15. November: Marseille
Europe's Kitchen Marseille with Ivana Sajko

 Europaküche Marseille © Daniela Burger

The dinner in Marseille could not take place. No set table. No guests. A blank space instead. Based on an exchange of letters Ivana Sajko developed exercises for being together for Europe`s Kitchen, which were improvised together with the children's theatre group of the Théâtre de l'Œuvre in Marseille.

Exercises for being together

Ivana Sajko

The scene of a dinner party has the quality of a theatrical performance; the costumes, the codes and the protocols; it contains roles and text, which also often open up typical dramatic themes such as family secrets or politics. This scene gets built around the center where a dinner table has been set up. However, if this table is removed, only people will remain, scattered around the lost center.

The idea of a dinner that never took place came to me naturally, as the crisis caused by the pandemic normalized all of our missed connections, meanwhile deepening existing divisions, inequalities and gaps. In the summer of 2020, I set out to correspond with friends from former Yugoslavia, many of whom still live on the outskirts of Europe, or outside territories considered European. I shared with them the idea of a dinner party that did not take place; the idea of a dinner table that was denied to us along with all the dialogues we would have had around that table. I started thinking about what to do with what isn’t there, or what didn’t happen. Can we talk about our separation as a shared experience that binds us?

I chose windows as the first topic of our missed conversation at the table. My Berlin windows look out onto an inner courtyard, and face the back side of the large apartments of the front building. When their curtains are open, I can see all the way through their spacious rooms to the windows facing the other side, toward the street. But the curtains are usually drawn, so I look at the wall. This scant description, however, clearly captures our class anchors. When the abyss of our screens shuts down, our windows frame the real boundaries of our worlds. My friend Goran's windows in Zagreb look out to the front of a socialist ten-story building, with crane jibs protruding behind them; they’re building luxury apartments there right now. “I just listen,” says Goran. “Sounds from the construction site remind me of a shipyard or a seaport. I imagine a shipyard instead of a construction site for rich people’s housing.” Petra's windows look at the sky above Ljubljana: “Sometimes I lie on the couch and just watch the clouds travel from one edge of the window to the other.” In the spring, the white trails left by planes disappeared from that image. Tanja's window in Belgrade stares at the lives of the neighbors across her: “They have no curtains on their windows, and they never draw the blinds, and they never turn off the TV; its screen light is bright enough for me to watch them copulate from my cramped kitchen.” Siniša sends me video clips shot through his window in New Belgrade, one from a snowy day, and one from a peaceful spring day.

Collecting their responses and adding new topics, I thought about how to transport their words to a shared table in Marseille. I wanted to transform my friends into characters who talk about isolation, distances and gaps between mouths, between bodies, between screens, between windows. But due to the strict conditions of theatrical work in the context of the pandemic, I had to re-examine what to do with what did not happen and what would not happen. I kept prints of Siniša's drawings on the table. In his series of drawings called “Social distancing,” I could see groups of people arranged in a circle, looking at a center from which something had been erased. As in the case of our gathering, there is no dining table, but the dramatic situation remains, it persists, it glimmers in space. I tried to set about the project by putting Siniša’s drawings on stage, improvising a situation of togetherness in impossible circumstances, asking questions: What remains in the center? What are these people looking at? What is it that brings them together? What binds them?

A metaphor in lino

Mandula van den Berg

Mandula van den Berg © Mandula van den Berg
  1. A woman at a table, eating alone. Drinking. A woman at a table, humming a memory song.
  2. In a linoleum cut, the image is based on negative space. Absence becomes a presence and what didn’t happen dominates the story. It seems fitting. As Ivana Sajko writes about her performance, we live in a time that calls us to re-examine what did not happen and what would not happen. I too, have been obsessed with missed possibilities, with cancellations and lacks of. Isolation and absence have become both subject and object of the stories around us.
  3. Carving linoleum is gratifying because it’s never fully under your control. I can imagine the spaces and lines, but then they slip. The contrasts are always different than I imagined them to be. Of course, the slippage is usually the most interesting part.
  4. To make a linoleum print, you cut out stripes of material. It’s a satisfying disruption of the virgin material. A little provocative. These absences we all feel, the existing ruptures that they expose and deepen, the harsh contrasts we are seeing and will continue to see - I wonder whether I care about the violence as much as I want to.
  5. It’s dangerously easy, carving black-and-white worlds.

Ivana Sajko

Ivana Sajko © Maja Bosnić
Ivana Sajko is a Croatian writer, dramaturge and theatre director living in Berlin. Her plays have been translated into many languages and performed on international stages. She won several prizes for playwrighting and literature, among which the medal Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et Lettres by French Ministry of Culture and Internationaler Literaturpreis 2018. of Haus der Kulturen der Welt for the German translation of her novel “Liebesroman”. Other German translations include novels “Rio bar” and “Familenroman”, theory book ”Auf dem Weg zum Wahnsinn (und zur Revolution): Eine Lektüre”, collections of theatre plays  “Archetyp: Medea / Bombenfrau / Europa: Trilogie” and “Trilogie des Ungehorsams”.