In art and media, trauma is gold – a conversation with Julian Hetzel on his show All Inclusive
Published in Poptown by Julia Czub on 13-12-2022 Julia Czub
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When does making art about war become problematic? What i san appropriate way of processing pain and fear in public? You can now confront these questions at Nowy Teatr.
As part of the third edition of the International Festival Nowa Europa, Nowy Teatr is presenting works focusing on the theme of Ucieczka do Przodu. The performances and plays are meant to analyse emotions such as fear or anxiety in today’s reality and invite audiences to a deeper inference with these intractable topics.
We talk to Julian Hetzel, whose All Inclusive , a hybrid of performance and exhibition deconstructing the role of war in art, is showing at Nowy Teatr as a part of the festival on 14 and 15 December.
Julia Czub: Your work is highly interdisciplinary, how have you shaped this particular attitude towards creating art?
Julian Hetzel: Before discovering the world of theatre and performing arts, I did illustrations, studied visual communication and visual arts and I played in a electro pop band. I believe that being interested in multiple directions and disciplines can be an expertise. With Studio Julian Hetzel I cultivated a practice that allows for creative contamination and „All Inclusive“ is a great example of all these interests coming together.
You use the word interdisciplinary to describe what I do. For a while I thought transdisciplinary sounds more exciting, later I described my work as postdisciplinary, to sound more contemporary. But lately I’ve decided to highlight the radical approach in what I do, so I now describe my practice with the word: undisciplinary.
JC: What draws you to the form of art that documents certain events?
JH: I‘m interested in how art and reality are intertwined. Reality is a huge inspiration for me. I want to make the walls that separate the theatre from the streets disappear. And I’m interested in how art can directly influence society and politics at large. I want to understand what I call “the big behinds,” the hidden economies and governing principles that rule the world I live in.
JC: Do you believe that pain is something that can be capitalized? Both in a broader sense of the market and in the art sector.
JH: In art and media, trauma is gold. Us humans are both, fascinated and repulsed by images depicting violence and pain. Images of war, of conflict and suffering sell. The further away these images are taken, the closer we tend to zoom into them. There is a marked for these images and for their transformation in the arts. I‘m implicated into this system and I think its important we openly speak about these mechanisms that produce empathy. What are the limits of empathy?
JC: Who should have an agency over creating art on the topics such as war? Do the stories belong to the people affected?
JH: This is a complex issue you raise. In All Inclusive we question the art marked by questioning the economy linked to the reproduction, circulation and distribution of these materials. We also ask what role does the audience play here? So on one side it is a question of ownership and appropriation. On the other side its a question about cultural consumption and the act of looking. One way or the other we are all accomplices in this. I’m much more part of the problem than of the solution and I want the audience to question their position as well.
JC: How does it make you feel to show All Inclusive so close to where the war in Ukraine is taking place and where such a huge wave of new refugees is just settling in?
JH: All Inclusive was made in 2017/18 and it focuses on the conflict in Syria and in the wider Middle East. It is confronting to understand that this piece has potentially gained relevance though the war in Ukraine. It feels special to now be invited to Warsaw knowing about the war that is happening next door. The urgency of the situation will be reflected in the presentation at Nowy Teatr. For All Inclusive we work with a group of local participants and some of them are from Ukraine. So it will be a special presentation for all of us. A journalist recently asked me what I would do if there were no more wars in the world… I had no answer to this question, but that I would love to live in this world.
JC: Do you believe that tragedy and destruction can spark progress and development in society?
JH: This sounds like it’s taken straight from a futurist proposition. I don’t think that destruction is a constructive force, but I use violence in my works as s tool to create aesthetic value. If we learn to accept reality as it is with all its cracks and deformations we might be able to find beauty in unexpected places.
JC: Do you think that art, historically, has been something that helped the society to understand such complex and tragic events like war? Is it the case now?
JH: Art has always been a tool to communicate ideas and to inspire people to see things differently and to explore new perspectives. Art is a free space where utopian and absurd ideas can be exercised and tested. This artistic freedom allows us to find new forms to deal with impossible subjects, to deconstruct taboos. Art is a weapon and Humor a tool that together provide creative freedom to speak about the unspeakable. Art can inspire people to critical independent thinking and this is what is needed when exposed to such complexities