Libor Kasík: Too little do we raise a question why to support culture

Shortly (from May 31 until June 4) a festival Cirk-Uff, festivity of all new circus lovers, will take place. It was set up by Libor Kasík, a significant mover in this field and a director of Trutnov multifunctional theatre UFFO. He is widely known not only for broadminded presentation of top foreign authors, coproduction cooperation and support of domestic scenes, but also for unorthodox opinions on the cultural policy.

Why a manager of such a caliber has resided in Trutnov and what are his further plans? You have recently come back from Australia where you had been nominated to the Fringe Festival jury. Have you gained any experience that could be applied here? Would the Czech projects be able to stand local competition?

To be precise, I was invited to the jury, however due to time reasons I could ´t participate in evaluation. I hope I will have this opportunity next time.

I found great inspiration there. And not only as far as the professional sphere is concerned. So far, I have had an opportunity to visit many countries on various continents on my business trips, and sometimes these visits were quite long-lasting. Nevertheless, I was really amazed by Australia.

It’s not possible to overlook the positive atmosphere of this country. I would need significantly more time to describe it in detail. Therefore, I would just like to mention that it is so clear that the Australians have firm hand on the administration of their issues and they are aware of it (positively ment).

As far as the Fringe Festival in Adelaide is concerned, it is not as huge as its older brother in Edinburg. And this makes it more bearable. Nevertheless, it is still a big festival and therefore a wide range of events is available both to spectators and promoters. It is hard to describe everything that has caught my attention there. However, I personally see the main benefit for our festival, UFFO and even more for the Czech circus in establishing a base for the long-term relations with the Australian Circus.

Gravity and Other Myths will present its new project called Backbone on this year ´s Cirk-UFF. Its participation is possible mainly due to the fact that the company did residency here last September, and thus the final costs are bearable. Backbone is an exceptionally powerful performance. Despite its abstract form it is extremely intensive due to absolutely perfect realization, both specific and impressive light design and above all comprehensive concept of the director Darcy Grant. In this performance, he hand in hand with his company seeks the answers to a question from where force comes and what it actually is.

Furthermore, even an experienced spectator feels that he is continuously witnessing something new and trite, and that is not always a sure thing as far as new circus is concerned. Moreover, it is not so common that both critics and spectators would share their enthusiasm about the performance.

To sum it up, I am truly pleased that spectators will have the opportunity to see Backbone in Trutnov (one of solely two locations in Europe). Furthermore, our planned coproduction cooperation offering mutual benefits has made me very happy. With the help of this cooperation, the Australians may use unique and for the new circus´ needs convenient UFFO premises for residencies thus enabling us to financially manage these projects.

And to your question whether the Czech projects would be able to stand local competition, I would say yes, indeed, though probably not on a great scale. Several companies and projects have been successful here and there will be more and more.

This year, you have succeeded in establishing a showcase of the Czech new circus which is going to be visited by important personalities from many countries. Has this been your aim since the establishment of the Cirk-UFF?

In fact, it´s a question of synergies, like with all good things. Those promoters from other countries will primarily come because of the possibility to see Backbone in Europe. And if you at the same time send them the information about the Czech showcase, then you suddenly receive answers like "it´s a great program, I have no idea that the Czech circus is so widely spread, etc.”

Therefore, seeing it in this complex way may have — and I am strongly convinced it will really happen — a positive impact on the Czech circus. As I have mentioned, there already exist Czech projects with a potential to score a success abroad.

In general, we may say that the idea of the Czech showcase has been allied with the Cirk-UFF since the beginning. However, only now it is obtaining more and more real dimensions. And I have to acknowledge that it is partial credit of Rosťa Novák who on one of the meetings in the beginning of the year said: “Well, and why don’t realize a showcase? After all, on what other occasion would the promoters have an opportunity to see complete Czech circus?”.

It is known that you are politically active and have a clear opinion on particular issues. I would rather not raise a question: “What would you change on the current subsidy policy in the Czech Republic?”. Instead, I would like to ask you to summarize in just ten sentences its ideal form.

Indeed, the cultural policy is an area of utmost interest for me. This is mainly because culture, in particular in more extensive and currently used concept of cultural and creative industries, may have crucial impact on society. And this influence is going to increase in the following years hand in hand with the growth of these industries in particular countries — and this is happening already. In short, the main problem is how to set the system so that it would motivate authors and attract as wide spectrum of public as possible because then the economical and social impacts would be tangible and the support of culture would be not only really meaningful, but also defensible from the political view. In my opinion, too little do we raise question why to support culture. The increase of culture support is for the persons from this field more like an unrealistic mantra. And as far as the society in general is concerned, this issue is rather not interesting at all.

Political parties virtually don’t work with the fact that the investments in culture are repaid multiply. However, I am convinced that we live in a period when we are finally starting to realize that the investments in education, development and culture are the means that can move us forward. Not to be misunderstood, the goal is not just to primarily increase the volume of public money allocated to culture, though even this would be positive in our case. In my view, the changes should be undertaken mainly in the three following areas. Firstly, the taxes. We need to realize that thousands of employees of the ministries, regional and municipal offices and cultural institutions dedicate their time to distribution of grants and then to giving back almost the same amount of money to the Treasury in the form of taxes. Secondly, depoliticization of the money distribution. Politics itself is not bad. However, everybody should do what he knows best. Yes, if we distribute public money, it is always going to be partially influenced by a subjective view. Nevertheless, if we withdrew the final decisions from the politicians, we would prevent many excesses and suspicions. In this field, we may be inspired by the system of the British art councils. Thirdly, the Ministry of Culture. This institution should have slightly different form in the current so quickly changing world. In these days, culture itself is decentralizing. However, in our country, though the situation is not critical, we tend to move to the opposite direction — to centralize it. Instead, the changes in the outlined areas should free the hands of professionals, involve as wide spectrum of society as possible, thus bringing more both private and public money into the system.

Could you share with us your next goals?

In the short term, definitely the Cirk-UFF festival which is awaiting us in a couple of days. In the long term, issues concerning cultural policy, such as finalization of the concept and its subsequent enforcement.

In conclusion, let me raise three traditional questions:

What has recently pleased you in the field of culture?

Definitely, the Garden of Unearthly Delights that I regularly visited during my stay in Australia. It’s rather an entertainment, but one that is realized in an euphoric and uplighting way.

On the contrary, what has disappointed you?

Let’s say that unexpected and unpleasant things happen around us. Let devil take them.

And what are your wishes?

More smiles, sense of perspective and self-confidence.

Regular blog of Nová síť published in the Internet newsletter on the contemporary theatre in context