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Pál Frenák: “I’m becoming more and more annoying so I can represent my authenticity” @ Enikő Nagy 03.03.2020

CAGE: space that can be seen through but at the same time, it is illusion-like, which contains our world’s chaotic system and it provides millions of creative opportunities for the artists. Pál Frenák’s new premiere, which is a collaboration with Radikal Dance, is introduced with this motto. Fanni Esterházy, Eoin Mac Donncha, Milán Maurer and Anibal dos Santos are given the chance to show what they can do with this cage.

You were inspired by Francis Bacon. What was the starting point of Cage?

Following Bacon’s ideas, in the beginning I always have a starting point, and while working, I find things that can take over this starting point or at least its role. Here, the cage itself is the theme and the scenography as well. I created this performance with a new dance company, Radikal Dance, in which the artists are trying themselves and their skills as choreographers. However, they do not want to be a part of the commercialized, new generational hustle that we live in, where you always have to create something new, the sooner the better.

The head hunters with the right infrastructure and financial resources dictate the rules of the market, and I find this very destructive. Young artists usually have no opportunity to take their time and create something from their heart with honesty and dedication. In this quick rotation, I believe that no real art can be born. It would be important that the artists get greater creative freedom and time to immerse. And then, we still could not be sure that a genius will be born. Art cannot be produced on a conveyor belt. (Gilles Deleuze) Real art is a long, continuous road. I follow this ideology and I support these young artists from Radikal Dance by providing them a chance to create without being forced or having to be dishonest.

What is Radikal Dance, who are its members?

Radikal Dance is a formation, a way of thinking. Fanni Esterházy, Eoin Mac Donncha, Milán Maurer and Anibal dos Santos work on this new creation, but there are others involved as well, for example, Gábor Halász and other artists, who would like to continue working with this newly found organic movement. This opportunity has been forming for years now. The overlap with my company is that here, I support them as a mentor and I provide the concept. In Cage for example, I gave them a very stable foundation, I designed the scenography and consulted with Nóra Horváth, philosopher and associate professor, and eventually we wrote a draft together, examining how different components affect each other, but the creative part was all up to the young artists.

How is this different from the way you worked before?

The question itself is already a trap for me. I forced them to be independent but in a given framework: each and every part of the choreography is their own work. During the creation process, all four of them choreographed their own parts, and they also assisted in the others’. I observed this process from a distance, but according to Deleuze, a master’s immersed attention can be considered as an active, creative inspiration itself. Milan, for example, built a very strong, organic and elastic movement system on a classical base – he impersonates a spider, but his identity still can be felt, his ideas can be seen and he forced himself into a distorted system of forms. And how he uses his experience and everything that he is, it is something that should be valued – personally, I am deeply amazed by it.

Do you let them use their own voice/style?

Of course, every member in Radikal uses a new, organic movement, which is based on the elasticity of the body and the technical possibilities provided by it. They all deliberately avoid using classical solutions and forms of the trendy, conceptual contemporary dance. They are pursuing their own paths, an organic system in which they can attempt to find the essence of a person and show this hidden treasure to others, but this is not sheer provocation just to provoke. What characterises Radikal is the fact that they do not need to smash their skulls on the concrete or lay around naked – they are not literally radical, but more like in a way that they do not want to deny their physical abilities, and the inspiration that they get from different organic systems (eg. Michaux or Bacon). It is incredible to see that just like Pina Bausch, I have this special power to inspire others.

The cage is a very powerful symbol, one can associate it with many things. For me, the symbols are not the most important elements, because they are too obvious. I was more interested in the reduced space that the cage created, while there is an undeniable transparency in it. In the cage, the dancers can hide, or they can be partially outside, they can cling to it like a monkey, but they are always visible. So, in this case, the audience can sense a kind of vulnerability which is created by this voyeurism-like impression. In this cage, this confined, closed and finite space these artists show what they are capable of. And indeed, they can blame me for locking them in this cage.

What bothers you the most in the current contemporary dance scene?

Quantity should not be the most significant factor and a new generation should not be ‘produced’, but artists should be allowed to evolve and create themselves. The production structures, infrastructures and support systems that are currently working in the contemporary dance scene, they are usually favoured by head hunters and production interest, and for them, neither the artist nor the creation is in the centre of focus, but only that it is easy to sell (rotacio rapid – Gilles Deleuze). What I mean is that the inventor or the creator is supposed to be important, they should be in the focus, not the invention. However, we do not know, we simply cannot know who will be the artist of the future. I am really annoyed with the culture parasites, who decide about who is entitled for what, but strictly in the range of certain interest. Once again, I have to cite Deleuze: “it is like someone is trying to tell us who will be the future Beckett”. Furthermore, I sadly cannot see that the contemporary dance scene is getting more open, but on the contrary, cliques are being formed. There is no organic, comprehensive development.

Every authentic artist has to follow their own paths. It took me years as well, and this journey has not ended yet. It would be amazing if everyone could find their art through the reality they have experienced, using a deep conviction and need for art. I guess humility is missing in many cases. It is a misconception that a person is worth as much as they make others believe (they are). Those who just start their careers, they might get money, but not enough time. The problem is that today’s culture society is more business than artist centred.

Was there anything that took you by surprise while watching these young artists during their creation/rehearsing period?

Yes, I learned a lot and got many things from them, for example from their individual ideas, and what really touched me was that I realised that there is this nostalgia in them, they have a relationship with icons of an era that they did not even experience – like the way how Fanni Esterházy brings Janis Joplin to stage. Is it not fantastic that they live through a reality that they do not even know, they did not even experience it and they use a novel dance language, style and technical knowledge to bring these pictures and memories to life? This is when Gilles Deleuze would say ‘meeting the material’.

How much did you leave them alone in the process?

It is great to feel that I do not deal with artists who are too confident and very sure about everything they do, but there is a real risk factor. Choosing selectively is a big problem today. These young artists, the new generational scene itself, they exist even if someone does not want to acknowledge it/them. I stand by them, because I believe in them and I do not rush them, but let them work instead.

You have been working in this field for 40 years now, you founded your company 30 years ago, and you have been living and working mostly in Hungary for 20 years. How do you feel about this milestone?

I do not care about time, I feel the same way about myself just like in the beginning, because every day I start it again and I feel that the same energy is working in me. It may sound surprising, but my fundamental values, even after all these years, have stayed the same, I am loyal to myself.

Do you live in the present?

I cannot live anywhere else. A general schizophrenia that we can see these days is a great problem. For example as I see, most people have a problem with themselves, and most of them just project things. The relationship between body, mind and soul is a very deep and complex topic. As someone who creates, I have been trying to find some kind of understanding of this question, of human relations and of different forms of behaviour as well while using the art of movement. Cage also reflects on these problems: it aims to communicate thoughts and feelings about the ‘enlightenment’ of people and their fight for survival. That is why it can be problematic when people with no real connection to themselves want to explain things. It is shocking to see how many people miss the real point.

Have you ever experienced something that cannot be rationally explained?

There have been several occasions in my life, when I have been through very powerful and intense experiences, or say senses. There is a kind of system of relationships that we can only understand better, when we have a very clear picture of ourselves and we let others perceive us like that too. It is a privilege, but you have to pay the price.

Do you believe in intuition?

I only believe in that. In my premonitions, in my instincts. It is a problem if I see something, for example in a theatre, and I feel that they do not believe in the whole thing, but they expect me to do so. They want to believe that I will accept and believe something that they cannot.

What is the biggest challenge?

To stay standing in the cultural jungle. To stay sane and rational in this auto-destructive hunt. The more time passes, the more I see that if I am true to myself, I am becoming more and more annoying for the world around me, for everyone, even for myself. I am becoming more and more intolerable, so I can represent my authenticity.


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