Montažstroj (stylized MONTAЖ$TROJ) is an art collective which creates socially engaged projects and points out the burning problems of our reality through innovative interventions in theatre, dance, music, visual and audio-visual arts.
Montažstroj, Croatian neologism, a compound of the word „montage“ meaning fusion, film and video editing, as well as working on the assembly line, and the word „machine“, in the sense of futuristic ideal from the beginning of the 20th century, applied to all types of art but also in the sense of order and discipline.
Since its formation in 1989 this Croatian collective is creating art which is responsible for the community in which it is formed. Montažstroj immediately received international recognition, awards and became a successful company of dance and physical theatre. The founder and artistic director of Montažstroj, Borut Šeparović, led this organization to becoming a trademark of a theatre different than any other in Croatia and abroad. Over 25 years this collective performed in more than 20 European countries and also in United States of America. Their artistic expression is constructed through interdisciplinary interventions in music, film, visual, video and digital arts. Montažstroj’s work was supported by the leading global media such as Reuters, CNN, MTV, France Press and Al Jazeera.
Football and pop culture
The initial 7 years Montažstroj’s work was concentrated on the theatrical representation of the football and pop culture. In those years the collective produced several performances, installations, award-winning videos and choreographic works. The experience of real socialism, the historical changes occurring in post-communism and the war in former Yugoslavia, influenced and defined Montažstroj’s unique artistic actions. The material for performance was found in everyday events and often led to the radical stage reality. After the first professional productions'VATROTEHNA', performed in 1990 in an abandoned area of the old distillery Badel and 'RAP OPERA 101', adaptations of antic myths in the context of global satellite programs and local war surrounding, Montažstroj came into worldview in 1991, with their music video 'CROATIA IN FLAME' - a direct artistic engagement in the service of homeland. Artistic actions continued with interpretations of post‐communist transitional myths and Montažstroj was labeled as the theater of transition.
In 1997, Montažstroj started working on its long‐term objective - building an international company with a strong artistic identity, unbound by a particular culture. Operating predominantly in Netherlands under the name Performingunit, the group focused on the position of the individual, and identity problems, attempting to avoid spectacular theatrical elements and highlighting the presence of performers as the main component of the production. In this period Montažstroj’s performances were more intimate and they produced works such as 'TERRIBLE FISH' based on Sylvia Plath’s poetry, ‘WHO IS WOYZECK?’ based on Büchner's canonic text Western Theater and ‘THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE DEAD’ based on a story by Danilo Kiš.
Montažstroj's projects ‘T‐FORMANCE’, ‘T‐FAKTOR’ and ‘THIS IS THE THEATER YOU DESERVE’ represent innovative and interdisciplinary projects. These were multimedia interactive events, which explored the phenomenon of terrorism. Special emphasis was put on the use of new media which is why such projects stepped out of the theater into the sphere of digital art. Those projects were oriented on the viewer and focused on creating possibilities for the audience to create its own theatre experience. Therefore, the spectators took roles in those performances. The projects inspired by terrorism were questioning if the terrorist political means are the only ones that work. In 2008 Montažstroj and its director Borut Šeparović produced ‘TIMBUKTU’, an engaged performance for youth which dealt with humanization of the animal. ‘TIMBUKTU’ resulted in an impressive number of critics. Above all it was a complex and brave art project which offered the audience a possibility of adopting 12 stray dogs that were part of the performance.
For the last ten years Montažstroj’s art projects are dedicated to deprived members of our society. ‘MY HEART BEATS FOR HER' in 2010 presented what seemed to be two unrelated subjects – football and unemployed women. This was a reconstruction of the spectacular Croatian victory over England, resulting in 3:2 at the Wembley Stadium on November 21st, 2007. In this performance, the heroes were not football players but – women. In the first halftime, eleven young dancers simulated through choreography the movements of Croatian team members, attempting to revive the national euphoria when it comes to football. In the second halftime, the places of the dancers were taken over by 11 women from the unemployment bureau. The unemployed women in Croatian team jerseys represented themselves. They spoke about their situation in the labor market. The football became a metaphor for confronting national success myths with the contemporary social reality. The same year Montažstroj produced VATROTEHNA 2.0. trying to review social changes that happened in Croatia for the past ten years. This performance spoke of everything that fell apart during the last decade but it also examined transition, post-socialist, war and post-war trauma in our society.
Montažstroj's social engagement is well noted in the '55+' project in 2012 where elder people were given a chance to become socially and politically active. The goal was to point out the lack of solidarity towards people over 55 years of age, those people who have lived over 30 million minutes.
‘THE FUTURE IS NOW’ 2013 is a performance from 2013 which spoke about non existing alternative to the political and economical system we live in today. The project began with an open call directed at resourceful, young, ambitious, talented start-up enthusiasts who have a vision and want to show all the potential and strength of young Croatian population. Every performance was followed by a discussion. Those discussions showed there may be a chance for a better society than the one we are facing today but also that the future is closer than we may think.
'UPRISING YOUTH' (2014) was a dance performance which has united several generations trying to reconstruct the Youth day celebration movement today. The performance group ensembles a ballerina who used to participate in Youth day celebrations, two performers whose birth dates correspond the end date of socialism and three young girls aged 13 to 17 who never heard of the Youth day celebration.
What followed in 2014 was a project named ‘LITTLE MAN WANTS TO CROSS THE LINE’ (LMWCL) inspired by a cult Yugoslav new wave album ‘Paket aranžman’. This performance tried to question whether pop music is able to make social changes possible. We live in a capitalist society where music, even the one created over 30 years ago, is not treated as a public and cultural good. The text in this performance was not spoken but sung. Thirty people in the performing collective joined together professionals and amateurs - deprived members of the Croatian society: Old People, Dykes, Workers, Serbians, Women, Blacks… They were all united in the ‘’Choir of Little People” creating a new meaning for the empty phrase 'little man'. This performance was banned over accusations of copyright violation. What is left of the ‘LMWCL’ is a video footage of the performance. On the digital remains of this past performance Montažstroj created a new performance – ‘WHERE’S THE REVOLUTION SCUM?’. This new project is a combination of live performance, video projection, electronic music and frenetic dance the performers sing about the break-up of Yugoslavia and socialism, war devastations, economic transition, stolen common goods, prisoners of the money, fallen working class, xenophobic and homophobic hate messages. The slogan ‘WHERE'S THE REVOLUTION SCUM?’ is a famous graffiti from Zagreb which appeared on the wall of student dorm Stjepan Radić during the nineties.
Montažstroj’s new video ‘COMMUNISM’ is currently being broadcast on MTV. The video is a fragment of the multimedia project 'WHERE'S THE REVOLUTION, SCUM?'
The project 'COUNTERATTACK' (2013, still in pre-production) tackles the issue of landmines in the context of environmental pollution and war repercussions that continue to destroy and kill people decades after the war. Dancers will step into the mine fields and see if the danger is still present and lying hidden in the ground. COUNTERATTACK is a project in which dance is more than art and every step a matter of life and death. The project is pointing out the aspect of the mine problem and the engaged role of audio-visual and performing arts.
'CONSUMED' from 2014 is a film about life’s most important minutes. The protagonists of the movie are persons over the age of 55. The movie follows the protagonists from the point they answer an open call for persons over the age of 55, it shows their audition and the process of making a performance and a documentary. They are challenged to talk about the most important minute in their life. They talk about life and death, happiness and pain in a brutally honest way.
About Borut Šeparović
Borut Šeparović was born in Zagreb, Croatia in 1967. He graduated in Philosophy and Comparative Literature at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Zagreb, and from the graduate school at Das Arts (Advanced Studies in Performance Arts) in Amsterdam. His artistic biography as a founder, artistic leader, director and choreographer equates with Montažstroj's biography. Under his artistic leadership, the group Montažstroj, since its founding in 1989, became a trademark of a new and different theatre in Croatia and abroad, retaining that status until today. He directed, choreographed and led over 50 projects, plays and performances whose production was signed by Montažstroj or by various institutional theatres. By directing documentary film Consumed, he started with creating in audiovisual art transferring his idea of socially responsible art into a new media. He is permanently interested in creating engaged theatre and art that, far from the explicit daily political discourse, always questions anew the society they are created in.
1990. FIRE-TECHNICS (text ‘Prometheus Bound’ by Aeschylus), Montazstroj, Zagreb
1991. RAP OPERA 101 (text ‘Philoktetes’ by Sophocles & H. Mueller), Montazstroj, Zagreb; co-production: festival Eurokaz, Zagreb
1993. ENJOY MONTAZSTROJ! (dance performance), Montazstroj, Zagreb
1994. EVERYBODY GOES 2 DISCO FROM MOSCOW 2 SAN FRANCISCO (dance performance), Montazstroj, Zagreb
1995. DISCO RE-MIX (dance performance), Montazstroj, Zagreb
1996. EURO-BODY (dance performance), Montazstroj, Zagreb
1997. EXERCISES MOBILE sections + CONVERTIBLE sections (work-in-progress), Montazstroj, Zagreb with different partners
1999. FRAGILE (dance performance), Montazstroj, Zagreb & Performingunit, Breda; co-production: Intercult, B.I.T., Frascati
2000. DUET (dance performance), Performingunit, Breda
2001. TRUTH OR DARE? (performance), Performingunit, Breda; co-production: Chasse Theater Breda, Frascati Amsterdam
2001. TERRIBLE FISH (performance based on poem “Three Women” by Sylvia Plath), Performingunit, Breda
2002. WHO IS? WOYZECK (based on “Woyzeck” by Georg Buchner), Performingunit, Breda
2004. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE DEAD (based on story “Encyclopedia of the dead” by Danilo Kiš), Montazstroj, Zagreb
2007. T-FORMANCE (interactive performance), Montazstroj, Zagreb, co-production: Teatar &TD, Zagreb
2007. THE THEATER YOU DESERVE (interactive event), Montazstroj, Zagreb, co-production: Teatar &TD, Zagreb
2008. TIMBUKTU (theatre, participatory project), Montazstroj, Zagreb; co-production: Zagreb Puppet Theatre Travno, Zagreb
2009. I F*** ON THE FIRST DATE (theatre, project on location, participatory project), Montazstroj, Zagreb
2009. ZAGREB BY NIGHT (theatre, project on location, action), Montazstroj, Zagreb; co-production: Banana Guerilla, Zagreb
2009. T-FACTOR (theatre, project on location, participatory project), Montazstroj, Zagreb; co-production: Festival Perforacije, Zagreb, Rijeka, Dubrovnik
2010. MY HEART BEATS FOR HER (theatre, dance) Montazstroj, Zagreb; co-production: Tala Dance Center, Zagreb
2010. FIRE-TECHNICS 2.0 (theatre), Montazstroj, Zagreb; co-production: Zagreb Youth Theater, Zagreb, Performance Arts Week Perforacije, Zagreb & Operacija: Grad, Zagreb
2011. SAMPLE (theatre, performance, dance), Montazstroj, Zagreb
2012. 55+ (theatre, video project), Montazstroj, Zagreb
2013. THE FUTURE IS NOW (theatre, participative project), Montazstroj, Zagreb
2014. THE UPRISING YOUTH (theatre, dance), MONTAЖ$TROJ, Zagreb; co-production: Zagreb centre for independent culture and youth – Pogon, Zagreb, Artistic organization Counterattack, Zagreb
2014. LMWCL (media project, audio project, video project, theatre), Montazstroj, Zagreb
2014. WHERE'S THE REVOLUTION, SCUM? (theatre, audio project, video project), Montazstroj, Zagreb
1989. THE FOOTBALL BOOT IN THE ART GALLERY (action / performance)
1990. ACHTUNG ALARM (action / performance)
1991. CROATIA IN FLAME (video clip)
1991. HOP & RAS, DVA (installation / performance)
1991. ATLETA SRCA vs. BARBAROGENIJE (action)
1992. MONTAZSTROJ LIVE! (music performance / concert)
1995. NO DISTANCE (action / street performance)
2009. THE FOOTBALL BOOT IN THE MUSEUM (action / performance / project on location)
2010. ACHTUNG ALARM! 2.0 (action / performance / project on location)
2010. FIRESTARTER (action / performance / project on location)
2010. B.D.L.2.0 (action / performance / project on location)
2011. CROATIAN CREATION - MONTAZSTROJ CALLS FOR WITNESSES (media project / exhibition)
2013. COUNTERATTACK (video project / dance)
2014. CONSUMED (video project / media project)
2014. SWASTIKA (media project / audio project / video project)
2014. COMMUNISM (media project / audio project / video project)
2014. RABIES (media project / audio project / video project)
1991. Award for the choreography of ‘Vatrotehna’ at the '6th Festival of Yugoslav Alternative Theatre' in Podgorica, (Montenegro)
1994. Special Mention of the Jury for the choreography ‘Everybody Goes 2 Disco from Moscow 2 San Francisco’ at International choreographers competition ‘4th Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de SeineSaintDenis' in Paris (France)
1999. Award of the Audience for the performance ‘Fragile’ at 33rd BITEF festival in Belgrade (Serbia)
2001. Award of the Jury for the performance ‘Terrible fish’ at 3rd Golden Lion festival in Umag (Croatia)
2009. Dubravko Dujšin Award for 20 years of Montazstroj's activity and the performance ‘Generation 91-95’
2013. Special Award of the Festival Jury for the performance ‘55+’ at 47th Belgrade International Theatre Festival in Belgrade (Serbia)
2014. Best Film Award for the documentary ‘Consumed’ at 12th Liburnia Film Festival, Ičići (Croatia)