The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Frie Leysen
Frie Leysen
Curator of Theater der Welt 2010

Theater der Welt 2010
Theater der Welt 2010

Meeting Points
Meeting Points

Kunsten Festival des Arts (KFDA)
Kunsten Festival des Arts
Presenter Interview
European arts scene leader Frie Leysen talks about the role and activities of arts festivals 
European arts scene leader Frie Leysen talks about the role and activities of arts festivals 
Frie Leysen has won an enviable reputation throughout the European performing arts scene as a spirited arts curator with a long slate of accomplishments. Among these are her roles as founder and artistic director of the deSingel, contemporary arts center in Antwerp (Belgium), which has led the Belgian arts world since the mid-1980s, and as a founder and director of Brussels KunstenFestivaldesArts (KFDA), which has grown to become one of the leading international festivals, known for its cutting-edge programs, for discovering and encouraging talented young artists and actively undertaking joint international productions. With her unique approach to nurturing the next generation of curators, she has also helped numerous festivals toward success. In this interview we hear about Leysen’s recent activities and the alternative vision they reveal, as well as her views on the state of arts festival activities in Europe today.
(Interview: Tadashi Uchino)

After establishing the KunstenFestivaldesArts (KFDA) in Brussels in 1994, you served as the festival’s director, and in that capacity you have been a leader among Europe’s arts festivals and one of the prominent presenters in the region for many years. In our interview with your successor as the KFDA artistic director, Mr. Christophe Slagmuylder, on this website, he told us in considerable detail about your achievements and resume. With the strong reputation and trust you have won among presenters and artists around the world, you now serve as a curator for important festivals in different parts of the world. In this interview we would like to concentrate on your most recent activities and your thoughts about the state of arts festivals today.
 First, I would like to ask you about the Meeting Points festival in the Middle East where you served as curator in 2007.

I was invited to curate Meeting Points by Tarek Abou El Fetouh, director of the Young Arab Theatre Fund (YATF). YATF is a small but important organization that created six spaces for contemporary arts in the Arab region and supports artists in creating works and also for traveling around in the region. He started Meeting Points as a small project, in one city. The next edition took place in three cities in the Arab world, and in 2005 he organized it simultaneously in seven cities. It was so successful that Tarek decided to hold it every two years with a different curator each time.
 I was invited to curate Meeting Points 5, which was held in 9 cities in the Arab world and in Berlin in November 2007 and Brussels in January 2008. It was a fantastic experience, because it was so different from organizing a festival in Brussels or other places in Europe. With a festival like KFDA, we address an audience that we know. But Meeting Points covered the Arab region from Morocco to Egypt and Palestine and also in Beirut and Syria. So, I had to address societies and audiences I didn’t know. And the perspective is completely different: you’re not looking from Europe to the Middle East, but from the Middle East to the Middle East. Also, we often think about the Arab region as one monolithic block. We don’t realize how different each of these countries is.

What were your initial ideas for organizing and curating Meeting Points 5?
Prior to my own policies, there was the approach that the Young Arab Theatre Fund (YATF) had established for the festival. It was in 2006 when I was doing my last [KFDA] festival that the Egyptian director of YATF, Mr. Tarek Abou El Fetouh, talked to me about curating Meeting Points 5.
 The basic idea for Meeting Points was to present artists from the Arab region in the Arab region. Because today Arab artists are presented quite regularly in Europe and in the US, but they rarely have the chance to present their works in the Arab region, and often not even in their home country.
 The consequence could be that we end up with only export-productions. In such a situation, clever young men and women from the region might start to make works that they think the West would like.
 That is certainly true in the visual arts, where the market principle is so strong.
It’s crucial for artists from every region of the world to present their work in the West. But I believe artists’ first audiences should be in their own home country or region. My starting point was to respect this philosophy.

Meeting Points has been held five times so far and each time it has grown in scale and in the richness of the program. It clearly appears to be a festival that is growing.
Yes. As I mentioned earlier, the first event happened in just one city. But the project grew in an organic way, parallel to the development of a network of the performance spaces YATF had created in the region.
 So, Meeting Points 5 happened in nine cities of the Arab region: Alexandria, Beirut, Tunis, Damascus, Ramallah, Rabat, Amman, Cairo, Minia and also in two European cities: Berlin and Brussels. Tarek Abu El Fetouh asked me also to open up the festival to include not only artists from the Arab region but artists from all over the world.
 For instance Hiroaki Umeda from Japan was one of the international artists. The audiences loved him, especially in Beirut. Also, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (Belgium) and Bruno Beltrao (Brazil) performed successfully throughout the region.
| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |