Director Varja Hrvatin
Author of the concept and playscript Varja Hrvatin
Opening night March 2023
The term “ikigai” in Japanese is composed of the words “iki” (life, to live, to be alive) and “kai” or “gai” (value, benefit), which roughly translated means a sense of purpose or a reason for living. In contemporary Japanese culture, and especially in the broadly translated sense, it represents a principle of a motivated life mission, beliefs or values and follows the ideology of individual self-fulfilment. This meaning has been popularised in recent years in Western society as a motivational philosophy of a happy and successful life, as an alternative to the increasingly alienated and individualised Japanese society.
In terms of content, the Ikigai original project explores and enquires the very issue of a happy life – what does it mean today to be happy, what constitutes the notion of happiness, and to what extent is the concept of happiness imposed on us by society. In a society that judges people on the basis of their productivity and social status, in a society that assumes we are beautiful, smiling, sociable, successful, healthy and empathetic, but leaves no room for weakness, loneliness and failure, the project sets out to decode the value of the individual. In the age of new structures and dynamics of existential relationships, new forms of intimacy that are increasingly conditioned by physical distance, digitised communication, service consumerism and the virtualisation of proximity, the project explores different aspects of human relationships and the reasons and situations that inhibit them. What is it that defines our individual success and happiness? Is it partnership, family, career? And what is it that holds us back, personally, socially, economically, politically?
Ikigai is an interactive performance experiment. On a formal level it plays out the potential of gamification of the increasingly popular extreme video-on-demand formats by introducing interactive dramaturgy and virtualised performance processes. These include game shows, reality shows and quiz shows which exploit the primal human desire for self-fulfilment and degrade it to gladiatorial games of survival in competitions and games for various forms of prizes, for the viewer's enjoyment and to fill subscriptions for on-demand platforms. What happens when we leave the fate of two individuals to a game of survival and the vote cast by the audience? How to find and invent new strategies to overcome obstacles to survive?
Ikigai is a game of challenges and strategies conducive to a happy life for the rest of our days.
What defines our individual success and happiness?