Interview with Jasmina Bilalović from the Media Artes Cultural Center: An artistic exploration of the role of ritual in today's world

Jasmina Bilalović / Photography: Christian Karadzovski

The multimedia location-specific performance "Alchemy of the Wild" will be performed on June 26 and 27 at different locations of Vevčanski springs, and we learn the details of the project from Jasmina Bilalović from the Culture Center "Media Artes" from Ohrid.

The picturesque Vevcani has been chosen as the location for the performance of the art project "Alchemy of the Wilderness". The project will challenge the audience to think about the nature of time, finitude and existence, encouraging introspection about how we have lived and how we live, how we change and how we communicate.

Artist mentors in the project are Alessandro Ola, Jelena Vuksanović, Atila Antal, Visnja Žugić and Jasmina Bilalović, while the performing artists are Ridget Ferati, Nadja Lukanovska, Simona Dimkovska, Iva Damjanovski, Tereza Lazarev, Teodora Ezhovska, Viktor Tanaskovski, Kristian Karadzovski and Maja Steinberg. . We learn the details of the project from Jasmina Bilalović.

Through what process was the multimedia performance "Alchemy of the Wild" created?

– The performance was created through a collaborative, research process in which artists from different disciplines (actors, dancers, vocal performers and musicians, visual artists) from Macedonia, Serbia, Italy and the Netherlands were/are involved. This process takes place in several stages, within the framework of the project "Ritual in contemporary society" (which, in turn, is part of the longer-term project "The whole world is a stage - Immersive and participatory theater as a tool for addressing social issues and challenges ") starting with a series of workshops in March of this year, which was followed by a series of workshops in May (both at KSP "Centar-Jadro" in Skopje), which culminates with the last and final phase, at the selected location in Vevcani, where On June 26 and 27, the performance will be performed several times.

The involved local artists from different disciplines, who are at different stages of their career development, under mentorship in the areas of dramaturgy, spatiality, sound environment, physical and vocal expression, through structured experimental tasks and directions explored the theme of ritual and rituality, which are the rituals of today's man in the modern capitalist, consumerist society and what is our relationship to the heritage of our ancestors. We investigated, for example, how and when the so-called ordinary, everyday routines become rituals; how they can take on new form and meaning, and new, ritual spaces; how space and sensory experiences affect ritual, etc.

Where did the idea for a workshop on "Ritual in contemporary society" come from and what is its purpose?

- The topic has long interested and preoccupied me and my colleagues and collaborators, the playwright Jelena Vuksanović and the composer Alessandro Ola, and each of us has been researching it for a long time. The idea was born from our desire for collaboration and joint creation, as well as from the need, as artists and people, to deepen the research on this topic and in the process of joint creation to include a wider circle of younger fellow artists from several fields.

Taking into account that in our environment interdisciplinary and location-specific performances are not often created, one of the goals was/is through practical work for the local artists involved to get to know and gain experience in certain approaches and tools for creating immersive experiences for the audience and the community.

One of the goals of the performance is to raise awareness of environmental issues with this immediate experience that we create for the audience; creating a ritual space to challenge current emotions and society while exploring meditative introspection.

The performance also addresses the conflict between ritualism and capitalist consumption and consumerism and connects the archetypal and values ​​of our ancestral generations to the contemporary context. This unique experience aims to encourage critical thinking, self-reflection and inner individual growth, providing space for transformation.

In conclusion, the interdisciplinary performance on the theme "Ritual in Contemporary Society" will offer a unique and powerful experience for anyone who wants to explore the role of ritual in today's world. Through sound, gesture and powerful performances, the artists aim to transport the audience to a different reality, which is simultaneously ancient and modern, sacred and transformative.

Through sound, gesture and powerful performances, the artists aim to transport the audience to a different reality / Photo: Kristijan Karajovski

What was the function of the mentors, and what will be the role of the performers of the performance?

– The role of the mentors was/is to the local artists (who will also be performers in the performance), to convey their experiences and knowledge in the various aspects of creating immersive and location-specific performances and, through the collaborative process of working on this particular performance ("Alchemy of Nature"), to guide the research process and create a context in which the native artists involved can expand the boundaries and the usual, traditional "roles" they have as artists in their primary disciplines (be it theater, dance, music, visual art), to get to know and adopt the vocabularies and ways of working from other artistic disciplines, while developing into full authors.

The role of the performers was/is, with their ideas and personal research on the topic and tasks, but also with their professional experience and knowledge, to be active creators of the performance.

Photo from a video prepared for the needs of the project

Why is the performance planned to be performed in Vevcani?

- From the very beginning, the performance was conceived to be performed in the context of nature and the natural landscape. In the preparations, we mapped several possible locations in the Southwest region, guided by certain parameters that will enable the feasibility of our idea. The choice is Vevcani because the municipality, in addition to the extraordinary nature, has the necessary infrastructure, and the key was that the community is truly alive.

The local KUD "Drimcol" works with the highest commitment and quality in nurturing and bringing back to life the intangible and spiritual cultural heritage, and some of its younger members will be involved in parts of the performance. People in this environment have an entrepreneurial spirit and recognize the potential of what we offer to the community, which is concretely confirmed in the unreserved support we have from the Municipality of Vevcani, KUD "Dreamcol", the public utility company, the local tourist community.

Of course, none of that would have been possible if we didn't have the financial support from the Swiss Embassy, ​​which over the years has shown the greatest listening and understanding for the needs and creative initiatives of the independent cultural scene, and for our environment it is also very significant that the Ministry for culture recognized and supported the project.

What kind of production challenge is it to realize a location-specific performance?

– The challenge is really big. By collaborating with colleagues from other disciplines, as well as with people from the local community, we all learn a lot. And that requires openness, deep listening, feeling and understanding each other, patience, adopting the established professional vocabularies that every profession and discipline has, having a sense for the needs of the local community... And all this until here is the exciting part, which the artist above -down will easily overpower him.

But the real challenge comes in the technical production aspects, when things have to be set up on the ground and made to work to get the maximum desired effect. That part is currently in this final phase. In our country, such projects are almost never done, and it would be easy if we had production budgets like in the more developed Western European countries, for example. But creativity and flexibility, as many times before, will be our main weapon in dealing with these challenges. The strong and unreserved support from the municipality and the local community is our greatest ally.

(The interview was published in "Kulturen Pechat" number 236, in the print edition of the newspaper "Sloboden Pechat" on 21-23.6.2024)

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