GET ME THE F@!#K OUT OF HERE! – Our 2021 Faki Festival Theme

With Star Wars famous “I got a bad feeling about this”, one of the most cliché lines in Hollywood is a character, normally just as they are about to die some horrible death via an attack from a high-level monster, saying:

“Watch out! It’s a trap!”.

This demands a question: Why so many traps in Hollywood? Why this obsession with inescapable situations – our inherent fear of them, our entering into them, even voluntarily, and our need to have them pointed out to us?

Star Wars Fan dressed as character Admiral Ackbar – (User Bonnie Burton, Wikimedia Commons).

The year 2020 contained many traps. Most significant was the pandemic itself – a dangerous sharpening of global attention to a specific, fine point, at the expense of almost all else. Choices of life or death were brought into immediate view, demanding constant engagement – and at the same time, shattering concentration. This distraction became so persistent that the only way to focus was to disconnect from the situation. To reach Taylor-Swift level productivity required a state of oblivion – a dead feeling, popularised through the escapist cultural product that spread throughout the pandemic.

Which led me to ask, when sitting down to think about what should be the theme for FAKI 24:

Was there ever a better time for escapism in contemporary culture?

Graph accurately demonstrating the development of culture through the COVID-19 Pandemic.

FAKI 24’s theme ESCAPE! draws from this situation the resurrection of a big, dumb, zombified theme, one that has new resonances in today’s context. Media and government obsessions with pandemic data, and building a narrative of survivalist drama in a war-like situation, mask the death of something much bigger – a vast cultural collapse. Over the course of the pandemic, 90% of income for performance artists in Europe has disappeared 90%! The only comparable industry is aviation. The only difference is, that theatre does not have the bottomless backing of a global network of corporate conglomerates and governments. 

The situation for the theatre artist is an impossible one – so escape is all the more important. As the few available resources became concentrated around institutions, so traditions have died, work practices have disappeared, threads have been lost, collaborations have been broken up. Loss of culture is a very different tragedy to the loss of human life, and a much less tangible one. To feel this particular pain, you have to be connected to the stream of consciousness that is performance art. We have to turn our heads from Netflix to the stage – from the performance of the stock market or the favourite football player, to the performance of an artist with something urgent to say.

Andrea Lagos-Neumann in La(s) Caída(s) (The Falls), Faki Festival 2018 – Photo: Ivan Marenic 

From these pressures, the theatre is under attack. Will it strike back? The best answer is a contradictory one: “of course not – but in what way?” Culture is nothing if not resilient – in a way, its defeat is impossible, because culture is inexorably linked to being human. And yet, the basic platforms of theatre have been thoroughly tested by the pandemic. Many ideas of the stage have been forced to transform, and some have been left behind. Is togetherness possible in a digital space? Can one enact ‘presence’ online, while hiding from the formalities and protocols of public space? Can I really ‘touch’ the audience, in an emotional way, through the screen? Is the creation of a ‘free’ online platform still possible, in the age of corporate enclosing of online space?

Can theatre exist outside of the digital categories of “engagement”, “users”, “content”, and “telling a story”, so common to web and app developers today?

C:\Users\MARGARET\Desktop\FAKI 2021\vlcsnap-2020-11-26-01h43m39s552.jpgFaki 2020’s online Zone of Control. Pictured: artists Carlota Berzal (ES) and Pablo Cernadas (ARG), and critics Jana Perković, and Richard -1. Photo: Vedran Gligo

Following the presenting of the remarkable success of Faki’s 100% online festival of 2020, there is a lot to look forward to in 2021, as we attempt to re-introduce the face-to-face components of the live theatre event. Together with Culture Centre Attack!, Faki will create a home for artists that offers them some protection from the pragmatic horrors of the pandemic, to revive or continue their work, while allowing the works to shine out optimistically into a cultural dark void. Online and face-to-face works will sit alongside each other in Faki’s ‘Zone of Control’ – where audiences can log in from anywhere in the world to connect with the crazy energy of Faki’s festival, without compromising the festival’s focus on the proximity of the theatre event. 

Of course, we are planning to do as much as possible with little resources, and whilst supporting the public health efforts and vulnerable communities, by maintaining social distancing measures. Not only sport and military activities should continue, but culture as well! So Faki 24 will be a marker of our persistence and risk-taking: to demonstrate that, against the social ills and pressures of capitalist competition, solidarity and togetherness is the best form of immunisation. 

Faki 24 welcomes your proposals, your love, and your energy – hoping to offer you a larger return on investment than the latest cryptocurrency hype. Because if we can get the F@!#k out of here, anything is possible!!


Richard -1 (a.k.a Richard Pettifer)

Artistic Director

Faki Festival 24