She is young, creative, driven and always willing to challenge herself.
Her work has been presented in Greece and elsewhere and it has been part of important Greek and international festivals, the most recent one being the Festival of Athens and Epidaurus.
Her inner need for collaboration with artists from all over the world and in order for her to explore new pathways of thinking and experimenting, led Sofia Mavragani to create five years ago the experimental performing arts project ‘playforPlace’, an open platform for artistic interaction.
‘PlayforPLACE’ is an innovative program, both artistic and educational. It has been presented in 14 cities in Europe, Latin America and Oceania as well. This coming September it visited Portugal and Spain, whilst on December it ‘lands’ to South Africa. Due to its multinational character, ‘playforPLACE’ adopts local elements from every city and this puts it in a continuous procedure of progress and artistic enrichment.
Sofia Mavragani, the artist who travels with her work, literally and metaphorically, talks to Greek City Times about ‘playforPLACE’ and for the basic concept that this discusses, the concept of play.
“The rules and the restrictions are necessary elements of the play, whilst at the same time playing means freedom. We must say, that in this contrast, its magic is hidden,” Sofia points out.
What does the concept of ‘play’ mean to you?
It’s a hard question to answer. Since I started focusing on this concept and looking deeper into in, I realised that I know nothing about it and most importantly, it seems that I cannot define it.
What made you create ‘playforPLACE?’ Did you expect this resonance from people worldwide?
‘PlayforPLACE’ was created by my need to work with other artists, to explore new artistic pathways and to expand my knowledge and my practice in the performing arts sector. The resonance that this work accepts is the result of my continuous work and of the persistence I had on this idea. The funny thing is, though, that even five years later, I still feel that I am at the beginning of it.
Johan Huizinga, the Dutch historian, has said that one of the characteristics of ‘playing’ is that it is absolutely free, it is not the result of coercion. At the same time, it is something temporary, with limits. So, freedom on the one hand and limits on the other. What is the ‘game’, after all?
A number of rules and restrictions are necessary elements of playing. Playing itself, though, can be extremely liberating. I think that its magic is hidden in this paradox. I must say that what concerns me a lot is the concept of the ‘player’. No game can be the same with others, as no one knows how the player is going to respond, to move. Not even the player himself.
You have developed a platform of research and artistic exchange. An interaction process that ‘travels’ with you in many cities of the world. On what level does the viewer interact with the performer?
Every time that ‘playforPLACE’ is presented somewhere, a local game is formed, with new characteristics and rules. As expected, every time the viewer interacts differently with the performer and the result is the creation of playful interactions. The important thing here is that all parts of the ‘game’ are free to decide if and how they want to interact, as nothing is imposed.
What are you seeking through this ‘encounter’ and what do you personally receive from this procedure?
I want every ‘encounter’ to be a new challenge. I try not to repeat myself and to remain open to the various stimuli of every place I visit and of every resident I meet. Every time, ‘playforPLACE’ evolves me in an extent that I couldn’t even imagine beforehand.
How is this ‘trip’, which can be interpreted literally and metaphorically, influenced by the various conditions of the social and political reality of every country? Does ‘playforPLACE’ get re- shaped every time?
Like I have already mentioned, the basic aim of this program is to explore the local characteristics and to create original performing plays based on them. Therefore, the conditions of each city are the ones that shape the content of the procedure and lead its development.
What is the purpose of ‘playing’? To bring us closer to each other and to redefine ourselves and the world around us?
For me, ‘playing’ is an open field. It can be a pleasant procedure, but at the same time, it can be harsh and violent. Learning things for yourself depends strongly on you, like any other kind of experience.
Plato, the philosopher in Classical Greece, says at his dialogue ‘The Laws’ that ‘one must live his life as a game’. Do you agree with this placement?
How could I disagree?
Huizinga has also said that ‘playing is a core human function and it is an integral part of all civilisations, since their birth’. There would be no culture, no civilisation without the ‘game’, the ‘playing’?
Huizinga develops a very interesting theory concerning the relationship between ‘playing’ and civilization, which finds me in accordance in general terms. Nevertheless, it is difficult and complicated to say that civilisation would not exist without ‘playing’.
Is ‘playforPLACE’ based on improvisation, as well? I take that as a challenge. Improvisation demands a level of self management.
I believe that there is a huge connection between improvisation and playing and between the player and the performer. This is exactly the relationship I am now trying to study and evolve and that is the side stream aim of the whole program.
What is the most intense feeling that you have experienced in a ‘playforPLACE’?
Feelings are every time so different and so unique, that it is hard for me to pick just one. I think that the strongest feeling of all is the connection with people and the fact that every ‘encounter’ is so unpredictable!
*playforCAPETOWN / December 2016 (Dates TBC)-
In collaboration with Lusanda Gwayi, founding member of Dream Factory Foundation.