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The Paradox of Josef Nadj

Text & Photo: Roksolana Chernoba

Josef Nadj was born into the family of a Hungarian artisan in the town of Kanjiza, former Yugoslavia, in 1958. He studied philosophy and martial arts at the University of Budapest. In 1980, he moved to France where he studied under the world’s greatest mime Marcel Marceau. Nadj has been performing with his own company, Theatre Jel, since 1986. He has regularly participated in the Avignon Festival since 1992. In 1995, Nadj was offered and accepted the post of artistic director of the National Center for Choreography at Orleans. Ever since, every production brought by Nadj to Russia has been described as one of that year’s theatrical landmarks.

In 2006, Nadj was the artistic director of the Festival d’Avignon.

In Russia, Nadj's talent and charisma may easily start a wave of “Nadj-mania”. If we at DE I were to take the liberty of defining Nadj’s art in a handful of words, we would have to choose between “virtuoso of farce” and “doctor of the philosophy of movement.”

Josef Nadj on his philosophy, freedom, artistic quest, fellow artists, and the state of the arts in the world.

- I am interested in synthesis, an interaction of arts. There is no real hierarchy, but music still comes first. As in music in a very broad sense. For example, the music of thought. Then there is the theater space in all of its forms: play, masks, dance, movement, the sum total of techniques. The third is the art of the individual. All of this is united by a single thought that the other components revolve around.

- My philosophy is an attempt to connect various languages and create a new, more complex language. The three key ingredients are sound, movement, and image. It is important to express an idea through all of these elements at the same time.

- I am looking for a paradox based on the clash of the modern individual living here and now, and the archaic, primeval human being who I attempt to awaken in an actor.

- I fight for my freedom; I want to let a variety of ideas into my life so they will come in like sunrays, from every possible direction.

- If I only spent time with artists, I would be a nervous wreck. As you know, most of them are self-absorbed and are not interested in others’ emotions. There are many people around me who have nothing to do with arts and I find it important since they have an entirely different perspective of the world.

- The very concept of absolute freedom is an illusion. Freedom is a relative notion. I am always free, free in my thoughts and no one can take that freedom away. Then comes the difficult part. One needs to express this freedom. When I understand I cannot express an idea in ways that I am used to, I look for another way. For example, I may draw it on a piece of paper. There is space everywhere; one just needs to organize it. This freedom does not depend on material. It is wrong to say you cannot express something because there are no means for it. You can always express yourself somehow, because at first, this takes place at the intellectual level.

- Modern dance lags behind not just in Russia but also everywhere in the world. It is so because in those countries, unlike in France where modern arts have flourished for over forty years, the economic opportunities for promoting arts are missing.

- My travels through Russia have left me with an unpleasant impression of certain instability in the air… You can feel that the door may close at any time. There is no certainty as to what will happy next.

- I appreciate something that makes you wonder. The ability to be amazed helps discover the world in its most surprising colors. This is what I call creativity.

© DE I / DESILLUSIONIST #-1.  “The Paradox of Josef Nadj”

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