What happens if a poster for a theatrical performance stirs up controversy and society finds it unacceptable? The poster for Rodáci [The Natives], a play presented at the Slovak National Theatre [SND], is a good example. We live in a country that does not accept a poster that shows our reality. We only accept what we want to see, and that is the main problem.
The play is up-to-date and authentic, due to the range of themes that reflect the many social controversies existing in Slovak society. The whole story takes place in the gym of a primary school in a small village. The actors play characters such as an alcoholic, a conspirator, a gold digger, a liberal artist, a fascist, a career politician, and a gay couple. People from various parts of Slovakia meet on stage, bringing their different mindsets and political beliefs. What happens in such a situation where personalities and opinions clash? All is revealed in this dramatic theatrical play.
One of the authors of the poster is graphic designer Barbora Šajgalíková, who created several visuals for SND. Ivana Šateková is the author of the embroidered illustrations on the poster, from her series of embroideries called Hore hajl, dolu hajl[Up Heil, Down Heil], in which she reflects on the nature of our society and searches for a new form of contemporary folklore.
What is interesting about this poster is the backstory. The billboard companies had a problem with the content of the visuals and refused to display the poster because of the illustrations it contains — a girl holding a banner containing forbidden symbols like a swastika and a hammer and sickle. There is also a male character on the poster who is doing the nazi salute. The statement given by the theatre was that in any case the poster doesn’t support or promote nazism, totalitarian regimes or groups suppressing basic human rights and freedoms. The theatre spokesperson said that the SND is fully responsible for the content of the imagery, which only reflects the current situation in society. However, the billboard companies were not convinced.
First of all, we must realise the difference between promotional material that supports fascism, nazism or a totalitarian regime, and artwork that draws attention to such a presence in our society. Art has always mirrored the times, so why isn’t it accepted in this case as well?
Nowadays, I think some people are not able to tolerate different opinions or minorities that are unknown to them. The fact is that we only accept our national roots and will not accept anything new that offers us a new perspective. What are we so terribly afraid of? Our national identity is incapable of self-reflection and of acknowledging opinions other than our own. Who exactly are we as a nation?