|Mr. Vincent Baudriller, general artistic director of the Avignon Festival
|Ms. Hortense Archambault, assistant director of the Avignon Festival
|After France’s performing arts workers (Intermittent) strike forced the cancellation of the 2003 Avignon Festival, doubts were cast on the future of this
world-famous international performing arts festival. Those doubts were soon
dispelled, however, when the Festival returned to a highly successful 2004
holding under the direction of Vincent Baudriller, who assumed the post of
general artistic director for the Festival in 2002, while still in his thirties. We had
the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Baudriller and the Avignon Festival’s assistant
director, Ms. Hortense Archambault, when they visited Japan for the first time
(Interviewed with Shintaro Fujii, Waseda University)
Mr. Vincent Baudriller, general artistic director of the Avignon Festival
Ms. Hortense Archambault, assistant director of the Avignon Festival
|Looking back now that the first Avignon Festival under your direction is over, it
seems that the program centering on French, German, Dutch and Flanders
productions put together with your Associate Artist, Thomas Ostermeier, received
very high acclaim from the people involved and the critics as well. Could you tell us
about this Associate Artist concept?
||We invite a new Associate Artist for each year’s festival. For this
position we have chosen people who have a very strong and highly
unique artistic world of their own, from which have emerged works
or productions that we love. In 2004 it was Thomas Ostermeier of
Berlin and for 2005 it is Jan Fabre of Antwerp, Belgium. For 2006, we
have already decided on France’s Joseph Nagi and in 2007, also
from France, Frédéric Fisbach. Choosing a different artist every year
in this way will also bring great variety in terms of the temper of each
festival. We have already begun discussions with Nagi and Fisbach
about the directions the Festival will take in their respective years, as
of course we did with Fabre.
In each festival we include several productions by the Associate
Artist and other artists they are closely connected with, and besides
such works we also include readings, exhibits and talks by writers,
philosophers, sociologists and the like, as well as holding
discussions, etc. In this way we are able to give a larger,
multifaceted experience of that artist’s unique world.
The actual process involves a series of discussions with the artist
about the basic direction of the festival program. Then we discuss
actual contents and specific names of the other artists to be invited
and works to be staged. Finally we discuss the peripheral programs
and other details. Although I am the one who has overall
responsibility for the final program decisions, the associate artists
are involved with us in all aspects of the program formation and
preparations for each festival.
|What about the Avignon Festival audience? For example, about what percentage of
the audience are professionals?
||We had a total audience of about 100,000 for the 2004 festival and
roughly 15% of them were producers, journalists, directors and
other people involved in the performing arts. The large majority of the
audience is from the general public, coming from all parts of France
as well as the surrounding countries to enjoy a few days of very
concentrated and rich theater experience. One of the things that
makes this festival so enriching is the open curiosity and sensitivity
of this audience.
||I believe what makes the Avignon Festival unique is not only its
concentration on new works that was started by the festival’s
founder, Jean Vilar, that makes it such a contemporary festival, but
also the fact that it is open to such a large and varied audience, not
just people of the theater world.
|It seems that the 2004 festival and also the festival for this year have a very strong
European orientation ….
||The contents of the festival are different every year, depending on the
Associate Artist we choose. So, there is no intention to center the
festival’s program on any particular country or region. Still, it is true
that Europe is naturally the framework of the world we actually live
and work in. Working with theater people from Germany for the 2004
festival, we were greatly surprised at how different French and
German theater is. We found that everything was different, from the
organizational and structural aspects to the way works are given
expression, the role of the actors and the way they perform, the roles
of the scenographer and the playwright—it was all so different. We
believe that it is the mission of the Avignon Festival to create the
opportunities and the venues to bring France in contact with and to
make us confront these kinds of cultural uniqueness, individuality
||As Europe becomes more united and the European Union expands
eastward (in May 2004 EU membership expanded from 15 to 25
countries) and we begin to rethink our cultural policies, I think it is
very important for us to seek out the kinds of cultural differences that
Vincent has just mentioned.
||We are constantly lobbying, talking to politicians not only France,
Germany and Belgium but all around Europe, to encourage their
governments to recognize the importance of providing ongoing
public services in the cultural realm, to support artists and creative
activities. Culture has to remain outside the realm of capitalism; it
should not be subjected to market forces. That is the only way to
protect Europe’s cultural identity.
|Since you mention public services, the Intermittent (union of freelance workers in
the performing arts and audio visual entertainment field, professional actors,
dancers and technicians) protests forced the 2003 Avignon Festival to be
cancelled. Both of you were working in the Festival’s administration at the time.
Can you tell us how you felt?
||The Intermittent problem is directly tied into the question of how
artists can exist in society, how they can make a normal living.
France’s unemployment system is not run directly by the
government. It is run by the employers, unions and workers’
representatives. The unemployment insurance paid to Intermittent
(which system is said to be heavily in the red) is paid for not only by
the people in the performing arts and audio visual field but by all the
workers. The government believed that reform of the unemployment
insurance system, which for example would involve a reduction in
unemployment compensation, was not an important cultural policy
problem. However, that reform was something that put the people
working in the performing arts and the movie industry in an unstable
financial situation and brought a sense of crisis in the theater world.
Even if unemployment insurance is not by nature an issue of the
Ministry of Culture, I hope that the administrators of the system or the
Ministry of Culture can present a solution that will be acceptable to
all the people involved.
In 2003, the Intermittent staged strikes and strong protests because
they felt that their livelihood was being threatened. While we felt
sympathetic with their cause and wanted to show solidarity, we also
felt that striking and canceling festivals was an impulsive and
inappropriate strategy for achieving their goals. That was the first
time the festival had been cancelled in its nearly 60-year history.
Although the unemployment insurance problem has still not been
solved, when we consider the importance of festivals like this for the
artists’ careers, I don’t think they will force the cancellation of their
own festivals again. This is because I believe that, like other arts, or
even more so, theater depends on people for its existence. You
could even say that the people are its very existence, and I believe
that the artists understand this.
||While it is true that the unemployment insurance reform was not one
that fit the realities of the theater world, shutting down the festival
was not the best means to oppose it. Since then, we have gather
representatives from the parties involved and provided opportunities
for serious ongoing discussions to try to get some kind of
agreement. Soon a new reform proposal should be made and we
hope that it will be a satisfactory one.