Internet users, artists and activists are standing behind Rodrigo Garcia's play Golgota Picnic, which was stopped from being shown at the Theatre Festival Malta in Poznań. "We'll do the performance in a garage if we have to" they warn.
The play of the Argentinian director Rodrigo Garcia has been performed in other countries. In Poland, it was scheduled to be the last act of the Theatre Festival Malta 2014. Where-ever the director and his actors went, they caused turbulence. Reactions were mixed, from fascination to outrage. But Poznań is the only place where, amidst protests from the clergy and threats from ultra-Catholic groups, the show was called off. The play is said to offend religious feelings by juxtaposing Christian iconography (from Francisco Goya to Rubens) with nudity and a picnic. The creators explain that the latter represents the Last Supper of contemporary times.
The decision to cancel the performance was taken out of concern for the safety of the spectators, artists and festival staff - and caused a media uproar. Forums and social media websites are brimming with fury. - We'll do the performance in a garden, in a garage or a big living room if we have to! In a place where freedom of expression won't be curtailed by local authorities or the Archbishop. Somewhere where the threat of a several thousand-strong demonstration will be considered aggression in the eyes of the law. Because we have the right to! - say the creators of the Facebook event Wystawmy Golgota Picnic (Bring Golgota Picnic to the Stage).
The event had several thousand attendees within a couple of hours. Five times as many (7896 at time of publication and counting) signed their name to an appeal written to the Polish president. The authors (a movement called Obywatele Kultury/ Citizens of Culture, which stands in the defence of violations of rights and freedom guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Poland and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) enlist the constitutional rights which are violated by cancelling the artistic performance. - A country is as free as is its culture - they write,
"Culture must be guarded from censorship, ignorance and violence with as much strength as the homeland is defended from oppression. On the 20th of June 2014 in Poznan, the play Golgota Picnic by world renowned director Rodriga Garcia was cancelled. The Malta Festival in Poznań based the decision on the warnings of the police about violent groups. By accepting their explanation of alleged offence to religious feelings, Poland is drawn into a new form of ideological censorship based on ignorance and hatred towards everything that is challenging and demanding. This is the second time in this artistic season - after giving up on the performance Nie-Boska komedia. Szczątki (The Un-Divine Comedy) at the National Teatr Stary in Krakow - that an important cultural event will not take place because Polish citizens are worried about their safety, and the organisers are incapable of guaranteeing the security of the creators [...] Artists have lost freedom of artistic expression and thereby the authority of the state has been put into question and undermined."
Christ degenerate? It's us, the people!
The head of the Malta Festival, Michał Merczyński, is also defending the performance. In a letter to the Archbishop of Poznań Stanisław Gądecki, he explains Garcia's ideas.
It is the intention of the director of Golgota Picnic to show a metaphor of contemporary suffering, the show speaks about our loneliness, fear of death, the exhaustion of possibilities to give meaning to the world, and such is also the interpretation of the critics. The main subject of the play is therefore the condition of a European society so mired in consumerism and spiritual emptiness. According to your Excellency, "Christ appears in the play as a degenerate, egoist, the one responsible for the world's evils". But according to Garcia, it's not Christ but us - the people of the West, bored, concentrated on our own pleasure and comfort - we are responsible for the evil by being passive and not reflecting on our own existence. The director denounces the downfall of the contemporary world and defends values that are shared by the Church [...]."
In an interview for the French magazine Les Inrocks, Garcia, who is also the curator of this year's Malta Festival, says "Our opponents say: if you perform Golgota Picnic, there will be bloodshed. In these circumstances I can say but one thing: let's do this, let there be bloodshed. It's not possible to accept censorship in Europe in 2014 and even less so that I'm being threatened by fanatics who pretend to be Catholic while Christianity is supposed to be the doctrine of love thy neighbour."
Gogota Picnic DIY
Golgota Picnic was meant to be staged at the Poznan Malta Festival on the 27th and 28th of June 2014. Instead, Poland is buzzing with ideas on how to fight for the play. On the 27th June, a couple of theatres around Poland: TR Warsaw, the Polish Theatre in Bydgoszcz, are setting up screenings of Golgota Picnic. Tickets are available for free at the ticket offices, but the number of places is limited. Another action linked to the cancelled show on Friday is a reading of the piece at Plac Defilad in Warsaw.
People are taking action. Institutions, spurred on by the Forum of Contemporary Art, can organise their own Golgota Picnics. Here is their text:
We have called on all the people of theatre and all the citizens of Poland to a collective act of revolt against violence in the public area and to the defence of freedom of speech, opinion and artistic expression.
GOLGOTA PICNIC - do it yourself!
We - artists, spectators, producers, critics, activists across Poland - are taking things in our own hands. This is a grassroots initiative to organize a GOLGOTA PICNIC across the whole country. Rodrigo Garcia supports our cause and gave us permission to use the text and the video recording of his performance.
There are 3 ways of using the Golgota Picnic script:
1. For theatres: reading of the text with actors in front of an audience.
2. For libraries: organising a reading group which will read the play together and discuss it afterwards.
3. Group readings of the entire script. In Poznan, Friday evening will not be empty due to the lack of the Golgota Picnic on the Malta stage.
"We will print the text in several copies and gather in a public space. We invite everyone who opposes the decision to cancel the play. The text will be distributed and read out loud by those assembled in one common voice. Loudly. Very loudly."
4. A screening of Rodrigo Garcia's performance. (With no subtitles).
It's also possible to use extracts of the text, for discussion, before a showing of a film, at a meeting or any other occasion. We invite you to organise something in your own home/ theatre/cinema/library/bar/cafe. We want to show that we are not afraid, that we will not be threatened and that the attempt at censorship of culture causes our numbers and level of engagement to increase. Whatever you decide to organise, share it through social media #GolgotaPicnic. Remember to attach pictures and videos.
If you're interested in taking part in the happening write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Ania Legierska, translation: MJJ 24/06/2014
Sources: PAP, Gazeta Wyborcza, Polityka.pl