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How to see everything

21 November 2009

Live blogging from the NEU NOW Festival (8)

Everyone knows it's impossible to see everything. Some things feature only once. Some always feature at the same time at different places. And if you go to see everything, you'll be so over-exposed you won't have anything sensible to say at the end of the day. Yes, we know all that. And still we tried.

We sneaked out of the discussion about what teachers should teach. (Maybe we missed the interesting part, but I checked up at breakfast.) We saw the first 10 mins. of Izodora by New Opera Action to rush off for Ego & ID. Applause, lights, and off to haul a bus - they're cheap, they're fast, and they get you from the one concert hall to the other. Waiting in the hall of the conservatoire to be let in after Mindaugas Backus' first piece. And after Ties Riba, there were still films in the nearby Skalvia...

Halfway the film programme I gave up. You can't see everything.

So I left in the middle of The time it takes. And that was apposite. Karsten Krause's film is about the life of an old farmer. At 74, Edwin Steurer still spends the summer months alone with his livestock, on the Wildmoos Alp, in Bregenz Forest, Austria. He milks his cows, builds a fence, washes his overall, eats his breakfast at half past four. Nothing happens. Nobody comes. Nobody goes. It's wonderful.

We're seeing Lithuania at its best these days. It would be splendid, yet... would be a very mean comment on this if we took it like that. It revolves around a somewhat plain, jealous, less-than-happy factory worker with a dull husband, who are selected to be photographed for an American as the archetypical Lithuanian family. She would have preferred to win the new fridge her neighbour got. And she would have preferred her neighbour's husband (virile, moustached, red-haired) over her own - "Stepan is not representative". The result is humiliations, near-fights, a fridge being dragged to and fro, and in the end, a photograph.

But Chrigi is still gone. Anja Kofmel's vagabond cousin, who was killed in Croatia back in 1992, was buried in the woods by his family and now they can't find the place anymore. Or maybe that part was fiction?

When I was pasting posters on the pillars of the dance theatre earlier that day, I heard music from the rehearsals and sneaked in, trying to be unobtrusive and remain unseen. A girl was walking very slowly through an alleyway of light to the tune of "Bliss" by Muse. It was almost a catwalk but the athmosphere was sacred. Then there was musical potpourri and a carnaval of jolly dancers - and that was the end of the rehearsal. Three hours later, I saw the same girl onstage in a white dress, snowdancing through the feathers that were scattered on the stage from a pillowfight earlier on in the performance. And then she walked again. There was more, much more to be seen at Ego & ID - Aira Naginaviciute's choreography is a come-and-go of oddities, pungent images, and over-the-top emotions - but after a day of almost seeing it all, this will be an image to retain.

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