TV: We would like to talk to you about your new piece “The Pin”…
Samir Akika: I was afraid you would ask about the next one!
TV: Oh! (laughs) No no, just the current one. For those who haven’t had the chance to see it yet, can you tell us what it is about? What are the main ideas?
Samir Akika: In this case, if we want to talk about THE PIN, what you need to know is, that I am obsessed with golf, and I am really sad, that I didn’t get to know golf earlier in my life. Since, let’s say five years, I’m doing my best to organize my life in a way that I can save as much time as I can to practice. When I was young and full of dreams and ambition, I had a phase where I wanted to be a football player, then a basketball player, and I was quite successful. It’s been a long journey until I met dance. But what I want to say is, that I always was a very passionate guy. When I started to dance, I put all my energy into improving myself. Every weekend I hitchhiked to places where I could take classes from other or better teachers or do a workshop that I thought I couldn’t miss, or to see an important show. Basically, I am a fighter. For five years now my passion is golf. From Thursday to Sunday I watch golf; it starts at 7 until 11 or midnight. I watch the tournaments online and wherever I can find them. The only books I have are about golf. When I play a video game it’s about golf. I try to get the whole idea. During the summer I would play all day long. I was talking about this new passion, and that’s how the idea of trying to be good at something came up. It was a long answer, but that’s what the piece is about. It’s about this quest, all these doubts, all these ‘parcours’ that one has to achieve, the patience you have to have, the investigation, you need to do if you are lost and then maybe need to switch goals.
TV: Your initial inspiration for this piece was your passion for golf then? How did you manage to develop the piece with your company in the end?
Samir Akika: We were three or four of us and we talked a little bit about the topic, and we did a small installation. In our studio, it was a bit like in a museum, we had different installations like lights, some kind of sculpture, videos, some performance bits. I was swinging some golf balls, and I was telling them what I feel, when I do that. I went on purpose a little bit technical about golf, so they could see how artistic and how self-centered I am when I play to inspire them. This is how we started. Maybe two days after we started, or in the first week at last, they all had to do their own performance. It was great. Each of them came up with something that was about half an hour long. After about half the time, four weeks maybe, they all had to invent the ‘challenge of the day’. That’s how I call it. Just to put us in the situation where you have to overcome a challenge. I don’t think any of it is in the piece, but it put us in a discussion.
TV: As THE PIN is about mastery, is this something you strive after?
Samir Akika: I don’t know. I am always scared to do a new piece. It is difficult to find a good, relevant topic and there is always pressure. I try to deal with big topics. But I don’t approach the real stuff about society because I don’t want to be too naïve about it. I am very into politics but I do not use it in my pieces. Because… we are artists, what the fuck do we know about the world?! So, in the beginning I come up with something really basic like ‘what could be next? What could happen next?’ That’s all I have. I don’t know, I want to be surprised. For me it’s a quest, the further it is, the more exciting it is. If you don’t have this far goal… But some people are fine with what they have and they don’t need more. I envy them sometimes, because in a way they are settled and happy and have a good balance, and some other people, a lot of actors for example, they need this adrenalin to go on stage, it’s like kind of a drug.
TV: So the idea to always be better than the last time is…
Samir Akika: It’s the approach that one has, otherwise you are probably not an artist anymore. You can get older, and physically you won’t be able to do the same things. It is really hard to say, when you should stop, when it’s time to retire as an artist. It depends on what you are doing on stage I would say. Sometimes it is sad to see an idol, or somebody that influenced many people get older. That person tries to stay fit no matter what, but it’s not the same. It’s a bit sad that this person is trapped in this image of him or herself as an artist.
TV: This is your first contract at a City Theatre. Did things change in the way you are working?
Samir Akika: Before I worked here in Bremen – I worked with the Goethe-Institute, so I used to do a project in Germany and a project with the Goethe Institute in a different country. I went to Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Siberia, Nigeria, South Africa, Syria, Yemen, Turkey, Colombia, Cuba and so on. A lot of those countries were dictatorships. It’s another world; the people struggle with different things, they have different dreams and desires than I do. That is very inspiring. The way I work is that I believe in everyone and give them the opportunity to put it all out. You feel you make a revolution just by using their tradition. And they feel proud – or not proud because I am against nationalism, this is one of the things I hate most in life – but I make them proud in the sense that they don’t have to look up to the West. I show them everything they have and that they can just do it!
Also, before I came here, I used to do everything myself. In the life that we used to know, we would load the truck, store the shit, wash the costumes, buy everything, make food, organize the bedrooms, clean everything, do the calculations, pay the taxes, all this stuff. Now when I come in everything is ready, I don’t have to organize anything. I can just tell them: ‘Ah, this not on the protocol, this is not right’ (laughs). It’s a real luxury, but the pressure is also really hardcore. My new piece is starting on January 9th. And everybody is asking me, everybody is nervous about it. But I am not a machine. And I would love it if there were no expectations, but this is not Disneyworld. The intendant has responsibilities, he gives me my salary and everybody else involved gets paid, so a product has to come. If I want to do something I can not just do it, I have to follow a certain structure. It’s normal that there is a system, I understand that, because this house is doing many things and there are a lot of responsibilities. From today until next winter I know what I am supposed to do each day. When I open my iPod and look on my calendar, I know where I have to be…this is strange for me. Before, I was more like a free bird, a free guy and I was very happy. So this is a new experience for me…
TV: Do you think this pressure that you are having right now is pushing you forward or is it working against you? In our society there often is this mindset that you have to push yourself…
Samir Akika: I don’t want to die for art, you know. I don’t want to have cancer or burnout or stress bullshit or depression; I don’t want to fall into this stuff. What I can tell you is that I am super-proud about everything we do. I think it is great and I think it’s a shame we do not tour; it’s a shame that nobody sees it except the people in Bremen.
TV: Do you believe in destiny or fate?
S: I don’t celebrate birthdays and I don’t want to know my future. I’m a very naïve guy and I want to believe that nothing is written. If I want to achieve something it’s just a matter of luck and dedication. I’ve always been like this. Nobody can tell me that I failed, that I didn’t make it, because I tried. What happens then is that you get strong, you get self-confident. So, I don’t know about destiny, but I have been generous all my life, and I guess that’s why life has been generous to me. I don’t know if that’s destiny. This is actually my trick. My trick is love. I really care. You have to do what you want, because it’s terrible to have regrets.
TV: So you still think anything is possible… I heard now you’d like to become a professional golf player?
Samir Akika: Deep inside, I know I will never make it. I would have to move somewhere where it’s warm to be able to practice all the time. I won’t make it.
TV: So what’s your goal in golfing? Or is it just a hobby?
Samir Akika: Whenever I can I practice and I do my best. Somewhere in my mind is a voice that says ‘you can do it’, but I know I can’t. I know you think golf is some kind of elitist sport but that is not what I am interested in. Golf has many aspects that people don’t know about. They only know the cliché that it is for the rich and arrogant, and for business people maybe. They think it destroys the nature. I know all this, but there are different ways to approach it. It’s a beauty, and it’s one of the sports you can still do when you are 60, and you can still win the Masters. There are many ways to play the game. It’s a bit like a chess game, actually. You play against yourself, against the course, and eventually against the other golf players. When I play alone I play mostly against myself. On a good day I play eventually with or against nature and the course. The course is what reminds me of the chess play. If you are too arrogant and you don’t concentrate, then you might hit the ball into the water. Sometimes you have to accept your limits and get a penalty stroke. This is what golf is all about; learning to accept your limits. Playing golf makes you humble and this is a necessary quality to be good at golfing. That’s one of the most beautiful things about golf; the better you get, the more humble you become and vice versa. All the good players are humble guys. In a lot of sports you see people insulting each other, but in golf you would never do that. At first I thought it was fake, those people were hiding their real feelings, but it is real.
TV: Thank you very much for meeting with us!
Samir Akika: No, no. Thank you!
Das Interview führten Sharon Strato und Simone Ehlen