Jan Lauwers / fot. M. Oliva Soto

The renowned Malta Festival in the Polish city of Poznań has invited Needcompany to be its Idiom curator in 2018. For this year’s edition, which goes under the title ‘a Leap of Faith’, Needcompany, along with presenting a selection of its own work, has been asked to invite about 10 international artists to make a fearless leap into the unknown.

Grace Ellen Barkey
Jan Lauwers
Maarten Seghers

Poland’s right-wing nationalist government cut the Malta budget so drastically that the festival had its back to the wall. Michal Merczyński, the festival director, asked Needcompany to provide some meaning to the project, in spite of everything. The reduced programme, ‘Cured by Needcompany’, includes the opening night with Maarten Seghers’ new performance Concert by a Band Facing the Wrong Way, as well as Lemm&Barkey’s FOREVER, the English stage adaptation of the Stefan Hertmans novel War and Turpentine by Jan Lauwers, The Moon by MaisonDahlBonnema, 1095 by Kuiperskaai and Another One by Lobke Leirens and Maxim Storms. The festivities will be attended by Sven Gatz, the Flemish Minister of Culture.

‘Leap of Faith’, in its ambiguous meaning of a tragic jump down and a hopeful jump up, defines the dramaturgical essence of these works considered essential for the ‘curing’ of Malta Festival Poznan 2018 by Needcompany. Europe has been badgered to exhaustion and its time is out of joint, to use Shakespeare’s words. Which once again proves that history repeats itself and that we learn nothing from it – that today is no different from yesterday. Or is it that we don’t see the differences?

As they sink into the swamp, and to certain death, these two people nevertheless still try to club each other to death. Goya, in this painting done between 1819 and 1823, renders too clearly the spirit of our age. As our planet hurtles towards damnation, we club people to death who want to climb over walls we have built, in search of something better. At age 16, an adolescent shoots himself up with heroin out of sheer boredom then dies, while another goes to Syria and cuts someone’s throat. A third graduates summa cum laude and becomes a surgeon. Though they attended the same school somewhere in Warsaw or Brussels. Leaps of faith. Oh yes, a fourth becomes an artist, because he has to. Because art always has to be made. Because art simply cannot be destroyed. Because art is essential. Trust and distrust. Two concepts which, in our era, fight the ultimate duel. Half the world is roaring. The other half of the world is also roaring. Now that those in power in Europe are more polarising than ever, there is a move towards extremes, differences are emphasised, and all elections show the great ideologies and religions heading for extreme forms – with principled people prepared to kill, artists have to reformulate their tricky questions. When we took up the task of inviting artists for the Malta Festival to complement the selection from Needcompany’s sizeable oeuvre, we came across wonderful young artists ready and unafraid to risk a leap of faith.

Despite the tragedy of good intentions, the appalling optimism expressed by ‘Leap of Faith’ is the universal generator of our times, with trust as the driving force.

Grace Ellen Barkey, Jan Lauwers and Maarten Seghers