We are kings not humans

1h 30min
Croate > FR / NL

16/05 – 20:30
17/05 – 18:00
18/05 – 20:30

Matija Ferlin, whose solo Sad Sam Lucky was one of the revelations at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts 2013, is an artist who is definitely one to watch. Now in 2015, the young Croatian choreographer and director is back in Brussels with a show about the language of children. In We are kings not humans , he attempts to capture and share with the audience his fascination for the way in which children use the spoken language with complete innocence and poetic freedom, like a game of endless possibilities. Based on verbal material collected during a series of workshops with young children, Ferlin has written a script that is acted on stage by adult actors from the Croatian National Theatre. By continually perverting and rearranging the words, he reminds us how much our view of the world is constructed through the standardisation of language in a show full of surprises that celebrates imagination.

Directed & choreographed by
Matija Ferlin

Performed by
Livio Badurina, Ana Begić, Jadranka Đokić, Dušan Gojić, Ivan Jončić, Iva Mihalić

Jasna Žmak, Goran Ferčec

Music & sound design
Nenad Sinkauz, Alen Sinkauz

Set design
Mauricio Ferlin

Light design
Saša Fistrić

Costume design
Desanka Janković, Matija Ferlin

Audio production
Miroslav Piškulic

Tatjana Mesar

Romina Vitasović

Danijela Bilić Rojnić, Atinianum d.o.o. Vodnjan – Dignano

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Les Brigittines

Croatian National Theater in Zagreb/Hrvatsko Narodno Kazalište u Zagrebu

Matija Ferlin, Kunstenfestivaldesarts

Supported by
Ministry of Culture Republic of Croatia, City Council Zagreb, City of Pula

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About the performance

The project We Are Kings Not Humans is aimed at researching children’s speech acts and their use of language, logic, and representational possibilities in the context of theatre performance. Using movement as a theatrical tool on a par with language, Matija Ferlin – as in his earlier projects (Solitaires, The Other At The Same Time) – set out to inquire about what happens to theatre when one of its basic elements shifts the frame of conventional performance practice.

Generating the text from materials ‘produced’ by pre-school and school-aged children, our research sought to shed light on two kinds of relationships: the creative potential of the theatrical medium shaped by the logic of children’s speech acts, in which language has no meaning and its value is assigned by adults, and the consequences of the relationship between children's immediate, rational, and linguistic lucidity, and the inherited and trained code that makes it a by-product of education and the influence of adults.

The project We Are Kings Not Humans was created in two phases. It was launched as a series of workshops and conversations with pre-school and school-aged children, aimed at gathering textual material. These workshops encouraged children to voice their opinions and comments during thematic interviews. Sub-questions led the children to produce expressions shaped by their own logic, in the awareness that this logic is substantially shaped by the language whose meaning and value are defined by adults. Children then take on ‘adult language’, a series of speech formulas and manners. However, simultaneously and unconsciously, they find fissures in the logic of argumentation related to their own interpretation of the world, things, people, and actions. The workshops and interviews focused on analysing how children use language, or, in the terminology of theatre theory, the logic and performance potential of the child’s speech act in all its authenticity, within the inherent limitations. For children, language is first and foremost a way of learning about the world, the world within and the world without. They resort to language in a utilitarian manner, without premeditation. They do not consider language to be imbued with any other value or function than that of communication. Yet, their relationship with language possesses a freedom akin to the poetical, except that children are unaware of it. Children enter language as if entering a game, much like they enter the world. Language is processed in their heads and hands as if it were yet another toy whose function has to be figured out. In the process, children do not approach language with forethought, which is why we wanted to keep the openness and immediacy in our play as the most important frame of reference. Blazing their trail in language and establishing the logic of their speech acts, children reconnect us with our own language. In so doing, they encourage us to undertake the analytical, dramaturgical, and performative deconstruction of our perception of the world as determined by adopted and learned expressions and thinking models.

The second phase of the project centred on the transcription and analysis of the content of the texts collected from the workshops and interviews. It began with the definition of a thematic field, aimed at providing a backdrop for structuring the statements and shaping the dramatic dynamics based on the situation inscribed in the statements. A dramaturgical construction of a coherent and meaningful unit using the rather variegated texts from the workshops, required that we resort to additional sources – books by Mladen Kušec and Marcello D’Orta, Danijel Žeželj’s picture book, Dijana Bolanča Paulić’s film, and Ksenija Kušec’s radio shows, all of them based on the similar premise of accumulating children’s verbal acts and comments, thematically centred on the commonplace, i.e. everyday things and situations.

Having transcribed the conversations and listened to and read through extra contributions, the first draft opened up a myriad of themes. However, a more attentive and profound reading saw the emergence of a clearer logic in the content of the children’s statements, even though the serious thematic preoccupations that resulted were still immense. In fact, the metaphysical and existential immensity hidden in those seemingly simple children’s statements suggested that it should not be narrowed down to fit a more concrete and enclosed narrative. Instead, it was to be taken in all its potential of being a large story within small stories, a story without a beginning or an end – a story about the beginning and the end, nonetheless.

The project does not embrace an approach rooted in the patronising position of adults who ‘must teach children something’. Instead, children are treated as equals, appreciating and valuing the wisdom of their youth and their somewhat peculiar view of the world as an interesting tool for undoing everyday situations and existing conventions. The truth inscribed in the peculiar logic of such an ‘alternative’ view of the world and its dramatic potency, is the primary reason why the authorial team decided to work on the piece. The open concept lies in the fact that children are considered co-authors of the performance text, i.e. theatre performance that questions a broader field of performability and researches the boundaries and fissures of language as a theatrical tool beyond the usual communicative device and manner in which it can be staged. Children’s comments carry sufficient suggestiveness and narrative intuition to be treated as multi-layered material that turns empirical reality into a metaphysical knowledge of the world. Therefore, each act on stage bears all of the meanings it could bear, meanings that establish the story – for us and about us – together with all other aspects of the performance.

This piece has not been devised by children. Their sentences might have been edited and rearranged, but the logic of the plot stems from the children’s approach to language and the world. Although children do speak in this play, this is not a play about children. Adults do not play children in this performance nor do they try to be children. Working from their own experience, these adult actors search inside themselves, looking for sentences and for logic in a world that used to be their own. Children’s sentences are merely performance tools used in the act of scooping up. This is a play about the beginning and the end of the world. Or, to be more precise, about small inversions in time, language, and theatre that fill us with hope. If we listen very carefully, if we twist, turn, and shake our boxed-in world, we might still spot a moment of forgotten lucidity in it.

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Matija Ferlin (b. 1982) grew up in Pula, Croatia. He graduated from the School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam and subsequently lived and worked in Berlin. After returning to Pula, he focused on researching and rearticulating different concepts of stage performance and other media, such as short movies, videos, and exhibitions. He has presented and performed his own work throughout Europe and the US, and in numerous festivals such as Kunstenfestivaldesarts, ImpulsTanz, Vienna; Spider Festival, Lyon; Young Lions and Gibanica, Ljubljana; Ex-Yu festival, New York; Rhubarb Festival, Toronto; Contemporary Dance Festival, Bogota; Infant, Novi Sad; FTA, Montreal; Actoral, Marseille; Zero Point Festival, Prague; and many others. Ferlin has collaborated with choreographers, directors, visual artists, and dramaturgists, including Ivica Buljan, Christophe Chemin, Maja Delak, Luc Dunberry, Mauricio Ferlin, Ame Henderson, Aleksandra Janeva, Heinz Peter Knes, Matea Koležnik, Keren Levi, Karsten Liske, Maria Ohman & Claudia de Serpa Soares, Sasha Waltz, David Zambrano, Jasna Žmak, and Goran Ferčec.

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