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We're closing, but the festival goes on

22 November 2009

Live blogging from the NEU NOW festival (9)

And in the end it all drowns in blood. Robbe Vervaeke's Erszebet is a phantasmagoric wet dream / nightmare in oil paint. It's the only oil paint you will see in this festival really, and it's oil paint that moves: Robbe painted out every still of his 5-minute film, from the red roof of Erszebet's house to her bath duck floating in a tub full of blood. Frail in a white dress, she stands by the window with a glass of wine. The victim arrives, ties his dog to a tree, and comes in. He will not get out.

Last night has been the closing evening. The exhibition is still open, and if you're in Vilnius you can still see Karen Skog's orchestra play and enter the Patchmaker, but the ceremony was moved back one day because too many people are leaving today. (Me too, but that was not the reason.) So we've all been able to go through half an hour of thank-yous and the Balsai ensemble singing.

OK let's not be too cynical: all these people have worked like hell to build a festival and earn their thank-yous. So please go to the festival site, look up the list of organizers, and say thank you to everyone. Thank you.

But what a relief when, at the end of the buffet, Noha Ramadan, Roderigo Zobarso and Eliisa Erävalo took hold of the stage and snatched the piano. Noha and Roderigo, who was playing the piano, are in an anarchist cabaret in Amsterdam, and the battle-song "Join the platform" was precisely what was needed to shake things up - all the more in combination with Eliisa holding a candle and looking serenely.

We all love improvisations. When we were sitting in the hub earlier that day, at an "informal presentation" (= flyering event) of all participating schools, suddenly the back doors opened. A boy in a bowler hat and a girl in a smart country dress, faces all painted white, stepped in, bowed over the table, and started moving through the room in slow, drawn-out movements, dancing, pantomiming. Smiling, they walked into the corridor and out into the garden. It was not just a moment to remember: to forget these moments would be a crime.

For there is a meaning to these moments. One thing that nauseated me all through the week was people repeating that festivals are networking events. Of course that's how it works but to present that as the raison d'être is plain ghastly - as if this is a beauty contest where young creative people have to sell themselves to middle-aged people in charge. If this was what art was about you'd be crazy to be in it. But when you can break in upon the scene with a smile, stir up the dust with uncomplacent joy in life, and remind the speakers and representatives what their phrases full of "young creative talent" are about, then you are making something happen and doing it for the hack of it. And that's that.

So that was NEU NOW - almost. And online, the festival goes on.

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