With the SWAN Festival upon us, Bohemist sat down with event organizer Vanessa Gendron give us the skinny on this year’s festivities.
By BOHEMIST STAFF
PRAGUE – In March the third annual SWAN Festival – Supporting Women Artists Now – will open in Prague.
SWAN, a worldwide festival held in cities around the globe, grew out of a collaboration between WomenArts and Chicago’s WITASWAN (Women in the Audiences Supporting Women Artists Now). WITASWAN is an informal alliance of women who are using their power as consumers to increase opportunities for women artists. It began as an initiative of the Illinois chapter of the American Association of University Women.
The SWAN Festival is an international event designed to showcase the power and diversity of women’s creativity. This year’s event is themed “Borderlines” and will present over 28 women artists from around the world and will offer rich program including various performances, exhibition, workshops and screenings! Come and support these amazing creative women sharing with us their visions through their specific art form (photography, dance, music, VJ, DJ, art installations, film, theater, performance art, puppetry, story telling, song).
Bohemist sat down with one of the festival organizers, Vanessa Gendron, to talk about what’s in store.
- Tells us about SWAN? What are its origins and how did it end up in Prague?
We, Lucie Neperena, Maša Hilčišin and myself had worked on a documentary film of LAVU Cie theater experience called Sacrifices… We realized quickly that we all wanted to be creating work where women were involved. Masa knew about the SWAN day and suggested we do one. And so the first SWAN was created 3 years ago in a small atelier in Namesti Miru.
Our goal is to have all art forms represented in the Swan Prague and to give everyone – as many women as possible this opportunity.
- Tell us about the theme for this year’s festival?
The Theme is Borderlines. This can mean pretty much anything from seeing lines in patterns, to madness, to refugees to mental illness…it gives our artists some inspiration we hope… it is the first year we are introducing a theme…it opens the mind of creation!
- Who are some of the artists you are particularly looking forward to?
We are excited by the diversity of artists / creators in the opening night Cabaret this year and we believe that all the women artists will bring some unique perspectives into the theme borderlines.
We are excited to bring to the festival for the first time a recent documentary film screening and talk back with the director Rozalie Kohoutova.
- Why is SWAN so important for the Czech Republic?
SWAN Prague encourages women to express themselves. It enhances visibility of women artists in public space, and addresses issues which are often neglected in our community. Some of remaining taboos in our society are domestic violence, socioeconomic trends based on gender inequality, racism, and existence of strong patriarchal norms. SWAN Prague wants to challenge those norms. In addition to that, there is a general trend of steering away from feminism in our community.
- This year’s SWAN is supporting a Czech charity, can you tell us about that?
One of the elements of our platform is to support charity every year. This year we have decided to support OPU (Organization for Aid to Refugees) in order to support people who come to seek for help from some of the most traumatic places in the world. We are all equal, and we have to support that idea of peace and love towards humanity if we want to build strong and healthy society.
Organization for Aid to Refugees (OPU) has been helping refugees and foreigners in the Czech Republic for 25 years.
OPU is non-profit and non-state organization and its main activities include providing free legal and social counselling to applicants for international protection and to other foreigners in the Czech Republic, organizing training programs for both professionals and the general public, and other activities aimed at promoting integration of foreigners.
One of the OPU’s goals is to fight against xenophobia and racial and ethnic intolerance.
All proceeds from the festival will be donated to the Organization to Aid Refugees.
- For the organizers, what are your backgrounds and what first brought you together for SWAN?
Masa is a documentary film maker, Lucie is the artistic director at the auction house Arcimboldo and I am director/actress creator at LAVU Cie and Azyzah Theater.
We have been friends for several years but our first collaboration was during Sacrifices, a Lavu theatre experience, where Masa created a documentary film of the process of the original piece SACRIFICES created with an ensemble of women.