Die Inszenierung »Gottes kleiner Krieger« hat zwar erst am 18. Mai 2013 Premiere, aber wir bereiten uns jetzt schon darauf vor. Und wie könnte man sich besser auf etwas vorbereiten, als ganz von vorne anzufangen, am Ursprung des Ganzen? Genau, wir lesen! Denn »Gottes kleiner Krieger« basiert auf dem gleichnamigen Roman von Kiran Nagarkar und der ist stolze 704 Seiten dick und da muss man ja wirklich früh anfangen um rechtzeitig fertig zu sein. [mehr]
A talk with the director of the opera »Crusades«, Neco Celik, and Jonas Görtz
Jonas Görtz: In Europe, every week you have the impression of being overtaken by another historic event. One is practically forced to recognize that we are living in a time of historic change. What is your perspective on today’s Europe?
Neco Celik: Frightening! I try to protect myself from it, because I can’t deal with hysteria at all. Even though we believe to have completely developed reason, we are more hysterical and fearful than ever before. Is this because communication paths have become infinite, everyone can speak their mind any way they choose, or because opinions are constantly being poured over us by the bucketful that are obstinate and uncontrolled? I don’t want to be the garbage bin for hysterics and clerics. Instead, I try to find reliable sources of information. A particular example of a wave of hysteria was New Year’s Eve in Cologne. But it has been going on like that for some time now. Since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, debates are always no-holds-barred in every Moslem context and then, later, a reasonable discussion ensues. But why not from the very beginning? I can only distance myself from all of this hysteria to try to have a chance at developing my own opinion.
JG: Do you think you can succeed with this in a time of acceleration and global constriction?
NC: You have to develop strategies for consuming information. Everyone is different in this regard. My strategy is to first deal with a major event after two weeks have passed. How could one possibly have all the relevant information after only two days of research?
JG: You are a son of Turkish immigrant workers who resided in Germany, and you have been living and working for quite some time now in Berlin-Kreuzberg, where you arrived at the theater after stations in youth work and filmmaking. From March to November, you have been residing in Istanbul on a grant from the Foreign Office. How is it to be living and working in this city as an artist?
NC: Before I started working in the theater, I shot my last film in Istanbul in 2005. It is like returning to a city that I know really well. It is a very fast, chaotic, beautiful and unstructured city, even in comparison to Berlin. You need to somehow find a way to comprehend the contradictions and differences that exist there. I also experienced this post-modern military putsch. It is incredibly dramatic, but also disappointing, that in this case more hysteria than knowledge of the events dominated in German reporting. It is far too complex, and – especially in times like this – not easy to understand what has happened in Turkey in the last 12 to 13 years. Unfortunately, the perspective on Turkey here is far too eurocentric, and one is not informed in a differentiated way. Of course, my advantage is that I can observe the German as well as the Turkish media. Thus a far more complex image is created than could be created in Germany alone.
JG: The communicative misunderstandings that can easily occur in intercultural exchange are also a subject of Ludger Vollmer’s opera that you will premiere in Freiburg – “Crusades”. Vollmer says, his Leitmotiv for the opera is the “misuse of religion”. Do you see connections between this metaphor and the confrontations between Europe and Turkey?
NC: There has always been a misuse of religion, especially by the faithful. And that has never been as tangible as it is now. That is probably a result of an increased flow of information. How this misuse works is especially exemplary in Turkey right now – how a religious government wages war against a religious sect. It doesn’t get any more postmodern than that. For most Moslems, it is very tragic and injurious that so much evil is done in their name, and that is sold as most of all global misconduct. As though it were a rule instead of an exception. What can you do to stop that?
JG: One could confront them with alternative narrations, which is precisely what you are doing by staging this opera with theatrical means. An opera is, as a narrative form, also a strong counterweight in its processual and staged quality to the hysterical fast-paced life you describe. Its story is contemporary; the title opens up a powerful historical cosmos. The crusades, originally written as a European success story, are a material that create a link between a historically based potential for violence and a concrete situation in a here and now. What exactly inspires you about this story? What would you like to tell me by referencing it?
NC: The reconciliation and the enlightenment inspires me. About the piece, short and sweet: the Christians made a lot of mistakes and call out from the past, “everyone, don’t make the same mistake”. But when the same mistakes are made anyway, the attitude from the past once again comes to a crisis in the children’s crusades. It is this reconciliatory call into the present that tries to keep us from succumbing to more superstition; this is what makes me curious. Even though these historic warnings are repeatedly formulated, they never seem to amount to much. This makes me very pessimistic.
JG: Even if you don’t believe that history constantly repeats, the question must still be raised if we can learn from it. There is certainly enough material to use; enough history has been lived and written about. Do you have the hope that this can actually happen?
NC: You practically have to demand that people learn from history. So many religious or nationalist wars have taken place; entire peoples were annihilated due to their religion and culture. It is almost absurd when people say that certain problems can’t be solved. Why are we so passive today, even though we know so much? Given all of the knowledge and means that are available to us, we should be in a position to find solutions. It’s crazy, but nobody is interested in solutions anymore. Instead, we spend our time with talk shows about five square meters of black fabric on a woman, instead of talking about real problems. It doesn’t have to be the entire world, let’s stay with our own society. Populism has all of Europe in its grasp. Xenophobia is very strongly represented, especially in the well-off countries. An AfD gets over 15% overnight in Berlin! That happened faster than the rise of the Front National in France. It is frightening to see how fragile our society really is. And when one looks at history, then we have to conclude that all of this has happened before. But we prefer to direct our attention to a country that is 3000 kilometers away, Turkey, in which a man is considered a dictator who has been democratically elected in the course of the last 13 years. And here we are racking our brains to figure out why this is the case. Because we don’t understand that Erdogan is celebrated as a savior in comparison to all the dictators before him. To top it off, now possibly the biggist populist in the most powerful country on earth – Donald J. Trump – was democratically elected to become president. Right now, this is even more difficult for Europe to fathom. As sad as it may seem, the voters think: maybe only men such as Trump, Erdogan or Putin solve the world’s problems.
JG: Any artist needs free space to develop. Given a strengthening populism, do you see yourself limited in your potential for political influence, for example in the field of cultural politics on the one hand, and on the other, do you feel challenged by the question of who you can still reach at all with the means of art?
NC: We live in contradictory times. How can art answer to them or even react? The answer can only lie in diversity and resistance. Let’s stay with Germany, which is not reaching the potential of its diversity. We could potentially be the new America, with all this potential. But there is something like a structural populism that prevents certain biographies, names or phenotypical characteristics from being allowed to participate. This is why I am so thankful for people like Ludger Vollmer, who wrote such operas as “Gegen die Wand” or now “Crusades” that portray post-migrant love stories full of contradictions and complexities. We are totally overburdened by the overload of religious narratives, and we are trying to find a way through this maze. We lack the direct contact that these religions actually live. And here it is especially theater that must create spaces and public spheres in order to make these meetings and discussions possible. That is its purpose. But it seems that there is often a fear of contact, or people don’t want to confront an audience with this material, and sometimes one doesn’t look very closely. Artists and art professionals must formulate a total societal context. If we don’t do this, then we will not only exclude communities, but ourselves as well. Theater houses must be lighthouses for an open society. Since populism’s upswing, I have been awaiting for the German theaters to join forces in opposition – and missing this step; there is too much individualism. For me, this is analogous to our entire society in which a fundamental solidarity is lacking. And how do we expect to join forces in Europe, if we can’t even manage to do that in Germany?
JG: Maybe good stories are missing to more vehemently oppose the populist, destructive narratives. What could these stories look like?
NC: We have to go back to Kant, to what reason actually means. That is the only instrument against populism and fanaticism; it has the power to keep us in a balance. Without reason, we have nothing to oppose them with and would have betrayed what we stand for. This not only applies to art, but also to all societal levels. We may need a second, a postmodern enlightenment.
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