The IETM international plenary Riga meeting brought together Baltic-Finnish professionals in discussion

On October 1st and 2nd 2020, the IETM plenary session in Riga, organized by the Latvian New Theater Institute took place at the Ģertrūdes ielas Theater. The aim was to bring together Baltic-Finnish artists and producers to discuss the current situation and strategies on building better cooperation and exchanges. The multi-location IETM plenary meeting saw 23 cities around the world participate, Riga originally was set to host representatives from Estonia, Finland, Lithuania and Latvia. Due to travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19, international discussions took place online. 

Specialists from the Dance Infocentre Finland, artists from the Wauhaus Arts Collective, National Kaunas Drama Theater, Kaunas City Chamber Theater and Baltoscandal Festival, as well as independent producers took part in an online conversation from the Baltic-Finnish region. Latvia was represented in the room/online by a wide range of theater researchers, artists and producers. 

During the joint meeting, representatives of various institutions presented various aspects and reflections they encountered during the Covid-19 crisis and in their activities in general. Common tendencies were highlighted in how theaters adapted to the new conditions, creating performances and works of art that are available online. A case of a dance performance described a process in which a performance previously perceived as problematic due to its small audience and the need for a large space in the new circumstances became very suitable for showing both in Latvia and abroad, promoting unprecedented cooperation in the Baltic region. Several examples were given in which the online environment created the conditions for a sense of togetherness, reflecting on theater as an art of presence and the need for the viewer to be involved. 

When thinking about the possibilities of creating international festivals in the new conditions, one example was the experience of the “Homo Novus” festival this year. International artists participated in creating their performances online in cooperation with local artists, thus saving travel and living expenses and reducing the impact of travel on the environment. The solutions to the Covid-19 crisis were thus seen in the context of the wider climate crisis. An important topic during the meeting of the Baltic-Finnish region was the desire for closer cooperation and the search for possible strategies to achieve this.

During the central online IETM plenary meeting, Gundega Laiviņa, the long-term head of the New Theatre Institute of Latvia, was invited to give the keynote speech shared with three other speakers from different parts of the world.

During the meeting on the second day, which was attended in person by Latvian artists and producers, the discussions touched conditions of Latvian theater as well as the direction of tax and cultural policy in theater, dance and circus arts. The participants of the conversation were very active in the mutual talks and expressed satisfaction with the opportunity to meet and talk about the current process. The topics discussed were related to the growing emergence of new artistic groups in the Latvian performing arts and how they could be supported by politics. The need for relevant terminology in contemporary performing arts and its incorporation into  culture policy documents that are being developed now was discussed. The need for support for young professionals and emerging artists as well as a support programme for performing arts export were considered. Interdisciplinary cooperation between specialists (theater, dance and circus) was said to be important in shaping the future guidelines of cultural policy. The ideas put forward during the meeting are intended to be included into future negotiations of the NGO sector with cultural policy makers.

IETM is an international network of performing arts organizations involving more than 500 organizations and individual actors around the world, including theater, dance, circus, performance arts, and more. This year, due to the circumstances created by Covid-19, the IETM autumn plenary session took place simultaneously in digital form and locally at regional level. The New Theater Institute of Latvia has renewed its active activities in the organization, representing Latvian performing arts and actively participating in the organization of the plenary session, which took place simultaneously in 24 places around the world, including Berlin, Yokohama, Yerevan, Melbourne and elsewhere.