The Territoriya Festival is easy to criticise from your armchair or desk. From the outside. You look at the list of events, the locations, you read the press releases, and you can conveniently come to the conclusion (depending on who your Chief Editor or Creative Director is) that this is all some well-funded, self-aggrandising publicity stunt by the organisers, an attempt at fast-food avant-garde, a hollow gesture of cultural revolution, self-appointed 'icons' of the new generation (Mironov, Kurentis, Serebrennikov and Khamatova, as well as the less well known Uraev and Dolzhanskiy) acting irresponsibly, stepping out of line, destroying the rules and the roots of the classic approach to cultural education.
Then try talking to the students who attend the events.
Brought in from all over Russia at the Festivals' expense, they don't usually have direct access to 'living masters', or live creative dialogue. Few open up the secrets of their success, or the nuances of their profession in the democratic 'anti-pafos' way it happens in Territoriya where each 'master' recognises in every student a reflection of themselves 5, 10, 20 years ago, and a creative potential that can be wiped out in a fraction of a second if not taken under-wing.
The breathless enthusiasm of the students after each performance, each master-class is enough alone to justify the event. In the sparkle in the students' eyes, in their unselfconscious applause and engagement, there was a reward much greater than the Media's praise or acceptance - there was pure, unadulterated passion for what they witnessed, what they learned, and what they wanted to go on and do as a result, further breaking boundaries and reaching out towards the stars. They found, for a few short but head-spinning days, a safety zone, a creative and spiritual incubator, a nationwide 'family' where their creative impulses - in a world dominated by decadence and designer handbags - felt like something to be proud of, a source of self-respect, something genuinely worth following through, something that, thanks to the organisers, suddenly became very, very 'cool'!
In soulless times, in a time when civilization seems far from civilized, and `Culture' is treated either as a rarely served delicacy or good meal badly disguised as dessert, it is also easy to see Art as - and not portraying - the Dark Side. Much of the work on view in Territoriya was dark, even as one critic dubbed it `Apocalyptic', but how else can society be woken up? The real Apocalyse comes when no longer anyone cares!
The duty of the artist, the performer, the writer, the composer, is to ask the difficult questions, to look disaster in the face, to kick and scream about the collapse of society, to lament the loss of values, to prevent the final abandonment of spirit and soul by the general population by portraying his or her vision of the future. `Dark' is not an admission of defeat, `dark' is a prediction of that which it is our power to prevent.
The artist, when faced with a cul-de-sac, driven and inspired by God, Buddah, Allah, a Muse, a Cosmic energy, the voices of his ancestors or whatever he at that moment believes to be `divine', passes through or leaps over the wall, regardless of the risk of personal physical or psychological injury. Most will admit they are open channels to a greater force which allows them get to the other side, turn the tide and - not succumb to darkness, to the End - but invite in the light to create a new beginning. That seems to be what lies behind some of the programme choices in Territoriya. A naќve fool can claim all is well in our world; a cynical fool can refuse to believe that everything can be changed for the better; but only a total fool can take no action!
Territoriya is about free access, opening borders, opening minds, alerting and inspiring. It is about welcoming new talent with open arms into a creative (and difficult) 'homeland' to build a better future, to avoid the onslaught of the Apocalypse. That welcome was extended with a great amount of effort, passion and, without doubt, a great deal of human love. The results are both instant and long-term. They are preventative, and provocative. Many of the students will return in the future to conduct master- classes of their own.
© DE I / DESILLUSIONIST є11. "Territoriya Festival Ц Live Creative Dialogue"