Interview with Matija Ferlin: Breaking the forms of movements, soundz, images… with attitude.

June 7, 2008

…and what brought my curiosity to this young and ‘multi-tasking’ dancer?! It was the sound thing, see. This is how I first spotted Matija Ferlin. More precisely, his subtle taste for electronica, then the Montreal’s post-rock gang around Constellation Records and Public Recordings… and I was totally convinced that something pretty cool and creative lies in his mind…

Matija Ferlin is an interdisciplinary artist from Pula (Croatia), finding his way at the intersections of dance, theatre, photography and video art… he is a graduate of The School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam… as a relatively young dancer he was accepted at the Sasha Waltz & Guest Company in 2005…

Photo: Paola Winkler (c)

That fact gave him an extraordinary possibility to be a part of Waltz’s creative space in which the process of making and creating stands for totally mutual interactions between Creator 1 (choreographer) and Creator 2 (dancer / performer)…

One may even ask himself, after working with a choreographer of such a calibre, what should I do now, after landing on the Moon?!

Matija obviously doesn’t have such dilemmas because he is switching very often from choreography to photography (he was working with fashion photographer Heinz Peter Knes on the series ‘Lucky is the lion that the human will eat’)… from dancing to attentively listening the urban asphalt purr weaved by the beauty of post-rock (Ame Henderson’s /Dance/Songs/ with Public Recordings)… deconstructing the audience and himself (solo performance art piece SaD SaM)… exploring his obsessions with words and inner paths of every human being (video performance ‘Minor2 : Salut’ by writer, photographer and incredible illustrator Christophe Chemin)… showing us the importance of family roots within projects with his brother Maurizio ‘Unija’… or his own video art the very very Mediterranean stylish ‘Vuk-Vorbild Und Kampf’ (Part 1 and 2)

Video still from the performance SAD SAM, M. Ferlin (c)

So, I’ve invited Matija Ferlin at my blog for a small chat about his art… influences… obsessions…

Hello Matija, what’s up?! What are you doing at the moment?! Projectz… solo workz…

M: Hey Deborah, I am in a hotel room #515 in a hotel Citadel in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The laundry mat is kind of not so close to the hotel and the drop in laundry is rather expensive here (at the hotel ) so I am washing some undies and shirts to have for my trip back to Europe tomorrow. (I think this is the longest sentence I wrote in a while)
Public Recordings/Ame Henderson’s work brought me here. We have our little east coast tour. We had shows in St. John’s last week, this week Halifax. Actually tonight is the last show of Dance/Songs at the Bus Stop Theatre in Halifax and tomorrow I will be spending some hours in the air having the ocean under. (Halifax-Toronto-Frankfurt-Ljubljana). In Ljubljana I will be the latecomer to Maja’s Delak new creation process. Serata Artistica Giovanile. We open the show on the 7th of May in Cankarjev Dom, so if you happen to be around – come! At the same time I am busy with opening a concept store “ARTIKL” in my hometown together with my brother Mauricio and in the free time I try to do some writing/research for my new solo work. I believe I like to keep myself busy.

(I answered that a month ago. I admit my laziness. I therefore apologize. Now I will keep on answering the rest. I am on my way to Sarajevo with my show, I am fighting a flu. I am dealing with heat in the capital – ZG)

Video still from the performance SAD SAM, M. Ferlin (c)

Recently you’ve visited New York, as a part of residential programme, to work at Chez Buswick. How would you describe that experience… 2 videos you posted on MySpace are pretty much intriguing and conceptual…

M: I have been invited through Jonah Boaker and John Jaspersee to perform on the opening of Centre for Performance Research in Brooklyn and together with that they offered me a residency at Chez Bushwick. They are incredible hosts, indeed they are. Brooklyn was an inspiring place to be for the first phase of my process. I started to work on my new performance some weeks before that so let’s say that the videos on Youtube are the result of the first phase of work. I am continuing the line of Sad Sam, and a concept of trilogy starts to appear the more I work on it. So the new solo work that I will continue to work on in Vienna during September; October will hopefully come out in January. Still negotiating the producers.

Photo: YouTube still by Matija Ferlin (c)

What is the meaning of music and soundz in your art work?! Cause, seems like your essential / personal impulse comes not so from the basic rhythm but from a soundscape structure or the meaning of lyrics which are transformed into images in your mind… Classic or contemporary… Which are closer to your artistic habitué? … Or do you even find it important?!

M:I don’t strictly have a need name things. (To declare the taste.) I treat music as space. I have a tendency to change the space. But since I am not a musician myself (yet) I invite other great music artists to help me. I have an emotional relationship to music. Reduced from any concept, therefore you will find lots of urban and classical music references in my work. Music is defiantly a very present body in my work. It’s a collaborator and a performer. I have been testing its role in my last work ‘Drugo za Jedno’. I found new results that triggered me to keep on testing it even more. Music its an amazing force and a good friend.

Photo: Liam Malooney, Dance/songs, Public recordings (c)

How did you ‘stuck’ with post-rock in the first place? I mean, this is a perfect music for theatre>> enough abstract and enough narrative…

M: To be honest, I do not know. I think these things come with growing up. I guess I grew up. My brother’s music taste was a big influence to me. As a youngest one I liked to copy them. Today I am glad I did. I believe I had a good music education. I was home thought.
Post-rock (again whatever fits inside those two words) it’s a great channel to communicate. People threat or have already a relationship to that kind of music in their daily life. Bringing that to theatre, giving that another context only enriches the existing. Both in audience and myself.

You do dance classes internationally… Do you find it challenging as a pedagogic experience only, or also as an art inspiration?

M: Ame said once about my class “Joyfully exploring the relationship between core strength and a released body, Matija’s approach to dance pedagogy renews participant’s sense that dance training is also about performance, presence and self expression.” It is indeed a pedagogic experience, especially the last one. I have been teaching at the University in Pula, I had 128 students in two groups giving them an introduction to contemporary dance. They study to be teachers and it was great to see how they break up their prejudices about dance and what dance is. Especially today, when Luka Nizetic (Croatian pop star) is a symbol for dance in youth culture. I hedonistically enjoy to see them dropping Luka out of their heads and inhibiting something more complex, more honest and more instinctive for them.

Matija’s mother in ‘Lucky is…’ series, M. Ferlin (c)

You probably know that I’m going to ask you about Sasha Waltz. Tell us… tell us… some little story that says almost everything… about the working process…

M: It was a great experience. I met some extraordinary people. The reasons why I wanted to join Sasha Waltz Company had changed while I was there. They were artistic reasons. Each artist has the possibility to change and should keep on changing and developing. Sasha went into direction that I was not interested any more. I based my expectations and needs on what I have seen from the work in the past. I was not in ability to recognize those things while I was there but I still gathered a valuable experience.

Matija’s mother in ‘Lucky is the Lion…’ series, M. Ferlin (c)

Your family is an important arbiter in your art works… While I was watching your films ‘Vuk-Vorbild Und Kampf’ and ‘Unija’;and photographs you did with your brother, I’ve sensed totally this Mediterranean way of living, even something of Italian neorealism…

I will say thank you, cause I recognize compliments in your question. My family is important to me. They are the most inspiring source to me. I admire them, I think all of them are unique performers and they surrender to my work with no prejudices, with no questions only with love. Reduced from any decoration and embracing the virginity of performance.

Photo: YouTube still by Matija Ferlin (c)

We are almost at the end, so… photography camera and you… seems like an extraordinary relation…

M: I started taking pictures when I was 16 years old. I remember photography being my second choice. Today isn’t a choice; it’s another medium, another pleasure. I like framing an image, I like composing. I was hooked on self-portraits (Thank God, that phase is over and folder “me” on my hard-drive is closed for a while). It’s another type of choreography that provokes and requires different tools. I am again and again amazed by the beauty of that invention. I can’t imagine my life without a photo camera (and photographers).

A must listen playlist ‘for never-ending crappy rainy day’ would definitely include this songs…

M: I have to make it into two divided groups: Boys and Girls.
1. Antony and the Johnsons “The Lake”
2. Scott Matthew “Little Bird”
3. Sandro Perri “Dreaming”
4. Arcade Fire “Intervention”
5. David Fridlund “April & May”
6. Silver Apples “Misty Mountain”
7. Adrian Orange and Her Band “A Flower’s Is Mine”
8. Final Fantasy “This Is The Dream Of Win And Regine”
9. Mark Lewis and The Standards “Blind Date”
10. Rich Auchin “Behold the Lamb”
11. Rufus Wainwright “Love Affair”

1. Beti Jurkovic “Nogometna Utakmica”
2. Dusty Springfield “The Windmills of Your Mind”
3. This Mortal Coil “Song to the Siren”
4. Coco Rosie “Beautiful Boys”
5. Jenny Wilson “Summertime”
6. P.J. Harvey “Devil”
7. The Knife “Take the Breath away”
8. This mortal coil “Another Day”
9. Lil Mama “Lip Gloss”
10. Mina “Morrire”

This would be the craziest playlist I would ever do.

Illustration: Christophe Chemin (c)

Matija, Thank You Very Much…

‘I found Ferlin particularly riveting. I just believed every single thing he did — from shaking his hair out of his eyes to convulsing spasmodically between songs. That hardly ever happens to me — there’s usually at least a moment or two where I just don’t buy what a performer is doing.’
Kathleen M. Smith at dance current

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