Since 2010, Spider Festival has been bringing together wild bodies, as they describe it, to Tivoli Park at the beginning of each summer. We caught up with Leja Jurišić, the festival's Ambassador, as she was preparing for this year's event.
When we first met Leja, she was complaining about how delivery vans for restaurants, cafes, and shops would constantly block her way while she was taking her kids to school by bicycle each day. This would force her off the pavement, and in frustration, she would yell, "I'm also delivering!" and send them off to where the sun doesn't shine.
Leja is a dancer, choreographer, performer, and mother involved in politically engaged performing arts. This blonde babe is always a sight for sore eyes when encountered on the streets of Ljubljana. Whenever you've had enough, you go and dance with Leja. When you want to celebrate something, you seek her out. And when you're feeling attacked or bored, she will protect you, wake you up, or even give you a figurative strangle if necessary. She is an extraordinary wonder woman who has performed in numerous countries worldwide, received multiple awards on stage and scenes that always leave an impact. If you haven't witnessed her in action, you haven't truly lived.
So let me ask you this: Do we really not have to do anything? Sorry to break it to you, Leja, but we actually have to do a lot of things. We have to finish this interview, work, sleep, breathe, pay bills, and apologise when we make mistakes. Even when we want to bake cupcakes, we have to follow a recipe to get it right. It seems that the human condition involves constant activity and responsibility.
Do we have to, or do we want to? I'm happy and honoured to be invited for this interview. I'm interested in your questions as much as I am in my answers. Interviews, when taken seriously, provide a great opportunity for deep thinking. While I need sleep, it is ultimately my decision whether or not to sleep. Nobody forces me to sleep, but I know it is beneficial for me. Breathing is even more automatic. We don't have to consciously choose to breathe; it happens naturally. Let's skip the topic of paying bills for now since it requires more time and space for discussion. I have been wondering lately how the world would be if people could earn money doing jobs they are good at or truly enjoy. It's interesting that you mention apologising, as I apologise often. I've learnt the value of apologies, but it seems that many people don't apologise frequently. This seems strange to me because apologising allows room for making mistakes. Making mistakes and giving wrong answers are not well-received in our society. We are expected to be right, correct, patient, loving, and beautiful all the time. But do we really have to be? It feels like the concept of "having to" leaves no space for learning and unlearning. Unlearning is just as important as learning itself.
Well, we’ve read the intergalactic “On not having to” by the festival director. Which of those ideas centred around the agency of a physical body in digital space speak to you most, which do you relate with in your own life and work?
At the moment, I'm particularly drawn to the idea that "In the era of the invisible yet omnipresent digital body, physical presence matters... We don't have to fear algorithms; they are just techniques. We don't have to be mere users; we can engage just as much as we can disengage. We don't have to neglect the body and physical presence, the messy, inconsistent, and unfinished nature of it. We don't have to deny a body that constantly exceeds and evades its limits. We don't have to undermine the experimental aspect of the human subject that seeks happiness through sensory extension and augmentation. We don't have to adhere to the traditional order of senses."
Is there any special meaning or story behind the festival name "Spider"?
One of the initial ideas was to encourage interaction amongst artists, audiences, and other creatures, setting the conditions for them to meet, discuss, and connect. Hence the reference to a spider's web. Additionally, spiders are considered to bring good luck.
So who are these creatures? Who is your audience? Who attends these events, and has the crowd been changing in terms of numbers and diversity over the years?
We initially started with a professional audience consisting of dancers and other selected alternative groups that wouldn't typically mix. Later, we expanded beyond this framework to include people who are curious and open to trying new experiences. However, the concept of merging dance festivals with music festivals and incorporating more shows each evening has remained more or less the same. Every year, more and more people attend the festival. As the program encompasses a variety of radical ideas, it attracts a diverse range of individuals. A significant change occurred in 2020 when the Spider festival took place during uncertain times, just a few days after the ban on socialising was lifted.
It's an outdoor festival, and we've been a few times, witnessing the rain and storms. Dancing in the rain is often associated with feeling free, not caring about getting wet, and letting go of the illusion of control. Does this explain why it always seems to rain at least once during the Spider festival? Have you managed to convince the weather gods to align their program with yours?
There may be occasional quick showers, but rarely does rain interfere with the nighttime program. However, in response to your hint, yes, Matej is in charge of communicating with higher power forces, and we all recognise our humility in their presence. Matej and I perform a special ancient dance ritual every year before the festival. Pulling off an outdoor festival requires working with nonconformist individuals who are willing to take risks, including artists, technicians, and the audience.
Where did you get those sexy muscled bodies featured on your festival poster? It seems to suggest that they are flexing, implying that things in stillness can transform into movement and vice versa. We're trying to sound deep and intelligent with this question, so please go along with it.
It was the proposal of our festival designer, Boris Balant. The pictures are generated by AI, but Balant put in considerable effort to teach the system how to create them properly. He took our slogan "We don't have to" and transformed it accordingly.
Even the letters on the programme page of your website are dancing. Who is responsible for that?
That is also Balant's work. He convinced us that if you stare at the moving letters/words long enough, they become readable. It aligns with the festival's deliberate challenge and radical nature. Understanding the program requires effort, an open mind, and an open heart, but it remains creative and interesting even if you don't fully comprehend it.
Ok, now about the program. In one of your Facebook posts, this year's programme was summarised as "afrofuturistic travel in the Balkans, the future of women's/female eroticism, opera dada-blues punk-pop, and the dictionary of madness." When and how do you put together such a diverse programme? How does one sign up?
Anyone can write to firstname.lastname@example.org and hope for the best. It helps if you're developing new and/or radical dance practices and if your life revolves around dance.
Ok, we’ll think about it. But before we do that, could you please comment on this thought: A body on stage is already political, an act of politics.
I perceive the body on stage as a powerful emancipatory mechanism, and dance itself holds the potential to inspire fruitful thoughts for a better future.
What a radical thought! So this year, the radical talks by dr. Bara Kolenc over a glass of wine will focus on life and death. In your opinion, which of the two do we know less about?
In modern western societies, we tend to ignore death and contemplate it. Consequently, we know less about life. Our fear of death leads to a fear of truly living.
We noticed that most of the DJs are women. How did you manage to make that happen?
In recent years, women have been more inclined to embrace radical ideas.
We've been enthusiastically telling everyone we meet about the Spider festival. We describe it as a unique experience in the middle of a forest, featuring great music and amazing people. You can return to the comfort of city life each morning by foot or bike, get cleaned up, and then head right back to the festival to engage in thought-provoking debates. Even if you're unfamiliar with the artists or feel that the music might not be your cup of tea, the festival's vibrant atmosphere will captivate you and encourage you to have a good time while stimulating your thoughts. It's like allowing a spider to weave its magic in the corner of your home, reminding you of the intricate webs of existence. The festival provides an analog disruption of daily life and connection, which is crucial in this digital and divisive reality. Attending the festival is something we highly recommend. Thank you so much for your time, and we look forward to seeing you there!
One last question before we wrap up: Are we also invited to brunch on Saturday? Will croissants be served?
Oh, yes, everyone is invited to the brunch. However, there won't be croissants. Expect some drinks, music, and lively company. This year, we had to change the location because the previous venue, which we used for over five years, believes we are too disruptive. We take it as a compliment that we are doing things right. We will work on installing GSM and phone camera distractors for next year's festival because these days, everything goes online and it kills the fun.