Departures and Arrivals



Only mine alone - interview with Igor koruga
Rita Natalio

Igor Koruga (1985) is a Serbian freelance artist working within the field of contemporary dance and choreography. He graduated in MA studies in Anthropology at University of Belgrade and MA studies in Solo/Dance/Authorship, University of Arts and HZT in Berlin. Since 2006 he is an active member of STATION – service for contemporary (Belgrade). In the beginning of April, we had a long Skype talk with Igor, while he was stuck in traffic in a bus back home after work. “Only mine alone” premieres the next 28th of April in Bitef Theater with support from our partner STATION. The work deals with the relationship between emotions and neoliberalism, concretely the “negative” ones, the ones which put you aside from an efficient system of work and production.





RITA NATALIO: Igor, I would like to start by asking you about your work in general. How could you present us your interests and topics of work in previous projects?

IGOR KORUGA: In the last 5 years, my work is related to similar topics and methods of work which wasnt the case before. I realized I am interested in social phenomena - which comes together with my past academic experience in Anthropology - specially in topics like hospitality, temporality as a working condition, public speaking, public visibility of people with rare diseases, negative emotions (like apathy, lethargy, depression) etc. I try to understand how neoliberal society relates to these issues in a particular way, which is the case in my next production Only mine alone, a co-creation with Ana Dubljević artist and choreographer from Belgrade.


RITA NATALIO: In your new project Only mine alone, how do you relate depression to a sociopolitical context? And why were you interested in this issue? 

IGOR KORUGA: This project is not only about depression, it is focused on various emotions that are marked in our society as negativeand undesirable. I believe that these emotions are classified as negative because they provoke in individuals the impossibility to functionaccording to the standards of production and efficiency of our society. But the motivation for this project came from a professional and personal experience. In November 2014 I suffered from a major burn-out which was caused by a very intense and nomadic life I had to live due to my professional status of young emerging artist. At that time, I had to change location for several weeks and to engage in all sorts of artistic projects in order to survive in the Western Europe art market. When I got ill, I had to accept the fact that I was not funcional.

This experience was central to start this project. But I was also very much influenced by the book Depression - a public feelingby Ann Cvetkovich. From there, me and Ana Dubljević extracted the idea that depression should not be perceived only as a medical condition, but also as a sociocultural and economical symptom. If neoliberalism demands a strong, efficient, successful, competitive, self-realised and individual approach to life, where one should not show its flaws, the treatment of burnouts and depression, within our well developed Western therapeutic culture, follows the same values. This kind pathologies are perceived as private individual problems. Its not by chance that neoliberal economics and social policies are characterized by the shrinking of the public sphere. Affective life bears a big burden as the State neglects its responsibility for social welfare. Thus, our affective life is confined to the idea of a "privatized" family and the medicalization of depression is a consequence from that.

Last but not least, this project aims to work from the position of the Balkans, where we dont have a fully developed capitalist society, compared with the US, Germany, Britain etc. As neoliberal economy is developed here, many citizens in Serbia live in a situation of reflexive impotence (Fisher) - they capable to diagnose the difficult conditions they live in but thay are not motivated to change anything. On top of that, Serbia already had a bad experience with the idea of change, strongly present fifteen years ago (at the time of major political changes against the Regime), which was (and still is) politically misused, leaving citizens with false and unfulfilled promises. Thus, the motivation for political change in Serbia remains melancholic, rather than revolutionary.

In such context, there is a good sentence from Ann Cvetkovich I would like to quote: If we manage to get to know each other through our depressions, then maybe we could use it for generating new models of socialities that will lead us, not only towards the exit from our impasses (dead ends) but also help us to understand the impasse as a state with a productive potential. Perhaps the reparative potential for any revolution within capitalism today lies in the act of openly saying to each other  how do we feel and hearing and accepting those feelings. We have to admit we possess different physical, emotional and social powers and should be able to communicate our needs and take care of each other, even if we actually dont know each other (Butler). Nowadays, it is impossible to think social changes and build a new world, without firstly re-building our interpersonal relations, and therefore ourselves.


RITA NATALIO: Artistically speaking, how do you translate your ideas toa dance performance? What are your methodologies of work?

IGOR KORUGA: I am interested in the idea of language choreographyand to apply choreography to other levels of reality, not only to the body. I try to follow a critical analytical perspective of social phenomena and I use choreography and dance as tools to enhance this perspective. Artistically speaking, when starting a new production, I read a lot of theory but then I try to analyze the topics of my interest through creative writing. Then, I add to this layer of poetic writing a work with the body and the conditions of the body related to the issue I am working on, and that can be merged with writing. I tend to create different situations to the audience, where the topic becomes the core of the action. For instance, right now, in my new work, I am fighting to express the idea that negative emotions like depression are part of a cultural and social structure, it is a consequence of the situation we are living within neoliberalism. In that sense, if we realize this collectively we can maybe start to take care of each other, consider how do we feel and what can we do about it collectively.


RITA NATALIO: And how is your life in Serbia, considering your experience in other European countries?

IGOR KORUGA: In Serbia, I am often related to other countries in the Balkans too, which implies a certain distance from the dance market in Western Europe. This is sometimes relieving because such market requires you to fight continuously for your existence and visibility, which is exhausting. But off course Serbia is not exactly an easy floor, due to its unstable economy and political structure. In this sense, the existence of networks like DNA and regional networks is very important because they are exceptional tools to produce and present ones work. Also, I am member of Station for 10 years. I developed myself as a dancer inside Station when I was very young. Right now, I am part of the organization team and together with other artists and the production team, we try to build a common ground and act together. That is quite empowering and gives me hope that we can collectively help and take care for each other, professionally and personally.