Oana Marin, SIPAM: During SIPAM, everyone is focused on the dissemination and appreciation of artistic productions, this being the common language

Oana Vasiliu 25/06/2024 | 08:01

In its 27th edition, the Sibiu International Performing Arts Market (SIPAM) brings together a series of professionals from the performing arts, both from independent structures and traditional institutions, from the country and abroad, between June 24-27, 2024. The event is part of the Sibiu International Theatre Festival.

Business Review spoke with Oana Marin, the coordinator of the Sibiu International Performing Arts Market, about the challenges of such an event, which entails constant work over the year involving networking, research, scouting, and rigorous documentation regarding industry specialists dedicated to the performing arts, all culminating in a mix of ideas, trends, and concepts over four days of conferences.

A series of changes have appeared in this edition of , the most important being the selection of ten national and international projects, judged by international specialists, which will present their cultural products during the event. Additionally, the participation fee has been removed to encourage as many structures dedicated to the performing arts as possible to join this necessary dialogue for industry development.

How would you define the concept of Sibiu International Performing Arts Market for the general public?

For the general public in Romania—since it is very important to address a local audience with full responsibility—such an event might raise questions or curiosities. We are talking about an industry networking event, similar to other festivals such as the ISPA (International Society for the Performing Arts) Congress or the China Shanghai International Arts Festival, among others. Conceptually, for the public, not necessarily uninformed but not familiar with such an activity, it has two dimensions: pragmatic and cultural.

From a pragmatic perspective, it involves several days, a few hours each day, where everyone engaged in this networking process—whether from an artistic, creation or production of art perspective, a critical perspective of questioning or disseminating art, or a business perspective of art trading—can meet in a very intimate yet vast setting. In this environment, an artist wanting to promote an independent show, for example, with fewer resources, can have immediate access to the director of a major festival, who they can convince of the potential success and quality of the cultural product they are promoting.

Therefore, the pragmatic dimension refers to the collaboration opportunities offered to industry participants during networking sessions, presentations, or conferences and mentoring sessions. The cultural dimension, on the other hand, is related to the exchange of ideas and artistic practices or the promotion of cultural diversity and innovation, contributing to the enrichment of intercultural dialogue.

What role do you think the Market plays in the development of the local performing arts industry?

With support from the Festival, both logistically and symbolically, the Market can attract and mobilize decision-makers in the creative industries, representatives of structures, organizations, or festivals that can facilitate tours for companies and foster other types of collaborations, thus promoting the circulation of artistic products in the performing arts sector.

It is important to emphasize that through the Market, we provide this entire networking platform where people can engage in constructive dialogues, discussions, and relationships to promote their products and convince interlocutors of the quality of their presentations. However, a significant responsibility falls on the Market participants, who must maintain these contacts even after the event, once everyone returns home.

What surprised you the most about last year’s Market edition?

It is admirable and relates to the ability of this festival, this phenomenon, of which the Market is an integral part, to create teams—an essential aspect connected to this year’s festival theme. These teams manage to face all the challenges that such a vast and complex event can pose regarding organization. Despite these challenges, there is a kind of mobilization capacity that ensures the event’s success. On a very human level, I was absolutely surprised that from what seemed like very complex work until the last moment, until the last day before the festival started—and when I say very complex work, I mean all these organizational challenges: dozens of phone calls a day, dozens of emails to respond to, many people with different needs, logistical and communication challenges, a true tour de force—once the festival begins, things function on their own. You indeed exist under the auspices of this friendship that creates a collaborative atmosphere among all involved. Of course, friendship is not always without tensions and small issues, but all these dynamics contribute to the festival’s fluidity and success. From an organizational standpoint, there is harmony that makes the festival run smoothly.

Specifically, referring to last year’s edition, if not surprising, it was certainly gratifying for us behind the event to see how guests and participants received it. They wrote to us and thanked us in such a pleasant manner, highlighting the festival’s hospitable spirit: people felt extraordinarily well, and we, in turn, felt that these participants, as the festival theme suggests, remain friends for life. They will continue to be part of FITS and the Market and will undoubtedly return to Sibiu.

How do you integrate independent artists into the Performing Arts Market story?

This year’s pitches, due to certain changes, such as the presence of an international jury composed of representatives from renowned festivals like Edinburgh Fringe, Avignon Off, and Manchester International Festival, represent the ideal way to integrate independent work into a possible international circuit.

Participation by representatives of independent theater companies has been growing year by year. More and more independent theaters are registering for the Market, but we must acknowledge that their number is still not very large. However, starting this year, we have removed the registration fee. Although it was not an exorbitant amount, it could create difficulties, considering that in the independent sector, any payment can be problematic due to limited and often insufficient funding.

Where and how do performing arts integrate into the story of cultural diplomacy?

I cannot provide a general approach, but from what I observed last year, the Market represents an extremely eclectic environment. The cosmopolitanism that the Market provokes and channels attracts a variety of “treasure hunters”—programmers, curators of festivals focused on performing arts, and other cultural professionals. They come to the Market with different levels of information about our local cultural offerings, some of them asking me directly about possible collaborations or artistic productions from various spheres of interest.

I believe the Market is truly a melting pot where cultural diplomacy plays an important role. Cultural diplomacy is closely linked to a well-defined identity construct; without such a construct, the need for diplomatic mediation would not exist. Although the Market includes an event of cultural diplomacy, in practice, diplomatic mediation is rarely necessary. This happens naturally because everyone is focused on disseminating and appreciating artistic productions, this being the common language of the Market.

A version of the interview is available on Romanian language on the official blog of the festival, here.

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