Interview: Jacek Ludwig Scarso ahead of the CASS festival Land of Fibs
We caught up with Senior Lecturer in Theatre & Performance Jacek Ludwig Scarso at the CASS (London Metropolitan University) ahead of the university’s innovative performance and film festival Land of Fibs.
Book tickets to see the future young creatives from the CASS.
Tell us about the CASS approach to theatre arts. What makes it different?
Here at The Cass, we encourage an interdisciplinary approach to the arts. This is very much reflected in our Theatre Arts programme (BA Theatre & Performance and BA Theatre & Film), where we want our students to see themselves as versatile artists.
As our industry keeps blurring the boundaries between disciplines, it is no longer simply a case of becoming good at one thing: it’s essential to know how to transform, evolve and combine different skills. It is also vital to learn how to make a living in our unpredictable sector.
So, throughout their degree, our students explore a combination of performing, directing, devising, script-writing, film-making and producing, alongside specialist skills like installation and multimedia, choreography and dramaturgy.
Each week they meet an industry guest that shares their own experience with a talk, a performance, or a masterclass. Each one of us tutors is also a working professional in the sector and we often involve our students and graduates in our projects. As an example, this year, I was able to take one of my students to Hong Kong to document a project I presented at the British Council’s Spark Festival, and twenty-five of them performed in my piece In Limbo at Tate Modern, in collaboration with Tate Exchange.
Tell us about the upcoming festival at Canada Water Culture Space. What should we expect to see?
Well, there’ll be quite a few surprises! The Festival is the students’ graduation showcase: here, for the first time, they are given complete freedom as to what to present and it will be a combination of theatre, cabaret, film, live art and installations. We chose Canada Water Theatre this year to explore the whole building site-responsively, including its beautiful library and the pond just outside.
This year’s theme is Land of Fibs – we couldn’t help but somehow draw on an age where our notion of what’s real and what’s fake is increasingly murky. So we are imagining a fictional land, where the public encounters a range of absurd situations: each one a revisitation of a true event, or a complete lie…
An exhibition space (the “Land of Fibs Archives”) will show durational exhibits throughout the afternoon, free for all. Then in the evening we’ll have our live performances. We’ll also host workshops and talks, so it’s going to be a rather hectic week!
Who or what are your influences in making and teaching theatre?
In my own work, I tend to draw inspiration from the past and mix it up with contemporary aesthetics. I’m a huge fan of the Baroque: I love its extravagance, theatricality and its playful tension between sacred and profane imagery.
Many of my projects, whether in live performance, video-art or installation, have played with these elements. Then I take inspiration from things that happen in my life: most recently, I developed a fascination for the Japanese tradition of flower arranging, called Ikebana. I was lucky to be able to work on a project in Kyoto at Galerie Weissraum, where I created an installation inspired by ikebana, exploring the idea of “staging nature”. There is never one source of inspiration and certainly no one “correct” way to make theatre or art in general. That’s what I hope reflects in what I teach, and the teaching for me is completely integral to my artistic work: one informs/inspires the other and vice versa. Never take yourself too seriously and never fear failure – some of the most important works in history were considered failures at the time of creation.
What are your favourite London haunts? (to watch performance, to eat, to relax)
Ah, there are so many! But I’ll try to commit to a few. I love the Barbican, its completely versatile nature and how consistently excellent its art programme is. I was so honoured this year when the Barbican’s Artistic Director Louise Jeffreys agreed to give a talk to our students: so inspiring, just like the Barbican!
I adore Sir John Soane’s Museum, it’s like a theatrical set and truly eccentric. I’ve been there many times for inspiration and I’ve yet to try its late night, candlelit openings .
To relax, nothing beats walking along the Thames. Not just in the popular parts, like the South Bank.
I live in Barnes and I love the stretch of river from Barnes to Putney. And there are some lovely pubs too, on the way. On special occasions, you might spot me at Maison Assouline on Piccadilly: you can have tea or a decadent drink and browse some amazing furniture and coffee-table books all in the same place. Surely, a baroque treat!
Jacek Ludwig Scarso (PhD) is Senior Lecturer in Theatre & Performance and Course Leader in Theatre and Film at The Cass, London Met. As a theatre director and artist, his works have been presented worldwide and span performance, video and installation (http://www.jacekludwigscarso.com/ ).
He is the curator of Land of Fibs – The Cass Theatre Arts Festival.