Petar Denchev in a special interview for the festival
Petar Denchev – writer, director and, it turns out, an interesting amateur photographer, is a name known to Ruse connoisseurs, but not only to literature and theater. The productions of “Medea”, “Twelfth Night” and “Chorus” on the Ruse stage are unforgettable, and his latest novel “Rotation” became one of the highlights of the 15th edition of the festival. He is now coming to Ruse to present his theatrical-cultural-theoretical-practical study “Use and function of space in the theatrical performance” (from 1968 to the present day) on October 10.
- What do you expect from the 16th edition of the literary festival under the motto “The sleep of reason…” (after Francisco Goya “The sleep of reason gives birth to monsters”)?
As always, I look forward to a meaningful festival. I think that the literary festival in Ruse has distinguished itself over the years as one of the cultural events on a national scale with a very meaningful profile, with a diverse program, as well as openness to other arts. It’s versatility and specific social orientation make him interesting and alive. It seems to me that this is also why it manages so well to capture processes and movements unfolding in the society around us. So my curiosity is piqued.
- When the future is seen as something distant and well protected, when the consequences of major breakthroughs, revolutionary discoveries, innovations, etc. are not foreseen, what kind of damage can they inflict on the life of mankind? Is this actually grounds for daily anxiety?
The future always comes unexpectedly, despite predictions, expectations, preparations, fears. In a certain sense, we in Bulgaria have always been in a catch-up position, which simultaneously protects us from sudden shocks, but also confronts us with the danger that the past periodically eats the future, as the poet Ani Ilkov once expressed. I’ve always wanted us to be a bit ahead of the average in the catch-up, but alas it’s not just down to our individual efforts. So, we have no reason to worry daily about dawning on a suddenly hostile world that has changed because of sudden digitization; but we can be afraid of falling out of the civilizational processes.
- How do you perceive artificial intelligence – as a help or a hindrance in your profession? Are you afraid of it?
As someone who is both in the fields of literature and theater, and sometimes in education, I worry that artificial intelligence facilitates processes (some even automates them) that require time, accumulation and effort to learn new skills , to create new content, to understand and process information, and so on. Therefore, it seems to me that the presence of processes that cannot be directly controlled will work in the interests of corporations, of big capital, and this will throw many professions out of economic life. But most importantly, artificial intelligence threatens two main things – the joy of knowledge and the curiosity of the unknown. Without them, it seems to me, it will be difficult for us to navigate what is happening as people, and the cognitive processes will probably change.
- Book reading and publishing – which takes the lead, what’s far ahead and how should it be made?
My personal experience shows that many more books are published in Bulgaria than I can read, let’s say, on an annual basis, but that doesn’t matter. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the production of literature.
- Writers (individuals easily calling themselves writers) are multiplying. What are the pros and cons of the accessibility of book publishing today?
I don’t see any particular problems with the accessibility of book publishing. If there is any problem at all, it lies in the broken hierarchy of information. But this is not something new – this process has been going on for almost 15 years. Social media has destroyed the traditional flows, that information must necessarily pass through an editorial office, in front of one or two editors, through an editorial board, facts must be checked. Today, in all media, the main question is not what their editorial policy should be, but how to survive in the sea of information and the spread of all kinds of sensationalism. That is why false information has become so easily spread. This also changed other “media” – theater, cinema, and literature. More and more we come across works that want to please the viewers at all costs in order to survive in these hypermarket conditions. The critical eye and the critical attitude died. So for me the issue is not about accessibility at all, but what is actually produced and asserted in the public space.
- Should the writer, the artist in general, be a factor in politics? Whether your answer is YES or NO, justify it.
Of course, making art is a kind of social and political experiment, in so far as the one who creates it interferes with the real structures of reality. The idea of detaching the author (creator) from the social world and achieving complete autonomy of the art world from the social is a romantic attitude, although even then we have examples of how this does not happen. Byron, for example, prepares to participate in the Greek war for independence, Hristo Botev’s political articles also show us that he is no stranger to politics; Goethe was also for a dozen years minister at Weimar, whether we consider him a pre-romantic or a belated enlightener. So when we have a presence in the public space, it’s a natural thing.
- What will you present at the Literary Festival? Give more detail about the book we’ll be reading, more about why you wrote it, and how in particular you are going to intrigue the audience in advance.
At the festival, I will present my theatrical research “Use and function of space in the theatrical performance from 1968 to the present day”. This is actually my dissertation work, which is both a theoretical and historical study of how space is emancipated as an aesthetic category in the theater and what manifestations we can find in the Bulgarian theater of these processes during the past 60 years. I imagine it will be interesting to many because space is also a philosophical category and theater is a very social art that depends on the context, and in the period before 1989 it was highly ideologized and connected to the immediate political processes.