Founded in 2003, Teatri ODA is an independent art organization based in Pristina, Kosovo, led by Florent Mehmeti and Lirak Çelaj. ODA is involved in producing contemporary theatre, defining cultural policy development, promoting arts in education and hosting a number of visiting events in different artistic disciplines. Since 2011, ODA has been an associate partner of IN SITU and intends to support the development of art in public space in Kosovo.
In November 2011, for the “Writing side by side” seminar in Graz (Austria), Florent and Lirak decided to present a new project directed by the latter: Invisible Walls. The experience proved fruitful as the network decided to support the development phase of the project within the framework of the “European Abroad programme”, a component of the META project.
Invisible Walls is about the social and political barriers that prevent movement and sometimes even communication. Invisible Walls is something to dream of and escape to, but it is also a place from which we need to escape. It explores situations where individuals are not allowed a home. It is about how freedom of choice comes at a cost. These questions are especially relevant in Kosovo, a country affected by 10 years of war, where having a place to which one belongs is still a burning issue. Created by Teatri ODA, Invisible Walls combines installation, theatre and performance in public space.
In December 2011, the network agreed to support two creation and development residences with a view to organising workshops for local artists and performers led by experienced European artists aimed at developing the specific skills required when working in public space.
Those two residences, lasting two and three weeks respectively, took place in May and October 2012 in Pristina. Florent and Lirak invited two European artists suggested by the IN SITU co-organisers:
- Jonathan Beedell assisted by Philippa Heynes, suggested by Neil Butler from UZ Arts (Glasgow, United Kingdom). They assisted Lirak in directing the actors in a specific outdoor environment.
- Henry Jesionka, suggested by Werner Schrempf from La Strada (Graz, Austria). Henry worked on the video and set design of the piece.
Through discussions on artistic matters, this project has helped nurture the relationship between Teatri ODA and the other IN SITU partners. Furthermore, it has provided a great opportunity to support the development of an outdoor performance in Kosovo – a country where the complex comprehension of public space does not always allow artists and civilians to take possession of it. Finally, this project has facilitated a very fruitful collaboration between artists from different backgrounds and different countries, bringing them closer and closer.
Still under development, Invisible walls continues its story in the Netherlands where the Oerol Festival has decided to give the show the chance to benefit from a new residence on the Island of Terschelling during the 2013 festival.
In 2015 and 2016, Austrian company "UniT - Kunstlabor Graz" developed a work in 3 steps in collaboration with Teatri ODA in Kosovo. After two creations residencies in June and September 2015, and 2 workshops with local audiences, they presented their work to the public in February 2016.
Edith Draxl, artistic director of the company, presents the artistic purposes of this collaboration:
"The subjects it deals with are the history of Kosovo, the social developments that play a role in the region and the issue of what the “west” means for Kosovo? The Teatri ODA artists have the shared aim of taking a hand in the democratisation process and the opening up of Kosovo. The group seeks to extend its influence on the arts scene in Kosovo, so as to have an even stronger impact on driving social and democratic processes forwards in its role of finding development impulses for the massive political, economic, ethnic and social challenges ahead.
The theatre has an excellent network of contacts extending not only through the entire Balkan region, but also in many other European countries (through participation in EU networks, such as IETM and Insitu) and in the USA. It has received massive support from the media in Kosovo ever since it was founded.
The clear mission statement line is that Teatri ODA is concerned not only with content, but also with formal artistic issues. It has the expressed aim of developing the art of theatre, of breaking through the boundaries to the medium theatre and opening it for other artistic forms.
People arrive and people leave, migration is a worldwide phenomenon with many different motivations: People move from one country to another, they move from the countryside into the city. These wanderings also frequently have an effect on the social status of people, with the result that in addition to a change in geographical location, movement also occurs between social classes and contexts. In the project “Hello and Goodbye” the artists' network documents individual stories of arrival and departure on their journey across Europe – the trip started in March 2013 – and they penetrate through to the roots of the migration phenomenon, examining the change that is taking place in a geographical and social context in the many different regions of Europe.
Our aim is to find an artistic idiom that turns the audience into active participants in the performance. A form that creates the impulses we need for getting to grips with the issue at a fundamental level starting from individual narratives and the highly personal experience of people."
Sura Medura is an international artists' residence centre in Hikkaduwa, South West Sri Lanka, which has been operated since 2011 by UZ Arts, one of the co-organisers of the IN SITU network. Selected artists are offered mentorship and an opportunity to meet their peers in the Sri Lankan arts community. The residency programme supports artists from all disciplines whose work can be enhanced by being in Sri Lanka. As Sura Medura maintains close contacts with the local population and the national artistic communities, selected artists are encouraged to present their approaches at the beginning of their stay and the fruit of their residency at the end.
Through the IN SITU 2006-2009 project, the IN SITU network has already supported 6 artists' residences in Sri Lanka in the former Chandrasevana Creation centre: Dries Verhoeven (NL), Sebastien Pleuse (DE), Theatre Fragile (DE), Graeme Gilmour (GB), Ian Smith (GB) and Gavin Lockhart (GB).
In order to explore this collaboration process to the full, IN SITU has decided to send a number of European artists to the Sura Medura centre as part of the “European Abroad” programme within the framework of META 2011-2016. The aim is to stimulate new work and develop projects in a non-European cultural context.
During these residencies, each artist:
> Developped a personal artistic project, in collaboration with the local public and artists
> Presented his work to the public , repeatedly in the frame of Colombo art Biennale and Moving Out! festival
> Collaborated with the other artists being in residency during the same period
Over the 5 years of META, 5 residency periods were organized, during each between 4 and 6 weeks, that involved 19 European artists in total:
> Christian Eisenberger (AT)
> Boukje Schweigman (NL)
> Adrian Schvarstein (ES) - Blog
With the aim or enhancing the international mobility of European artists outside, we met a new potential partner in 2014: Festival des quatre chemins of Port au Prince, Haïti.
In November 2015, Dutch artist Judith Hofland, already introduced to IN SITU network during the first Side by side seminar in Prague (December 2012), was invited to a 4 weeks residency in Port-au-Prince. There, she developed an interactive, urban scenography with inhabitants, that was presented on November 27th in the frame of the festival: Shape your hoods.
A video overview of the work done is available here.