” work. In such a context (and context is always a half of an artwork), what is “our space”? And should we squat the institutions with empty halls given the impossibility to negotiate opening them up? How does it come to pass that five women with distinguished art biographies fully depend on friendship relations with other women and not on the support of any institutional network regarding rehearsals and performances? This is, at the same time, the true potential of the performance. This is the experience of Iva Nerina Sibila:

“The performance format is of crucial importance. I can no longer accep

theatre or broader art projects produced in a way

that supports political or economic violence. This is

the problem, because a certain segment

of art production is consequently excluded, and art cannot follow blindly

changes in a society but rather must incite them.”

The violence of the usual identification with offered models of performance is so strong that we were nearly constantly asking ourselves whether it is even at all possible to step out of a performance ideology that in so many well-coordinated ways forces us to hold on to “recognizable” language. If Geraldine Harris – whose study of staging femininities draws attention not only to the cruelty of the most often used models of theatrical performance but also to the cruelty of challenging them – is right, the performance format is probably the most important decision we make. Harris (Staging Femininities: Performance and Performativity, 1999, p. 78):


“However, as many critics, including Feral, have pointed out, Brecht’s theory

implicitly places both the performer and the author (Brecht) ‘outside’

the fiction in a position of ‘mastery’, implying the existence

of a stable subject position from which to quote

the character and indeed from which to represent ‘social reality’.

The audience is then presumed to identify with the author

or actor, who are constructed as knowledgeable, objective

observers of social reality for whom the contradictions

have actually already been resolved.”

This confident voice is totally contrary to the non-privileged, research, action-wise multiple female experience of the authorial quintet that gathered around the A Wonderful, Wonderful, Wonderful Disaster project. The very notion of a “disaster” can be interpreted as some sort of intentional break of domination, “adeptness”, control and representational visibility, either of the “social reality” or of the individual voices and bodies that channel it.

The new layer of the performance is the constant incorporation of new female voices: all of us, be it dressmakers, musicians, tram drivers or professional prompters, seem to share the experience of “yet another survival of a previous (bare) survival” but also the opposition against this continuous reduction to a creative minimum, the opposition to the logic of “yet another gritting of one’s teeth” because of accumulated political disasters, opposition against the “reduction” of women’s power to first aid and caring for the wounded.

We strived to fight this “global hospital” with all available means, trying to create a true City of Women, a City of Solidarity, a city to listen to and respect mutual fears, passions and differences. (Nataša Govedić)

Concept, choreography, performance and production: Selma Banich, Deana Gobac, Nataša Govedić, Roberta Milevoj, Iva Nerina Sibila (Institute for Catastrophe and Chaos) Sound and music advisor: Nenad Hrgetić Translation and subtitles: Aleksandra Mišak

Organization: City of Women; In collaboration with: Dance Theatre Ljubljana.
Supported by: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, EU Culture.