“I remember the first time I went to a funding meeting, and the guy who was responsible said: “Can’t you get a boyfriend without a festival?”
– Zvonimir Dobrović

And it’s time for a new season of Audio Stage! The question we are asking is: queer? What is queer? What is not queer? How does queer exist in performance? How does queer performance exist in the world? What is its political power, and what its aesthetic urgency?

In the first episode of the season, Jana is talking to compatriot Zvonimir Dobrović, curator of Queer Festivals in Zagreb and New York. For the comfort of our listeners, the conversation is NOT in Croatian! We talk about his controversial curatorial policy, the power of norms, and how Queer Zagreb developed out of the anti-war activism in 90s Croatia.

When you have fear in the public sphere, you can do anything with people. You can manipulate, because it plays with the basic notions of safety. Conservatism always plays with fear, and it’s always fear of the other. And anything can be that ‘other’. … This education, constant education of acceptance and tolerance of the ‘other’, can’t be forgotten. You have to do it with every generation. It should be in schools from the earliest age.”
– Zvonimir Dobrović

Zvonimir was in Australia to give a lecture at Performance Space in Sydney and see some work at Dance Massive in Melbourne, and we jumped at the opportunity to talk to him. Queer Festival was very important in Croatia, both as a very visible part of the LGBT activism in the 200s, and for decisively redefining the notion of queer away from the narrow LGBT question and into a broader political gesture of resisting normativity. In this episode, we take time to talk about formative experiences, about being young, and about how arts festivals are so conducive to falling in love.

Discussed in this episode:
what we did in the 1990s, James Welshby’s HEX, what is gay and what is queer, the tabloid press, teaching tolerance in schools, barebacking in Australia, BalletLab’s Kingdom, Jerome Bel makes queer art!, single mothers are queer, heteronormativity, the monochrome Western uniform of LGBT sexuality, pulling flags out of your pussy VS lesbian pottery, whether art can really change the world, and how, if you must be gay in patriarchy, at least don’t be a bottom.

“Queer is everything outside the norm. It is subversive, but never violent.”

Stay tuned: we have more exciting and stimulating conversations to come.

Podcast bibliography:
2015 INTERNATIONAL LECTURE SERIES: Zvonimir Dobrovic, at Performance Space
Oral History of Homosexuality: Preface, by Zvonimir Dobrovic and Gordan Bosanac

For more information about Zvonimir Dobrovic’s work, visit the official pages for Queer Zagreb and Queer New York International Arts Festival.

Photo credits: Daniel Moss.