Over two thirds of the world’s population is Asian. At first glance, this is not so obvious in Poznań, which is the formal place of residence of eighty-eight Chinese and six Vietna- mese persons. You may also encounter a small group of Syrian and Jordanian students, in addition to several coaches of Japanese tourists and about twice as many people without any formal documents. This is not a lot in comparison to Venice where Italian restaurants are staffed with increasing numbers of people from China, or Vienna, Asian students’ favourite venue for studying music.
But Asia is, indeed, present in Poland, albeit in a somewhat backdoor way. Toys, clothes and modern electronics – all feature “made in China” labels; the largest steelworks in the country belong to the Indian tycoon, Mittal; Chinese construction companies are building Polish motorways and stadiums; Polish soldiers are losing their lives in Afghanistan, and Europe as a whole is hoping to pay its debt with the assistance of Asian banks.
Until a while ago, the word “Saigon” was used in the Polish language to denote chaos. Today “Chińczyk” (which literally means “Chinese” but is also the Polish name of the game ludo) is a game in which the faster one wins. Europe is experiencing this game at an extremely high pace owing to the geopolitical tug-of-war between Russia, Western Europe and China, as well as to the race to Kazakh and African natural resources and to the attractive Indian markets.
If globalisation is turning the world into a village then who are our neighbours from across the street? Who makes our t-shirts in the sweat shops? Who, in a Chinese factory that belongs to an American computer corporation, throws themselves from the roof as they can no longer stand the murderous work pace?
Whilst, in the last century, Asian theatre and art would come to Europe primarily as an exotic phenomenon presenting kung fu, butoh, khatakali or sufi music, today artists in Europe and Asia are focusing on their mutual relations. Together they are looking at the structures of world power in which multinationals circumvent their own national boundaries and ignore social laws through outsourcing and special economic zones.
The Idiom: Akcje Azjatyckie / Asian Investments programme features projects in which the artists manage to observe China from the perspective of their own downtowns; of seeing the violence in Lebanon as an export from the West; of confronting the city centre in Poznań with the Israeli issue; of locating Polish and German deportations in Kazakhstan, and of imagining that behind extraterrestrial powers stands an Asian capital.
But the Idiom programme is more than just the performances of our guest stars. It is also a series of Malta Festival Poznań co-productions. Hence, the production of this year’s festival T-shirts will be intentionally moved to North Korea where the German artist Dirk Fleischmann will thoroughly supervise the manufacturing conditions he has created and record them for the festival’s purposes. Furthermore, especially for Malta Festival Poznań, Ant Hampton will orga- nise a series of encounters, during which the faces of Asian workers will be projected onto the faces of the spectators. Finally, Polish artists will search for millions of people called Huang all over the world.
We are proposing to you a new dimension of intercontinental relations: stories instead of missiles, research instead of investments, encounters instead of pipelines, and, first and foremost, a festival that does not isolate itself within its own artistic domain, but invites you on a trip to unknown Asia – made in Poland.
THE IDIOM CURATOR