“… The most remarkable performance (of BITEF) comes from Zagreb; the group Shadow Casters takes over the vacant department store “Kluz” with ‘Ex-position’, in which spectators are pictures seen by no one. Each one passes individually through the black curtain, enters a room and is supposed to abandon her/himself to what unfolds. Each one becomes a victim already in the Waiting Room, where no one knows how long it will take before it is one’s turn to enter beyond the black curtain – if one gets there at all. Some do not finish their journey but have to go back to the Waiting Room and begin the journey all over again. Once on the other side of the curtain, the spectator is kindly greeted, blindfolded and the journey to helplessness may begin.
‘Ex-position’ consists of six city episodes in which time and space are interwoven. Each of these episodes is lived by the spectator, the story being told by the actor but also felt on one’s skin. One walks through unknown rooms, climbs the stairs up and down, suddenly finds oneself standing in the rain in the street, sits in the car, being driven without knowing where to. The world is born out of senses; one hears it, feels it, touches it, smells it; one is abandoned to and immersed in it. One story tells of a pilot by the name of Kluz, after whom the department store was named. The story turns the un-spectator into Kluz’s youthful love that waits for him. Another story tells of Hiroshima and the atomic bomb, ending on a bench outside where the un-spectator makes a memorial crane bird out of paper – blindfolded. In the worst and most penetrating story, one is suddenly transported to the war in Yugoslavia and this is when one might truly begin to be afraid, coming that closely and tightly to the actor as well as to the powerless feeling of being exposed.
‘Ex-position’ for the blindfolded evokes feelings and memories that are not always pleasant (many ‘victims’ interrupt the war episode). The spectator becomes the companion in empathy, degraded or promoted – depending on how one feels.
In the time of spasmodic exhibitionism of feelings, this might exactly prove to be the true therapy.”
Renate Klett, “One Who Cannot See Has to Feel”
(Neue Zürcher Zeitung, October 4, 2007)
The interdisciplinary, site-specific and experimental performance “Ex-position” by the Shadow Casters group, consists of at least three parts. The spectators spend the first part of the performance in a waiting room where the actor/director Boris Bakal tells them a number of different stories, anecdotes and intimate confessions; he does it with energy and poise, varying his attitude from candid to enigmatic and ironic. Bakal’s performative conduct draws the audience into conversation, teasing them and provoking with different proposals, thus opening various questions on the position and function of theatre, radically breaking and subsequently examining the conventionalised aspects of theatrical act.
If the spectators are patient enough and manage to await their turn and eventually pass beyond the black curtain that separates the first from the second part, they are individually paired with a guide-performer and, blindfolded, are taken by the hand to a journey-performance in which they take an active part and directly influence it. The actor of the performance that your critic was awarded with played a series of childhood scenes, taking the spectator into the past, evoking nostalgic and funny scenes with family members, friends and neighbours, all very exciting and moving, and accompanied by various highly evocative sounds, smells and touches. The absence of sight and the guidance of the “blind person” by the hand bring forth the comparison with, for instance, a scene from “King Lear” where Edgar guides his blind father Gloucester and where it is clear that the loss of material sight generates some sort of spiritual enlightenment.
In that respect, the spectator’s sight deprivation indeed compellingly makes his/her perception more intimate, i.e. activates other senses with greater intensity, stimulating the imagination and a deeper, more serious and focused exploration of (sub)consciousness. The spectator finishes this segment of the performance outside the building, amidst the traffic noise, surrounded by accidental passer-bys, clearly puzzled and curious, who mercilessly bring her/him back to reality. In the story I went through, the guide has left me in front of my own reflection in the mirror, what has furthermore emphasised the coming back to reality, at once analysing the relation between the past and the present into which the spectator is tangibly brought back through this convincing simulation.
Another truly Shakespearian motive – it reminds, for instance, of those kings deprived of power whose own reflection in the mirror was the only tool left for introspection and self-confrontation after their fall; the initiation and a sort of spiritual revelation.
The third part of the performance takes place in the “control room”, where the audience may share a cup of tea or soup with some of the performance’s authors and other spectators, having the opportunity to talk about the performance but also to hear and see by means of cameras and loudspeakers other performers and spectators that are in the performance at that very moment. This scene with surveillance devices critically reflects global social-political circumstances, questioning the loss of freedom in the conditions of a Kafkaesque-Orwellian-Baudrillard-like controlled society. At the same time, the communal feeling created in this performance through connecting the audience and interacting with it, has a ritual meaning and is considerably more intensive than in conventional theatre, by which it implicitly poses the question on the social function of theatre.
The performance “Ex-position” exposes to sight not only the actors but also the audience. The audience is being judged by the performers in the way they are usually being exclusively judged by the audience in conventional theatre, while those roles are being exchanged and explored throughout the performance. The authors also question the issue of time and space of artistic presentation in an open and precise manner, explicitly or implicitly, as well as the relation of real and imaginary, the relation of performers and audience etc. For all these reasons, “Ex-position” is an endlessly inspiring and amusing performance that introduces the spectator to a truly specific world, a world that is intellectually, sensually and emotionally highly provoking.
Ana Tasić, “Endlessly Inspiring”
(POLITIKA daily newspaper, October 2, 2007)
“(… ) An exceptionally pleasant surprise came from the Zagreb group Shadow Casters and their performance ‘Ex-position’, co-authored by the director Boris Bakal, the dramaturges Katarina Pejovic and Stanko Juzbasic, and the actors performing in it.
For reasons dictated by higher force, your reporter has managed to see only one out of six episodes of this performance that are not thematically connected but are all, according to what was heard, created in the identical dramaturgical key, which allows for perceiving the most precious and significant features in it. In the dusty, gloomy room of the former department store “Kluz”, he met Nina Violic who would turn out to be a refined actress with cultivated voice, also an excellent singer, whose vocal apparatus is both expressive and evocative. First she blinded him by putting opaque sunglasses on his eyes; then she took him for a journey, barely holding his hand, while telling him in a quiet, soft voice, almost whispering, the history of Christ’s birth, on Saint Virgin Mary’s rejection to be God’s mother, on her attempt to remain an ordinary woman, up and down the steep escalators of the decrepit edifice, along the street in front of it, to finally leave him alone on the bench in the nearby park where he, once having the glasses removed and gaining back his sight, would experience the trees, the autumn flowers, the drizzling of the rain as God’s miracle: a salvation from the nightmare into which he was literally sucked in during the past half hour.
This experiment, by far not exclusively formal, has refreshed and expanded the notion of dramatic by bringing the spectator, i.e. the listener, into a state of panic, taking him to a mysterious realm beyond the real, disorienting him in time and space, awarding him with a catharsis he has never before experienced in theatre, all of which could be implemented in any other kind of dramatic genre. (…)”
Vladimir Stamenković, “Everything fluctuates, everything repeats itself”
(NIN weekly magazine, Belgrade, October 4, 2007)
“(…) And just when those performances have begun to cause a serious depression, affirming the conviction that this was the weakest BITEF in several past years, things were saved by Boris Bakal and the Shadow Casters and, naturally, the Düsseldorf Macbeth.
As soon as you enter as visitor the hall of the former department store “Kluz” in which Boris Bakal sits as an MC in front of a black curtain and receives his guests, you are becoming an active participant in the performance Ex-position. From the moment you have stepped in the performance, you don’t know whether you are going to spend in it an hour, two hours or more; you are additionally concerned with a number that you had to choose at the beginning and which apparently determines what it is that awaits you behind the curtain. The entire “waiting room” situation is being performed – by Bakal as much as by those persons present in the space. Bakal demonstrates us his art of story-telling, adeptly adding and retracting the details, while each of his flamboyant stories could easily be embodied in some of the performances that follow.
When you finally pass through the black curtain, you find yourself in a room determined by the number you have chosen from where a specific kind of journey begins. Your “host” blindfolds you and guides you through the space, touching you, whispering in your ear, singing… The abolition of visual aspect shifts the usual perception of a performance, emphasising the senses of touch, sound and smell, making space for intimacy and inner imagination. The stories vary: from a journey to childhood, to a humorous version of the Immaculate Conception, to a disturbing and brutal story of a prisoner of war. They are funny, occasionally frightening, emotional and at times poignant to tears. Underneath this basic experience –exceptionally impressive, one must say – there lies another layer: the exploration of perception of space and city. You are being guided through the cellars and corridors of a forgotten department store, to be then taken out on the street and brought back again to the grimy “Kluz” store. The parallel between the forgotten space and the forgotten (tactile) feeling is inevitably created, where the abolition of the visual establishes a new relation of the body in space/city. The key word is sensuality: the sounds of tramways or high heels, whispers or street noise, the grass in the park or the car seat – all these become part of the bodily, organic experience.
It is interesting to mention that one of the six stories always changes given the space in which it is performed. In fact, the pillar of the story – the life story of the heroine – remains the same, while the contexts change: an approach that politicises the performing space. In this case, the building of “Kluz”, with its political and ideological implications, plays an important role in the local perception of the performance, especially at a time when we are going through an orgiastic revisionism of history from World War II on. The evoking of the story of Franjo Kluz and the former Yugoslavia is not merely nostalgia, as one might think, but is rather a call for a new questioning of what we live today. (…)”
Olga Dimitrijević, “The Art of Story-telling and the Banality of Violence”
(VREME weekly magazine, Belgrade, October 4, 2007)
“The individualisation of performers and their “navigations” through space are undoubtedly great virtues of this performance; yet what seems even more important is the introduction of different political themes, such as the collective civic guilt for Croatian nationalism, the problem of municipal neglect of the entire industrial space (“the vanishing” of the entire system of employment and a certain type of labour), as well as the artistic critique of the very pattern of factory “labour” reduced to helpless, humiliating toil for trifles. These are the reasons why Boris Bakal and his group of autonomous collaborators have created one of the most intriguing theatre projects of this season; and its marginalised performing space by no means diminishes the power of artistic truth. On the contrary: it seems that the dirt and the dust of the abandoned factory speak more of mature capitalism than the conventionally “made-up” theatre edifices seem able to.”
Nataša Govedić, “A Journey Through Collective Guilt”
(NOVI LIST daily newspaper, October, 2006)
"In view of this year's slogan on intimacy, the most refined performance of EUROKAZ (International Performing Arts Festival in Zagreb) was EX-POSITION by Boris Bakal and Shadow Casters, a sort of walking tenderness in which the performers were guiding the blindfolded spectators, one by one, by the hand and with warmth that costs nothing, telling them stories they have long forgotten."
Bojan Munjin, “Shakespeare on Cocaine”
(FERAL TRIBUNE weekly magazine, July 6, 2006)
“(…) Many performances and projects of Boris Bakal refer to space as the visible surface of inner devastation (a typical slogan of Shadow Casters is: Man is space), i.e. space as the “archive” of various political denials of human freedom as well as of human endurance
Art has succeeded to achieve what escapes sheer activism: it has created an autonomous zone of creative and critical visibility, endowing resilience to the location doomed to vanish prior to Ex-position. It has showed that the city truly lives in the one who preserves its edifices rather than in some opaque urbanistic planning, and that art may create a special kind of asylum for the architectural “losers” and those deprived of land ownership. Legitimisng a space through performing fictions is highly precious also from a strictly theatrical angle: in Bakal’s projects, the entire city acquires the outlines of theatre; it expands over the boundaries of managerial politics; the stage is no longer under the patronage of state institutions; the borders of private ownership and common good, dramatic story and stage object, performer and spectator, are all blurred. (…)”
Nataša Govedić, "Polit-localisation of live word"
(ZAREZ bi-weekly cultural magazine No. 192, November 16, 2006)
"(…) Thus, similar to simplified mythological concepts, each visitor gets out of EX-POSITION as much as s/he brings into it; for, even when being in a firmly structured story, her/his passivity is actually an illusion that hides a highly active supressing of disbelief and, ultimately, the acceptance of walk. (…)"
Igor Ružić, “Ghosts from the House of Stories”
(VIJENAC monthly cultural magazine No.322, July 6, 2006)