‘Art cannot succeed. Good art inherently fails to give you what you want,” says Itzik Giuli with utmost certainty. “That tension between what you think you’ll get and what you do get always exists with art.”
2014 is the year that Giuli conquered Israeli culture.
The newly appointed artistic director of both the Curtain Up Festival and the Israel Festival is nothing if not straightforward. Taking sips from a small glass of soda, Giuli speaks quickly and with great determination about his goals for the first of the two festivals, Curtain Up, which opens in mid-November at the Suzanne Dellal Center. This year marks the silver jubilee of the festival, which is the flagship initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Sports’ dance department.
“I’m not about looking to succeed, I’m looking to develop,” he says.
Giuli, 44, is an actor, director and playwright. Upon completing his theater studies in New York City, Giuli returned to Israel. Since 1997, he has served as the dramaturge and co-artistic director of all of Yasmeen Godder’s works. His body of work in the theater sector includes the plays Elephants Sometimes Pass Here and Birth Marks.
Since taking the reins of Curtain Up, Giuli has thoroughly and meticulously given the festival a much-needed makeover. In previous years, Curtain Up consisted of around a dozen premiers by emerging dance artists. Beyond the performances, there was little else. Giuli has diversified and broadened the scope of Curtain Up to include workshops, lectures, social media, a conference, a creative laboratory as well as performances.
The authority that has been invested in Giuli is a result of openness to new ideas and flexibility of mind that he exudes when speaking about performance.
“Curtain Up needs to be a platform that is not afraid.
What needs to succeed is the spirit of the festival. It is a spirit of openness, rejuvenation and anti-stagnation.
Once you get stuck, you are lost,” he says.
The announcement of Giuli’s appointment was made several months, ago together with a call for applications to participate.
“I received 80 applications,” explains Giuli, “of which 50 were relevant. Curating the festival wasn’t just about choosing the best and then waiting for them to show you what they’ve done. It’s about cultivating a new creative arena. I want something that is open and fluid. I want to allow the space for research to take place, without any commitment to a finished outcome, to create something concrete that the professionals in this field would see as an opportunity to grow through.”
The artists that Giuli chose to invite along his maiden Curtain Up voyage are Arkadi Zaides with Talia de Vries, Michal Samama, Bosmat Nossan, Ido Feder, Shani Granot with Nevo Romano, Maya Weinberg with Maya M.
Carroll, Iris Erez, Merav Cohen, Tami Lebovitz, Galit Lisl, Anat Grigorio and Lilach Pnina-Livne.
The question at the heart of this year’s program is “what is contemporary?” The first step toward approaching the enormous topic, in Giuli’s eyes, was to break down the walls between the artists, joining their individual processes into a larger, communal endeavor.
“If we want to deal with ‘nowness’ or ‘contemporary’ it’s not about one voice, one language, one author. It’s about creating a wider context that includes community, artists influencing one another, like in a beehive.
It’s about creating that space for people to interact with one another,” he says.
Once selected, the artists were each notified of the specific budget for their creative process and were effectively sent on their way to turn their vision into a reality.
Giuli checked in on each group from time to time.
“I’m there as with them as much as they want me and sometimes when they don’t,” he laughs. Seeing feedback as an essential ingredient in creation, Giuli made showings a mandatory part of participation in Curtain Up.
These works-in-progress get-togethers took place every few weeks and gave the artists an opportunity to reflect communally on one another’s progress.
“The dialogue is much wider now as a result. It’s not just my voice and my opinion. In these meetings there are a lot of opinions and thoughts being thrown out.”
In a couple of weeks, these creative processes, whether finished or not, will be presented to the world.
“I stand behind every work in the festival,” says Giuli.
“Regardless of what people will say or feel about them. Again, it’s not about success, it’s about development.”
The Curtain Up Festival will take place from November 13- 23. For more information, visit www.suzannedellal.org.il.