20 years of Confrontations. What next?
Since its inception, Theatre Confrontations Festival has undermined and exploded the limits of theatre, plotting out new ways of thinking about its role, meaning, and primary objectives. Established 20 years ago by the founders of the Lublin theatre avant-garde: Janusz Opryński, Włodzimierz Staniewski, and Leszek Mądzik, the festival has from its outset sought solutions and ideas distinct from those which prevail in mainstream theatre, in this way proving that the dramatic theatre model is not the only conceivable one. Confrontations is a festival rooted in the tradition of independent, avant-garde, political theatre, and it continues to seek out such theatre to this day. Assuming as it does that what happens at the intersections of limits, divides, genres, domains, and disciplines is the most interesting, the festival persists in its attempts to broaden the formula of theatre, highlighting the non-obvious spaces between various arts. At the same time, Confrontations poses questions on the responsibility of artists, taking up the topical issue of the working conditions of artists and art workers and the system of production of art, which determines these conditions.
Working on the programme of subsequent editions, we attentively and critically scrutinise the development of Confrontations. We treat this twentieth iteration of the festival as first and foremost a unique opportunity to examine the evolution of Confrontations over the last two decades, as well as the factors on which this process has been contingent.
For today, the festival is clearly a major public institution of art. It showcases the works of artists, but it frequently produces and promotes them as well; it is an intermediary between the artist and the audience; it co-creates and actively shapes the critical discourse accompanying artistic praxis (catalogues, translations, publishing series, thematic books, etc.), thus actively informing the ways of thinking about theatre and dance, and participating in setting out the directions in which these develop. An examination of the international circulation of performing arts today will show that it is primarily shaped by festivals.
What is the impact of the understanding of the festival as situating it in the space of public institutions of art? How does it affect its tasks, role, and duties, given in particular the on-going debate on the situation and mission of public theatre?
We believe that the vision of the festival as a public institution of art necessitates some clearly defined duties of the festival and the accountability of its organisers both to the artists and the audience. Following Dragan Klaic, an eminent scholar of performing arts who had years-long connection with Lublin, we take the basic tasks of the festival to be, among others: to discover new talents, to seek and to name new, non-obvious ways of understanding the language of theatre, to develop professional, critical discourse, to pass skills onto younger artists, to shape larger and more diverse audiences, to provide eminent artists and their theatre groups with opportunities to develop, to stimulate the mobility of artists, works, concepts, and ideas. What matters in our view is the involvement in international activities, which, to quote Klaic, “is a dimension of development of public theatre and not a matter of representation or creating prestige. Treated as a cognitive experience and an inspiration, international cooperation allows us to test and develop intercultural competences, creating a particular dialectic of the local and the global, and raising a global critical awareness in audiences” .
These beliefs inform our choices of the specific themes and phenomena in contemporary art which we would like to discuss with Lublin theatre-goers.
Marta Keil and Grzegorz Reske, curators of the 2015 Theatre Confrontations Festival
 Dragan Klaić, Gra w nowych dekoracjach. Teatr publiczny pomiędzy rynkiem a demokracją, trans. Edyta Kubikowska, publisher: Instytut Teatralny and Festiwal Konfrontacje, Warszawa-Lublin 2014.