The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Contents
Presenter Interview
The IETM network, contributing to the promotion of collaborative commissioned works and tours in Europe
I would like to ask you about co-producing. As presenters and producers have become active and built a closer network, haven’t you seen any negative effects arise? Suppose there is a small emerging company, just becoming talked about in a local city. A well-known international presenter happens to find their work and he wants to work with them. Then the small company all of a sudden jumps to the status of “everybody wants them.” What do you think about such a situation?
    We have had many discussions in the network about this. There are a few issues. The first one is “the Kleenex effect” – I don’t know who used this phrase first. Everybody is desperately searching for something new. They find something new, take it and wipe their nose with it, and then throw it away – just like with Kleenex tissues. And, as you mentioned, this causes great pressure on the young/emerging artists.
    But there is also something that I suppose you could call “responsible producing.” That is, producers taking care of the artists’ needs, not only their own. Co-producers can simply put money in and get a cheaper premiere; or they can sit down with the artists, help them develop the work, really guide and help them along. I think both types of producers exist. The good ones do the right thing. There are also examples of young artists who say, “I need a year off. I need to go back and find what it was that I was doing.” And enlightened funders will support that.
    Another negative effect is the kind of “mafia effect,” where the same artists appear everywhere; and people who have different aesthetics can’t get in because one kind of aesthetic is generalized and perpetuated. We also have talked a lot about a “new colonialist attitude.” These people say, “I see the work through my own value system, and I make a decision about it based on that” – and then just invite foreign work because it’s exotic, without having a deeper understanding between the artists and presenters what the work is about. We are concerned about that and so would aim to supports presenters to understand what they are presenting so that the audience will have a deeper understanding of it, too.
    Not all producers and programmers are aware of these problems, and that is why it has often been a theme over these last six years. But just because someone is aware of something does not mean that they are going to act on it. We need to go deeper into these questions and to share experiences. I think it is important for people to talk about these things and to be sensitive to them – and get beyond them – or have discussions with other people to bring out alternative perspectives. At the same time, we also try to be aware about whose voice is not being heard. “How can we make sure that their voices are also heard?” because as the network gets bigger, there is a tendency for the people with the big mouths to the only ones heard!

So IETM does not set a course for what people should do but rather focuses on awareness enhancement so that solutions or new directions will be discussed, or set, among members by themselves…?
    We used to say that we provided opportunities for people to meet. It was a very passive role. But we undertook a re-structuring in 2000 and 2002 and we changed our mission statement. Our job now is also to stimulate and challenge our members; it’s more pro-active. Now we have a double role: providing opportunities for people and stimulating and challenging them.
    The surveys we’ve just done about IETM meetings prove that people unanimously value the inspiration they have received at meetings. We thought they would primarily value the contacts, but they say, “No, it was the inspiration of hearing for 4 days what other people are doing, who’s who, what’s happening, whether there are any new trends.” And people go home quite refreshed. They are inspired not to copy but to pursue new things that they got excited about at the meeting.

Out of personal curiosity, I now would like to ask you how IETM views the way presenters are addressing the issues of theater (drama). Dance can easily be presented internationally because it doesn’t involve language like theater does. Having said that, though, European people have always handled the problem of language differences as part of their history.
    We have often made this a subject of discussion at IETM. European presenters have been very clever over the years with different kinds of subtitling. In Belgium for example, we often have subtitles in three languages. We also discuss the possibilities for funding the translation of theatre works. You can still find different kinds of subsidies which are particularly interested in translation from, let’s say, one minority language to another, or making minority language works available in different major languages – but not in English, or course, as English already dominates. Many smaller networks have emerged from IETM – sometimes they develop into independent networks. We call this IETM’s “catalyst effect”. On this subject of supporting translation of plays, two small networks have emerged which concentrate on translation. They work on a project-by-project basis. In this sense IETM functions as an incubator for new networks and networked projects.

Lastly, because networking is the main activity of IETM, I imagine that ways to use the Internet must be an ongoing issue for you. What is your view of the possibilities of the Internet?
    We have just requested subsidies for next year for a new website. It should have less text, many more visuals, more excerpts and moving things, as well as vocals. It is probably better to have one minute or 50 seconds of a pod-cast than to put a long text description of something on a web site.
    We also want to create more possibilities for people to meet each other on the Web. Personally I’m very interested in virtual mobility because it responds to the ecology dilemma. Traveling is also expensive and not available to everyone. It’s a kind of personal fantasy, but I would like to look into the possibility of making 600 people meet in a virtual IETM meeting. But my colleagues in the office say, “That would be very boring because you would have to sit in front of a computer for 4 days.” (Laughs)
    Regarding blogs, we just launched a site called “Raft” (http://raft.idanca.net/), which is a temporary platform for questions about contemporary arts. It must be said that most IETM members are not people who use the Internet in that way. Of course our aim is to put them in direct contact with each other, but it should naturally start among them: we can’t force it!

Thank you so much for your time, and good luck in your future meetings.
 
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