Flare festival, Manchester, UK
In 2014, Mareike Wenzel gave performance workshop at CCA which resulted in a performance based on Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”. The workshop is long over and the former students have formed their own artist group New Collective, but they have continued to work together. Their performance WELCOME had been invited to FLARE15 Festival in Manchester 2015 and they are currently working on a new performance.
The members of New Collective are: Ana Chaduneli, Tamar Chaduneli, Tamara Gobronidze, Ana Jikia, Gvantsa Jishkariani, Nata Kipiani
More information about their work together see below
Following the performance THE LEAVING PARTY its sequel WELCOME has been invited to FLARE15 Festival
Actually it was planned to continue the story of “Three Sisters – The Leaving Party” at FLARE15 Festival in Manchester, but UK Visa and Immigration Office had its own plans for the performance. The Georgian members of the group, which was all but Mareike, were denied visas to the UK. More information about the whole story you can find here
So instead of the planned performance a protest took place during FLARE 15 Festival. Mareike took over the small stage at Contact Theatre and had debates with audience about visa law and freedom of movement. There was a video installation and also debates via skype with the Georgian artists.
A short report about the start of what sometimes felt like a Kafka performance:
“We were very happy and excited to find out that our follow up performance WELCOME has been invited to FLARE15 Festival in Manchster this summer. I had planned to post updates about the rehearsals and coming up performance here. Unfortunately, things have become a bit more complicated than we had expected. Here is the story so far:
What happens when you try to do a performance about migration in an EU country, with most members of the ensemble coming from outside EU
Together with six young Georgian artists (namely Ana Chaduneli, Tamar Chaduneli, Tamara Gobronidze, Ana Jikia, Gvantsa Jishkariani and Nata Kipiani) I have been invited to create a performance for FLARE15 Festival, in Manchester/UK. Everything had been arranged – flights reserved, rehearsals scheduled, the festival has announced the program featuring our performance – which is going to deal with the situation of migrants in Western Europe and particularly in the UK – the only things missing were the visas for the Georgian artists. I myself am in the privileged situation of being able to travel almost everywhere with my German passport, without having to spend hours at embassies, writing down every personal detail about my life and of course justifying the numbers on my bank statements. So in the end 1000 Euros were paid as application fee for all visas, the most intimate and ridiculous questions answered in the visa application form, a personal interview at a visa office gone through – including the woman conducting the interview mocking the members of the group for their financial situation – finally all documents were sent to the British Embassy in Ankara (that is why an single application instead of 90 Euro costs 200 Euro if applying from Georgia, sending paper is expensive).
We were all aware of the fact that the UK has very strict visa regulations, but didn’t expect that our performance would become reality even before entering the UK. In the end all we wanted to do is show a performance at a festival that had invited us.
To make it short – all visas were denied on the sole reason that the artists, don’t have enough money on their bank accounts. I am not sure what would be considered as a sufficient amount, but I suppose the amount that my bank statement is currently showing surely wouldn’t, still no one denies me to enter the UK. But a group of artists that has been officially invited to an international theatre festival in Manchester, instead of a visa, gets a note in their passports stating that the person checking their visa application is the opinion, that their application is not genuine and the intend behind their visa application is to illegally stay in the UK and possibly apply for social benefits. By saying that, basically criminalizing the artists by trying to impose that they are lying. Quote from refusal letter: “…I am not satisfied that you are a genuine visitor to the UK and will leave the UK at the end of your visit or that you have sufficient funds available to cover your costs whilst in the UK without working or accessing public funds…” So what else can you do to prove that the sole intend of your visit is to do a performance at festival, if even a signed statement by the festival doesn’t seem to be credible for the visa office?
The festival’s artistic director has been great and trying to support us in every way possible, calling and writing to everyone possible in order to change the decision on the visas. So far without success, the visa office’s only offer is to either file an official appeal which takes six month to one year or to reapply. Reapplying would also mean again paying a visa fee of altogether more than 1000 Euros. We already paid that sum for the first application, which of course is non-refundable. Even is reapplying we would only again send in the same documentation stating that the festival is taking care of everything including making sure everyone leaving the UK afterwards. How is it possible to run international art festival and work inter-culturally, if everyone outside the European Union first has to prove that they are rich enough in order to be allowed to participate?
I met this group of artists, when I was teaching them in performance and from this a collaboration developed. This kind of collaboration is normally praised in every leaflet of the EU, collaboration across borders, inter-culturally, connecting people, raising important questions on current issues, etc. But considering current visa legislations and procedures these terms just stay empty shells, it is not possible to actually fill these terms with life, because it actually not wanted. We like to talk about freedom, but the artist’s freedom from outside the EU stops at the EU borders. How can I teach students in Georgia, showing them possibilities for their artistic career, when I all the time have to inform them about their limitation? How can I instigate an artistic exchange, if that in the end only means that I can travel somewhere on EU funds but shouldn’t consider inviting artists back. We are living in hypocritical times, abusing terms like “freedom” and “choice” while constantly denying the fact that these terms have become replacement for “restriction” and “privileged selectiveness”.
To be continued…”
THREE SISTERS or THE LEAVING PARTY
A performance project with master students from CCA (Centre of Contemporary Art) Tbilisi/Georgia, following a two week workshop on devised performences by Mareike Wenzel. The workshop was loosely based on Chekhov’s play „Three Sisters“, set in modern day Georgia, in the flat of the family Danelia.
The family Danelia are the three sisters Maya, Nino and Ana, their aunt Medea, as well as Ana’s childhood friend Daria, a former drug addict who has found refuge in the home of the family; and there also is their neighbour Theona who rather spends her time with the Danelias than in her own flat.
After their father’s unexpected death in an accident, the Danelia family is left with nothing. The evicting from their home is imminent. The sisters seem to turn a blind eye to all this, suddenly their lives have come to a standstill. On the night before their eviction, they decide to throw a big party. This is when the audience enters, to join the party….
The main theme of the performance was the feeling of numbness, a kind of lethargy one often feels nowadays, even amongst young people. While being constantly told everything is possible, one ends up in a situation, where it feels that there is no way out. What happened to all the promises, all the hopes?
Ana Danelia (Cvanca Jishkariani)
Maya Danelia (Tamara Gobronidze)
Nino Danelia (Ana Jikia)
Medea – the aunt (Nata Kipiani)
Daria – the friend (Ana Chaduneli)
Theona – the neighbour (Tamar Chaduneli)
Three Sisters – The Leaving Party
Three Sisters – The Leaving Party
Special thanks to: Mette Juul, Nikoloz Humanoidi, Mariam Natroshvili, Vato Urushadze