Ex-position is a multilingual intermedia and sensorial one-on-one voyage into the city and its urban (oral and written) history. It’s based on facts and fictional relations among them, always counting on shifting points of view – of known and exploited narratives of togetherness (eg. the notion of citizenship). Its site (where it’s taking place) is a starting point for the exploration of possible stories which will be built trough the workshop (rehearsal place) and choreographed and engraved on-site, using advantages and disadvantages of certain (chosen) urban locations.
The narratives are personal, linking the performer with wider historical hypertext and is involving a spectator as a protagonist of the story, stories, sometimes shifting identities of different characters (and genders), interlacing several story-lines.
With this, each of the Ex-position voyages become a new urban legend of the city. In its exploration, participants inquire into different ways of storytelling and explore the urban space as a hypertext.
The performance is the second part of the trilogy Process_City inspired by the Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial and its philosophical and political implications. In the third (and first to be produced) part of the trilogy, Process_in_Progress, the entire Kafka’s novel was shaped into a VJ (video jockey) opera-performance; while in the first part of the trilogy, Vacation from History – a meta (physical) comment on Kafka’s work as a voyage on the edge of collective and individual consciousness was inspired by Kafka’s text A Dream. Ex-position tackles one part of The Trial: the parable Legend of the Law, in the form of a unique voyage through one’s own memory, feelings and sub-consciousness.
Ex-position is secretly in love with the movie Amélie Poulain, evokes Shakespeare’s King Lear, quotes the Shadow Casters project and Felix Rückert, attentively reads Herr Franz Kafka, sig. Giorgio Agamben and Mr. Danijel Dragojević, all along while thinking about the project B.E.N.E. (S.A.D.E.?).
2006 – Nomination for the Best Directed Performance in Croatia
2007 – Special Award on BITEF International Theatre Festival, Belgrade/Serbia
2008 – Critic Award Avaz Dragon on MESS International Theatre Festival, Sarajevo/BiH
2009 – Main festival Award Cloud on PUF International Theatre Festival, Pula/Croatia
Festivals and manifestations:
Following its premiere at the 2005. Urban Festival in Zagreb, Ex-position was subsequently presented in Croatia at the Eurokaz International Festival (Zagreb, 2006.), BOK International Festival (Bjelovar, 2007.), Indomitable City Festival (Križevci, 2007.), International festival FIAT in Podgorica (Montenegro, 2007.), BITEF – Belgrade International Theatre Festival (Serbia, 2007.), Szeged International Festival THEALTER (Hungary, 2008.), Sarajevo International Theatre Festival MESS (BiH, 2008.), PUF – Pula international Theatre Festival (Croatia, 2009.), Split (Croatia, 2009.), “Schönste Blume Des Ostens!” in Chemntiz (Germany, 2010.), “Interferences” in Cluj (Romania, 2010.), “Pergine Open” in Pergine Valsugana (Italy, 2012.), “HiFest” in Yerevan (Armenia, 2015.), “Fen” in Opatija (Croatia, 2015.), “Pluriversale III” in Köln (Germany, 2015.) and others.
Excerpts from selected reviews on “Ex-position”:
“ …The most remarkable performance (of BITEF 2007.) comes from Zagreb; the group Shadow Casters takes over the vacant department store “Kluz” with ‘Ex-position’, in which spectators are pictures seen by no one. Each one passes individually through the black curtain, enters a room and is supposed to abandon her/himself to what unfolds next. Each one becomes a victim already in the Waiting Room, where no one knows how long it will take before it is one’s turn to enter beyond the black curtain – if one gets there at all. Some do not finish their journey but have to go back to the Waiting Room and begin the journey all over again. Once on the other side of the curtain, the spectator is kindly greeted, blindfolded and the journey to helplessness may begin.
‘Ex-position’ consists of six city episodes in which time and space are interwoven. Each of these episodes is lived by the spectator, the story being told by the actor but also felt on one’s skin. One walks through unknown rooms, climbs the stairs up and down, suddenly finds oneself standing in the rain in the street, sits in the car, being driven without knowing where to. The world is born out of senses; one hears, feels, touches and smells; one is abandoned and is immersed in the world. One story tells of a pilot by the name of Kluz, after whom the department store was named. The story turns the un-spectator into Kluz’s youthful love that waits for him. Another story tells of Hiroshima and the atomic bomb, ending on a bench outside where the un-spectator makes a memorial crane bird out of paper – blindfolded. In the worst and most penetrating story, one is suddenly transported to the war in Yugoslavia and this is when one might truly begin to be afraid, coming that closely and tightly to the actor as well as to the powerless feeling of being exposed.
‘Ex-position’ for the blindfolded evokes feelings and memories that are not always pleasant (many ‘victims’ stop the war episode). The spectator becomes the companion in empathy, degraded or promoted – depending on how one feels. In the time of spasmodic exhibitionism of feelings, this might exactly prove to be the true therapy.” – Renate Klett, One Who Cannot See Has to Feel, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 04.10.2007.
“ (…) An exceptionally pleasant surprise came from the Zagreb group Shadow Casters and their performance ‘Ex-position’, co-authored by the director Boris Bakal, the dramaturges Katarina Pejović and Stanko Juzbašić and the actors performing in it.
For reasons dictated by a higher force, your reporter has managed to see only one out of six episodes of this performance that are not thematically connected but are all, according to what was heard, created in the identical dramaturgical key, which allows for perceiving the most precious and significant features in it. In the dusty, gloomy room of the former department store “Kluz”, he met Nina Violić who would turn out to be a refined actress with a cultivated voice, also an excellent singer, whose vocal apparatus is both expressive and evocative. First she blinded him by putting opaque sunglasses on his eyes; then she took him for a journey, barely holding his hand, while telling him in a quiet, soft voice, almost whispering, the history of Christ’s birth, on Saint Virgin Mary’s rejection to be God’s mother, on her attempt to remain an ordinary woman, up and down the steep escalators of the decrepit edifice, along the street in front of it, to finally leave him alone on the bench in the nearby park where he, once having the glasses removed and gaining back his sight, would experience the trees, the autumn flowers, the drizzling of the rain as God’s miracle: a salvation from the nightmare into which he was literally sucked in during the past half hour.
This experiment, by far not exclusively formal, has refreshed and expanded the notion of dramatic by bringing the spectator, i.e. the listener, into a state of panic, taking him to a mysterious realm beyond the real, disorienting him in time and space, awarding him with a catharsis he has never before experienced in theatre, all of which could be implemented in any other kind of dramatic genre. (…) ” – Vladimir Stamenković, Everything fluctuates, everything repeats itself, NIN weekly magazine, Belgrade, 04.10.2007.
“ (…) And just when those performances have begun to cause a serious depression, affirming the conviction that this was the weakest BITEF in several past years, things were saved by Boris Bakal and the Shadow Casters and, naturally, the Düsseldorf Macbeth.
As soon as you enter, as a visitor, the hall of the former department store “Kluz” in which Boris Bakal sits as an MC in front of a black curtain and receives his guests, you are becoming an active participant in the performance Ex-position. From the moment you have stepped in the performance, you don’t know whether you are going to spend in it an hour, two hours or more; you are additionally concerned with a number that you had to choose at the beginning and which apparently determines what it is that awaits you behind the curtain. The entire “waiting room” situation is being performed – by Bakal as much as by those persons present in the space. Bakal demonstrates us his art of story-telling, adeptly adding and retracting the details, while each of his flamboyant stories could easily be embodied in some of the performances that follow.
When you finally pass through the black curtain, you find yourself in a room determined by the number you have chosen from where a specific kind of journey begins. Your “host” blindfolds you and guides you through the space, touching you, whispering in your ear, singing… The abolition of visual aspect shifts the usual perception of a performance, emphasising the senses of touch, sound and smell, making space for intimacy and inner imagination. The stories vary: from a journey to childhood, to a humorous version of the Immaculate Conception, to a disturbing and brutal story of a prisoner of war. They are funny, occasionally frightening, emotional and at times poignant to tears. Underneath this basic experience – exceptionally impressive, one must say – there lies another layer: the exploration of the perception of space and city. You are being guided through the cellars and corridors of a forgotten department store, to be then taken out on the street and brought back again to the grimy “Kluz” store. The parallel between the forgotten space and the forgotten (tactile) feeling is inevitably created, where the abolition of the visual establishes a new relation of the body in space/city. The key word is sensuality: the sounds of tramways or high heels, whispers or street noise, the grass in the park or the car seat – all these become part of the bodily, organic experience.
It is interesting to mention that one of the six stories always changes given the space in which it is performed. In fact, the pillar of the story – the life story of the heroine – remains the same, while the contexts change: an approach that politicises the performing space. In this case, the building of “Kluz”, with its political and ideological implications, plays an important role in the local perception of the performance, especially at a time when we are going through an orgiastic revisionism of history from World War II on. The evoking of the story of Franjo Kluz and the former Yugoslavia is not merely nostalgia, as one might think, but is rather a call for a new questioning of what we live today. (…) ” – Olga Dimitrijević, The Art of Story-telling and the Banality of Violence, VREME weekly magazine, Belgrade, 04.10.2007.
“The individualization of performers and their “navigations” through space are undoubtedly great virtues of this performance; yet what seems even more important is the introduction of different political themes, such as the collective civic guilt for Croatian nationalism, the problem of municipal neglect of the entire industrial space (“the vanishing” of the entire system of employment and a certain type of labour), as well as the artistic critique of the very pattern of factory “labour” reduced to helpless, humiliating toil for trifles. These are the reasons why Boris Bakal and his group of autonomous collaborators have created one of the most intriguing theatre projects of this season; and its marginalised performing space by no means diminishes the power of artistic truth. On the contrary: it seems that the dirt and the dust of the abandoned factory speak more of mature capitalism than the conventionally “made-up” theatre edifices seem able to.” – Nataša Govedić, A Journey Through Collective Guilt, NOVI LIST daily newspaper, 10.2006.
“In view of this year’s slogan on intimacy, the most refined performance of EUROKAZ (International Performing Arts Festival in Zagreb) was EX-POSITION by Shadow Casters, a sort of walking tenderness in which the performers were guiding the blindfolded spectators, one by one, by the hand and with warmth that costs nothing, telling them stories they have long forgotten.”– Bojan Munjin, Shakespeare on Cocaine, FERAL TRIBUNE weekly magazine, 06.06.2006.
“ (…) Many performances and projects of Boris Bakal refer to space as the visible surface of inner devastation (a typical slogan of Shadow Casters is: Man is space), i.e. space as the “archive” of various political denials of human freedom as well as of human endurance.
(…) Art has succeeded to achieve what escapes sheer activism: it has created an autonomous zone of creative and critical visibility, endowing resilience to the location doomed to vanish prior to Ex-position. It has showed that the city truly lives in the one who preserves its edifices rather than in some opaque urbanistic planning, and that art may create a special kind of asylum for the architectural “losers” and those deprived of land ownership. Legitimising a space through performing fictions is highly precious also from a strictly theatrical angle: in Bakal’s projects, the entire city acquires the outlines of theatre; it expands over the boundaries of managerial politics; the stage is no longer under the patronage of state institutions; the borders of private ownership and common good, dramatic story and stage object, performer and spectator, are all blurred. (…) ” – Nataša Govedić, Polit-localisation of live word, ZAREZ bi-weekly cultural magazine No. 192, 16.11.2006.
” (…) Thus, similar to simplified mythological concepts, each visitor gets out of EX-POSITION as much as s/he brings into it; for, even when being in a firmly structured story, her/his passivity is actually an illusion that hides a highly active suppressing of disbelief and, ultimately, the acceptance of a walk. (…) ” – Igor Ružić, Ghosts from the House of Stories, VIJENAC monthly cultural magazine No.322, 06.06.2006.
“Yesterday I saw a great show. While I wrote this, I was offered the key to the play performed by Boris Bakal’s team from Croatia: the play called Ex-Position performed in the Brush Factory from Cluj Napoca is not even a show, and I can’t even say that I saw it.
I felt it, I smelled it, I tasted it and heard it, and it was a short but vivid story that actually took place in my imagination only, because I spent those thirty minutes walking around blindfolded in the actress’ presence. The story and characters in this case are completely irrelevant, as is the time when we arrive to this event which has no beginning and no end. It just starts at some point and when there are no more people in the front, right by the director, it comes to an end.
The second part of the trilogy seen at the festival (Vacation from history, Ex-Position and Process in Progress) is called a “journey”, in which we can only take part alone, because, once we passed the initiation stage (the dialogue-storytelling passage initiated by the director), we are lead to our actor or actress one by one, through a separate entrance. We can therefore not speak about the tension usually experienced by the spectators. Partly because we are not spectators, partly because after our arrival, we don’t have time to get into this role: Boris Bakal immediately integrates us in the small community he already formed due to his stories. If we are to quote him, it was worth sitting by him, even if we risk not seeing the “show”: his friendly approach is very uplifting; he talks to us as if we were long time buddies.
The stories that take place in the Brush Factory come alive in separate rooms, the six actors offer six different experiences, but leaves the rest to our imagination: we are lead through the factory building while blindfolded, then we pass through the courtyard, we are put into a car, or we are lead up a ladder while we tell a story about that specific place. They are the narrators and we get to be the actors, but this situation can be reversed or we can even step out of the game.
Their performance is effortless, natural and literally, very close. Even so, we are required to be exact and always focused, not only because we are helpless and therefore need to pay attention, but also because their presence is reduced to a voice, their voice. This stimulus is joined by smells, tastes, background noises, touch and perception, which form a coherent story only in our minds.
Walking in our thoughts, both space and time get a different function. While the latter ceases to exist in spite of the fact that we walk in the present, the former grows bigger and turns into what we want and make it to be. Our imagination draws the lines, this time on a black canvas, behind our eyelids.
An hour has passed and I turned into an actor without noticing, even if I started off as a curious spectator, part of a scenery by which I pass day by day, with my eyes wide open.“ – Bogdán Zenkő, Out of space, 12.2010.
“…The interdisciplinary, site-specific and experimental performance “Ex-position” by the Shadow Casters group, consists of at least three parts. The spectators spend the first part of the performance in a waiting room where the actor/director Boris Bakal tells them a number of different stories, anecdotes and intimate confessions; he does it with energy and poise, varying his attitude from candid to enigmatic and ironic. Bakal’s performative conduct draws the audience into conversation, teasing them and provoking with different proposals, thus opening various questions on the position and function of theatre, radically breaking and subsequently examining the conventionalised aspects of theatrical act.
If the spectators are patient enough and manage to await their turn and eventually pass beyond the black curtain that separates the first from the second part, they are individually paired with a guide-performer and, blindfolded, are taken by the hand to a journey-performance in which they take an active part and directly influence it. The actor of the performance that your critic was awarded with played a series of childhood scenes, taking the spectator into the past, evoking nostalgic and funny scenes with family members, friends and neighbours, all very exciting and moving, and accompanied by various highly evocative sounds, smells and touches. The absence of sight and the guidance of the “blind person” by the hand bring forth the comparison with, for instance, a scene from “King Lear” where Edgar guides his blind father Gloucester and where it is clear that the loss of material sight generates some sort of spiritual enlightenment.
In that respect, the spectator’s sight deprivation indeed compellingly makes his/her perception more intimate, i.e. activates other senses with greater intensity, stimulating the imagination and a deeper, more serious and focused exploration of (sub)consciousness. The spectator finishes this segment of the performance outside the building, amidst the traffic noise, surrounded by accidental passerby, clearly puzzled and curious, who mercilessly bring her/him back to reality. In the story I went through, the guide has left me in front of my own reflection in the mirror, what has furthermore emphasised the coming back to reality, at once analyzing the relation between the past and the present into which the spectator is tangibly brought back through this convincing simulation.
Another truly Shakespearian motive – it reminds, for instance, of those kings deprived of power whose own reflection in the mirror was the only tool left for introspection and self-confrontation after their fall; the initiation and a sort of spiritual revelation.
The third part of the performance takes place in the “control room”, where the audience may share a cup of tea or soup with some of the performance’s authors and other spectators, having the opportunity to talk about the performance but also to hear and see by means of cameras and loudspeakers other performers and spectators that are in the performance at that very moment. This scene with surveillance devices critically reflects global socio-political circumstances, questioning the loss of freedom in the conditions of a Kafkaesque-Orwellian-Baudrillard-like controlled society. At the same time, the communal feeling created in this performance through connecting the audience and interacting with it, has a ritual meaning and is considerably more intensive than in conventional theatre, by which it implicitly poses the question on the social function of theatre.
The performance “Ex-position” exposes to sight not only the actors but also the audience. The audience is being judged by the performers in the way they are usually being exclusively judged by the audience in conventional theatre, while those roles are being exchanged and explored throughout the performance. The authors also question the issue of time and space of artistic presentation in an open and precise manner, explicitly or implicitly, as well as the relation of real and imaginary, the relation of performers and audience etc. For all these reasons, “Ex-position” is an endlessly inspiring and amusing performance that introduces the spectator to a truly specific world, a world that is intellectually, sensually and emotionally highly provoking.” – Ana Tasić, Endlessly inspiring, POLITIKA daily, 02.10.2007.
“The performance offers to its spectators-participants sincerity, warmth, evoked memories and souvenirs, new experiences and deep ponderings on their own position today and in general. It blesses them with cathartic tears, a blissful smile that doesn’t disappear from the face hours after the walking performance.” – Bojana Ćustić Juraga, A Brilliant artistic and deeply intimate experience, Glas Istre daily, 05.05.2009.
“Spectators are no more witnesses but are in the centre of performative act. Awaiting to be called to take part, the audience bides its time with the director who is constantly confessing his own intimate history. After we are introduced to the guide (performer), s/he puts on a cover over our eyes and takes us through the story… The goal is for us to realise our own blindness and to feel the entire magnitude of our potential to ignore. Director Boris Bakal entices us into this systemic interpretation of stories offering it in the only substantially individualised and sincere way – through experience.” – Aida Pilav, Tempting history, Dnevni Avaz daily, 24.10.2008.
” (…) The few minutes of debate, however, was not that the Zagreb Shadow Casters (Árnyékvetők) troupe deserves a special award. Maybe that was the only issue in which the five members of the jury from the beginning perfectly agreed.
…The title of the production – Ex-position (Ex-pozicija) – means exhibition (or opening performance) and unveiling at the same time. And it is true: the experience is extremely intensive and personal; it demands openness, direct reaction and sensitive participation from the actor and the “onlooker”. The inverted commas are emphasized here since the audience (who is one person) is a performer of the show through which the company (also of one person) after some introduction guides him. Moreover, whatever you can do, you can not actually see.” – László Upor BITEF, The notes of a member of a jury, Színház/Theatre magazine, 12.2007.