Intervista con la PublixTheatreCaravan

Interview with PublixTheatreCaravan

Settembre 2001

Dopo i "fatti di Genova" in occasione dello scorso G8, segnati da violenti episodi di repressione verso i manifestanti culminati nel blitz alla scuola Diaz, parecchie testate giornalistiche hanno parlato della PublixTheatreCaravan (VolxTheaterKarawane), la compagnia dei teatranti austriaci arrestati a Genova con l'accusa di appartenere al gruppo dei black block.

Il 22 luglio, i venticinque membri della Karawane presenti a Genova che avevano preso parte pacificamente ai cortei del 19, 20 e 21, sono fermati fuori della citt, condotti in caserma e successivamente in carcere a Voghera e Alessandria.
La loro permanenza in carcere termina il 16 agosto, giorno in cui vengono estradati verso i paesi d'origine gli ultimi cinque membri rimasti in carcere (per gli altri venti la data di scarcerazione il 14 agosto). Quasi tutti i mass media si sono focalizzati sui momenti dell'arresto dei teatranti, sulle violenze inflitte loro in caserma, sull'accusa di essere parte dei black bloc, sulla loro permanenza in carcere durata quasi un mese.
Ma raramente i giornali hanno descritto i contenuti che la PTC porta avanti durante le sue performance.
Questa intervista a due membri della PublixTheatreCaravan finalizzata a capire perch la PTC era a Genova e che tipo di contenuti voleva realmente trasmettere durante le manifestazioni del 19, 20 e 21 luglio.contenuti che si sono invece trasformati in pretesto da parte di chi ha preferito associarli ad altre pratiche per operare su di essi una pesante repressione.

Per mantenere inalterato il senso delle risposte dei membri della PTC, si mantenuto il testo nella lingua in cui stata effettuata l'intervista. (t.b.)

1) Often theatre breaks in strongly the traditional concept of art to pour it in real life and actual action of people: this is often political action... What about your performances and your actions?

PTC: Well, maybe for this question, its of course important that our meaning of theatre points out into real life. Our meaning of theatre of course doesn`t take place just in a traditional, 19th century building where people can come to see the show. The PublixTheatreCaravan (PTC) didn`t have any fixed roles.
Our idea about the PTC was to create "theatre" as a lively work-in progress-project in political fields, which includes also streettheatre/performances as imitations of reality in public space combined with indepent mediawork, documentation, the aim of information and discussion about migration/globalisation and our request for the "freedom of movement". In this way the PTC is a radical political, artistic and media project and a process of social-action-theatre, one form of cultural discourse, where not only so called artists have the chance to take part.
Another part is selforganisation. It means to handle the infrastructure and to organise places to sleep and a kitchen to prepare food. To have no fixed roles mean also that there should be a rotation of the different parts of work, but this not always worked like it should be.

2) When and why PublixTheatreCaravan was born?

PTC: First: The Volxtheatre Favoriten already has been existing since 1994.
It was founded in an autonomous centre in Vienna, the EKH (Ernst Kirchweger Haus). The EKH has been squatted in 1990, now there are contracts. There was the first idea of a lot of people, who lived there (anarchists, refugees, curds, etc.) to make political theatre in their own space: The Three-Pennyopera by Berthold Brecht, - and to create this theatreplay in a different kind of organisation than in "normal" theatres: without director, without hierachical institution and open, so everyone, who was interested in such process could participate.
So right from the beginning of the Volxtheatre it was important to see theatre as a form of cultural and political protest and of course also just as fun.
With theatre you have the possibility to articulate radical-democratic politics in asylum, capitalist and globalisation issues. Thinking, working, and articulating politically like this has always been a problem in Austria, also before the right-wing-goverment was installed here.
Our strategies with theatre moved within the years from playing just in the EKH to make theatreactions in public space. Moving out on the streets meant for us, to set provocative, irritational actions in public space to question all forms of hierachical and violent structures.
The PublixTheatreCaravan was actually the 3rd try of cultural-political tours through public space.
The first tour of EKH/Publixtheatre was in May 2000 (a couple of month after the right wing goverment got installed), through the big cities in Austria, where we occupied the main places in town for a day and "setteled" down with the slogan: "Anarchy and Ananas instead of Austria" and made streettheatre, publixkitchen, live-radio etc.
The second try was the "Cultural Caravan against rightwing-politics", which took place in Oktober 2000 in Carinthia, the southern part of Austria, where Jrg Haider is govenor. We were driving slowly with traktors through villages with music and messages in german and slovenian (since there is a slovenian minority) to point out the need: "to step across the border - for an open carinthia", which was in Haider's country quite provocative.
The idea for the PTC started in spring 2001, when we decided to make the first time a international PTC through Europe. At the same time, the People's Global Action meeting in Milano took place. There was the idea of connecting the Europe-wide resistance and travel with caravans through Europe to political and cultural events, which symbolize today's discourse about migration and globalisation. Each social event is in a way for us a place and festivity of resistance and an opportunity to place demands and take part in an open discussion about the right for movement and the call for no borders.
The PTC saw itself right from the beginning as a mobile info-campaign about this problems, and as a experimental way to formulate this in direct actions in public space. We wanted to combine within this theatre process nomadic travelling with direct action, exchanging experiences, documentation, mediaworking and making parties.
We decided to organize the PTC within the Austrian platform "for a world without racism" (, which is part of the europeanwide noborder-network ( and to work from the beginning together with political groups at places we would come to.
For the Mediawork there was a good relation with Indymedia and some Indymedia-activists traveled with the caravan. And not only, because we knew that statetheatre would watch such forms of protest, we organized everything openly, the reason was also to give a change for people, who are interested in this kind of process, to join us.
So we manage before in open discussion-plena to set up money and put together a couple of buses, cars, a publixkitchen and soundsystem, costums, props etc. and cultural activists from different places for this euopean-wide noborder-campaign.

3) Victor Turner, a theoretician who worked with Schechner's Performing Group, wrote that during performances it is possible to create symbolic conflicts, to play with legitimate cultural symbols and to destroy them to recompose them in new and more incisive cultural assets. It is a way to transform what is familiar into something that it's not, in order to create new ideas and thoughts through action. Does this happen in VolxTheatreKarawane performances as well?

PTC: The representation of theatre and fiction takes place everyday in our society: all these fairly bad actors on the political banquet, who want to gain more power, play the kings and show "the right violence" (which is in their "theatremeaning" of course not related to brutal violence....).
What's the truth about the king's power and his strategies of exploitation?
We definitely want to confront the kings signatures and codes with our alien-nation-symbols and don't believe that the truth is out there: neither in political reality nor in the media; as so called actors we've the power to construct and play with it radically, with our body and our language - demolish all serious culture! - set your own signs and slogans! So we take and play with symbols to get to politics. Everything - Theatre? Everything politics!
So we enjoy to play the theatre of signums, signs, symbols to point to radical political messages: noborder - nonation - no one is illegal. These topics are, we think, one of the world's big issues in this century.
Our theatreprocess in itself is also political, since we also don't try to work with structural hierachies within the group; we don't like leaders, so we always problematizise them. This is a way of permanent conflicts dialog through conflicts. But you know, this kind of conflicts can be very hard.
We dont have the illusion that anything we are doing is without hierachy. We are all products of a hierachic society, but we have to fight also our own hierachies.

4) Coud you make an example of your performance to understand the kind of actions you organize?

PTC: Elements of our theatreprocess were: volxkitchen-staff, infomaterial, books, computers, soundsystem, banners, props, orange overals and helmets (all with VTK-logo), soldier-uniforms and blue UNO-borderhelmets, lots of wheel-tubes, costumes, jonglage-materials...
It depended always on the specific situation and place, what kind of special theatrical action we did and how many people participated on it. For example on the international noborder-actionday on 7th of july: we set up a control-station with UNO-bordersoldiers in blue and orange between the borders of croatia and slovenia, in nomansland, and handed out to passengers no-border-passports for the special day, so that they could cross the next border with showing the noborderpass.

5) Which performance did you play during manifestation in Genova?

PTC: On the austrian indymedia webpage you can read following story about publixtheatre in Genoa (on July 18/19):

"It's the evening of July 19, at the moment the PublixTheatreCaravan is participating in a huge demonstration for migrants' rights in Genoa, the first in a series of huge protests against the g8 summit starting tomorrow.
First estimations for this demonstration speak of 20.000 to 50.000 people, whereas for the next days between 100.000 and 150.000 protesters are expected.
The center of Genoa has been locked down completely, 5m high fences fixed in concrete foundations surround the restricted area. The sound of helicopters is permanently present. Already at the borders, Italian authorities in cooperation with other European states have tried to prevent people from the participation in the protest: also one bus from the PublixTheatreCaravan was not allowed to pass the border since at least 3 people were on some dubious lists. At the border they got a paper which said that they were not allowed to enter Italy within the next 20 days.
The way these lists emerge are more than questionable. Since also people, who rarely make use of their right to demonstrate are on these lists (not to mention that at least non of the blacklisted caravan-people have never been arrested before), they seem to be primarily developed on the base of speculation. As a member of the Italian civil police has told us after the caravan's vehicles were searched (which happened nearly every day in Italy), Austrian authorities have told the Italians that the people from the caravan were terrorists trying to smuggle weapons to Genoa. Of course, as it was at the searches in the days before, nothing of interest was found at all - where as parts of our theatre equipment, like jumping balls or old tires were nevertheless sliced and destroyed.
However, the "no border - no nation" actions of the caravan started yesterday, July 18, in the early evening. A group of around 10 "warriors" (male and female), equipped with orange overalls, water-guns, banners and leaflets, fought their way to a concert by Manu Chao, that took place at the Convergence Center of the Genoa Social Forum (GSF). On their way, they had to face two problems: they not only had to pass through a crowd of journalists and had to try to convince the GSF-people with "theatrical brut-force" that they are definitly not willed to pay the 10.000 Lire entrance fee. Also, it was nessesary to play theatre the whole way from the mediacenter to the concert and on the way back. Due to a law, that defines ordinary helmets, like those used by construction workers, as weapons, it would not even have been allowed to walk on the streets just carrying them in the hands. Only if they were part of a street-theatre, so a Swiss lawyer said, and also only during this performance, they could legally be used - but not even on the way to or from the theatre!
The ongoing demonstration for migrants' rights was supposed to be extremly colorful: in advance, numberous vehicles and music instruments - mostly made of recycled materials were prepared by all kinds of groups with the caravan among them. It seems, that it might become a great salsa theatre against the border regime which is all to present, especially here in Genoa also visible to people who are only superficially confronted with it in their every day lives."

In Genoa we got in contact with other performance-people and so we worked and prepared together an Arche-genua, and Sinking Ships and alien-nation-ufos and gathered pirates to demonstrate and play on the huge migration-march.
Some days after this demonstration the freedom of movement for us was suddenly over and the policestatetheatre overhlemed us in saying: You are no actors we are the actors of violence. You are criminals. You destroyed Genova you are the dangerous black block. Our answer: We are not dangerous - we are in danger. We are only political-critical dangerous artists.

6) Often theatre is action, and often action is politics: could you explain the deep meaning of the "slogan" No border No nation?

PTC: As we said above, the PublixTheatreCaravan was on tour as part of the international noborder-network. That network was founded 1999. Under the slogan "more control, more exclusion, more deportations", different European groups appealed to demonstrate against the meeting of heads of EU governments in Tampere/Finland in October 1999, where the coming into force of the Amsterdam Treaty was discussed as another stepping stone towards Fortress Europe. The platform for a world without racism is part of that noborder-network since december 2000 and the caravan was planned on the meetings of that platform. All member-groups of the network are trying to put the call for open borders on their topic. Also for the caravan it was the main topic from the beginning. If you see the bad situation of refugees in european countries it is obvious that a fight for open borders and for sure for open minds has to be strengthened.
No border also means to step across over our own borders. If a theatre-group is trying to intervene against racist politics there are many difficulties. We have to reflect our own racism, we have to think about symbols in the public sphere and how to deal with that symbols. The PublixTheatreCaravan took the slogan NO BORDER as a symbol for the call for open borders and the freedom of movement.
If you are thinking about borders, you are coming to the question why there are borders. National states and connected to it nationalism need borders for chauvinist politics. If you are fighting borders you also have to fight nationalism and national states. Our nation is aliennation.

7) Which is the next VolxTheatreKarawane's performance?

PTC: At time we are thinking about some street actions in Vienna, one on september 29, on the international day against war and capitalism, another on october 13, on the international noborder-actionday. And for sure we are planning a stageplay in the Ernst-Kirchweger-Haus in Vienna about our experiences on the PublixTheatreCaravan. The Caravan is going on....

More about the Caravan on: