Vedrana Klepica

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Artist statement

For the last couple of years I have been working as a writer, dramaturg a theatre director. I have started my career as a writer, and wrote several plays that have been produced in Croatia, Serbia, Germany, Luxembourg, Great Britain, Argentina, Australia, and had staged readings on various international festivals.

But I have always emphasized that though I was first a writer I was more importantly a theatre practitioner, and I consider these two to be inseparable from one another in my work. There are no interesting narratives without well thought – through theatre mechanism in mind, and the methods I employ while writing or working in theatre are always deeply connected to the topic I am working on. If I had to say what most of my work is centered around, it would be the topics of class, privilege, ecology and patriarchy, something which resonates very deeply and intimately with me.

I grew up in a small industrial town in southeast Croatia, in a family that had as much to do with art as they did with nuclear physics, that is – nothing at all. My father, after the ex-YU war ended, worked long hours as an electrician in a local factory, and my mother meandered between working at a local coffee shop and a pizzeria before finally landing a job at the accounting office at the local department store, and after finishing their work they showed little interest for anything else, since they were mostly to too exhausted, but also, because their class context – they were devoid of a certain kind of knowledge, and thus, the passion to enjoy ‘high art’. Our ‘bookshelf’ had exactly two books, both ‘repair it yourself’ manuals. They also didn’t go to the theatre, mostly because there was no theatre in our town to go to. Today they come to my shows, and they are proud to see them, but I always feel a deep disconnection between them and the work they saw. It is in that feeling of dissidence that I draw my passion for my work – what is that dissidence?? What are we producing and for who? How to be authentic to your own personal aesthetic but still make theatre an important and integral part of a community that in recent years has grown increasingly isolated, converging mostly to social media and Netflix. Theatre is art. But more importantly theatre is also democracy. It is a place people gather to paint a clearer place of belonging in a society that is increasingly dictated by class, ambition and power. It is a democracy I think I have a right to participate, although my background was not one to cater to such a career.

Aesthetically speaking I try to build eclectic visual and performative worlds in which the problems I have outlined become almost archetypal. In my show ‘Prairie Oysters’ I examine the relation of totalitarianism and patriarchy, through characters of women living in a dystopian village full of absurd, cruel sets of rules that become impossible to follow. My show ‘Keinberg’ on the other hand deals with the moral and economic collapse of a small industrial community in an unnamed place in Europe. The performance explores the recurring principles of late capitalism, in which the very systems underlying the construction of any given economic community, through insufficient control, become the reasons for its disintegration. Aesthetically speaking, I try to put a strong emphasis on my audio and visual collaborators, to create elaborate soundscapes, and video imagery, that are equal partners to the performers on the stage.

Since I am based in Zagreb, Croatia, and I do most of my work here, socio – political development has a crucial impact on my work. And I mean that in a sense that it inspires the work I do, but also affects it practically – production wise. Croatia is not a wealthy country and the political climate is always flirting with conservativism and the (extreme) right. That type of climate often transpires to systems of creating, the institutions that produce work, and that often lag behind the efficient, innovative and liberal production models, making it harder for artists to produce relevant work.

I believe in education, hard grassroots work, culture and dialogue does. I find my art to be a part of that dialogue, however sometimes it is hard to establish it – even, literally, in the practical sense.

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