Milo Rau: We learn the lesson or we are fucked. | NTGent
Tm174 Milo Rau

Milo Rau: We learn the lesson or we are fucked.

| 27 May 2020
Interview with Milo Rau in la Repubblica. A discussion about the actual crisis, art after Corona and the 'tragic mode of thinking'.'For me, the Corona crisis, this full stop is a 'general rehearsal': If we don’t learn our lesson out of this, then I think we are fucked once forever. And we deserve it.'

REPUBBLICA: Do you feel a responsibility as a social artist, as a supporter of global realism, and how are you planning to create any future shows that deal with the current conditions of the world?

MILO RAU: It is a moment of mixed feelings. On the one hand, I feel an anarchistic joy thanks to this full stop of the globalized mega-machine. The governments are nationalizing the big industry, people with important jobs – for example in health care - get respect, managers are sitting at home and feeling what they are: useless, not the solution, but the problem. In short, global society is remembering the meaning of „economy“: to support life, not to make profit for some shareholders. 

But of course I’m afraid that this moment will only be a hiatus – and then we continue in the same way, letting pay the bills the Global South and the normal citizens, as after all crisises. Or even worse: that, as in Hungary, the re-nationalization we live at that very moment will become the new system, European or global solidarity will fall.

I see in my artistic bubble: after some moments of shock, everybody continues to plan next season, in the same way he would have done it last season - but even more bourgeois and more local than before. But what we need is to really THINK this crisis – and translate it in a new democratic way of producing art.

We have to stop making a classics-karaoke and start creating new classics.
Milo Rau

REPUBBLICA: How fits your 2018 Ghent Manifesto into this state of affairs?

The Ghent Manifesto describes a social, soustainable, collective and democratic way of making theatre: away from technical complexe adaptations of the same 10 plays of the European canon, towards a creation of a new diverse global canon. It’s about reopening the institution to the society, to the realities of this time. After Coronas we can’t continue like before. For the season 20/21: We don’t need 1000 Shakespeare-, Tschechow- or Camus-adaptations, we need new, global classics. We need real, esthecital and economic solidarity with the Global South who’s paying the prize now for the complete breakdown of the global market. We have finally stop to make the classics-karaoke and start to create new classics. We need to rethink the institution of theatre in depth, like Tschechow, Camus or Shakespeare did it for their time. New art for a new society.

REPUBBLICA: What is the real tragedy that, in your opinion, is experiencing our international community?

MILO RAU: The „real tragedy“ of our time is that we don’t have any means to describe it, or better: we describe the tragedy we are living in – the ecological, cultural tragedy –, we know the problems, but we don’t find the link to direct, collective action. We are in an apocalyptical situation, and we know what will arrive in 5, 10, 20 years if we don’t act, but strangely we don’t „panic“, as Greta says.

We know that climate crisis will change everything and kill millions of people, in the next 20 years. We know what has to be done, on a global and on a local level, in daily life and in the way we are living as a species to avoid it. But we don’t act. So for me, the Corona crisis, this full stop is a „general rehearsal“: If we don’t learn our lesson out of this, then I think we are fucked once forever. And we deserve it.

REPUBBLICA: Do you see a responsibility? Do you think that there are remedies that we should not ignore?

MILO RAU: First of all, we have to understand that our situation is not dramatic, it is tragic. In other words, the system we live in can not longer be repaired. It is completely disfunctional, it’s a doom’s machine, it must be replaced by another system – and we are, hopefully, taking this responsibility now. But first of all, we have to re-activate what one could call „the tragic way of thinking“.

When the Greeks created this artform, it was made to tell the antagonisms of their time: traditional society colliding with modern society, feodalism with democracy, the limitations of family with the free will and so on. It was their way to understand that it was time to rethink everything, to re-unite knowledge and collective acting, morality and practice.

Tragedy is the art form of human responsibility, it’s the acceptance that you have to act without knowing where it leads to. Tragedy means that nothing is „repairable“, that there is no perfect plan, there is no complete agency. But we lost this methodology: we think that a bit more of control in the financial sector, a bit of green technology will somehow save us. And at the same time we know that this is wrong.

The reason why we still play Shakespeare and Sophocles is that we don’t have our own way, our own cultural methodology of dealing with our contradictions. Everything went to fast, we didn’t have time to translate our technics in cultural technics or even rituals. We are like Oedipus: slowly understanding on how much perversity and death our so-called rationality is based.

Our situation is not dramatic, it is tragic.
Milo Rau

REPUBBLICA: Do you foresee big repercussions on art, on theater - as well as on men?

MILO RAU: Of course: the whole way of doing art, of thinking about the relations we have to our neighbours, to our follow citizens, to the citizens of other countries, but also to the planet in its whole, to the future and the past has to change.

This was the rule of classical tragedy, the destiny of Oedipus: You might be done with the past, but the past is not done with you. We have to pay the prize of what we did to the planet the past generations.

But we will also live a second tragedy: We thought we can plan the future, control nature. But the nature, the future is not done with us. We will not control the earth anymore, we have to find a complete new way of dealing with it.

The confusion, the political complexity, the moral ambiguity and, again, the deep trauma we have to confront that everything we did as a civilization in the last 500 years was basically wrong: we have to eat it. We have to understand it. And then we have to answer to it, in a solidary, democratic, global way.

This interview was published in la Repubblica on the 18th of April 2020.

Until it holds from the inside With closed eyes, you can see whomever you’d like Only humans can fantasise There's all that future, still Beyond madness, tenderness awaits