love and peace with the deadly disease

TUMOR – carcinogenic romance. How can we love something that threatens our life? Interview with Nela H. Kornetová (performer+ artisitc leader of the collective T.I.T.S.) and Dagmar Radová (dramaturg of TUMOR, otherwise at an theatre in Prag) about the work-in-progress on their new piece about cancer.

What do you do and how did you two meet and started working together?

Nela: I did many different things before. In my own work with T.I.T.S.- it’s always atmospheric pieces between play, choreography and sound. We could call it hybrid performances, that are formally never really clean, and the form always changes according the topic. Dagmar and I met at JAMU university in Czech, becoming friends and interested in each other both personally and professionally – that’s how our collaboration started. In 2015 we developed together a performance: My own private picture, about media and our desires that explored the perception of porn in our society. Now we just started to work on the concept for our new piece: Tumor, carcinogenic romance. In this residency two other colleagues will join us later: Jan Husták as video artist and Lærke Grøntved as my co-performer.terrace

work-life-balance in the work-in-progress

How do you select the topics for your performances? Do they outgrow a personal interest?

Nela: It’s definitely always starting with a very personal interest and being super curious about the topic. You could say that a cancer is a very present topic for everyone, I guess. In my case, a couple of family members died because of cancer. It’s all around us – kind of every family has to face this illness. It is an illness of our time. We plan to use our personal experiences and the ones of people that we met. But at the same time we do not want to make it sentimental – that’s really important for us. What is interesting is that even though everybody is touched by it somehow, it’s not so common to talk about this disease.

Dada: What interests me as well, is that cancer is something normal, but anyway, you can’t talk about it normally. You only talk about it in a medical context – and it’s not so often from the perspective of the individuum and how cancer has an influence on it’s own personal life. The psychological view on this is interesting and important as well, what happens to your environment and with your relationships if you fall ill with cancer or someone of your family does? How do children deal with this disease? Cancer is like really common and present but at the same time still a tabu.

So all this starts with a really personal interest and emotional approach as well. How do you go on? Do you also dive into statistics and specialist literature?

Nela: It’s gonna be a combination. So far, we talked about what we know, what we experienced within our relationships and families. We had one very intense interview with a girl who survived cancer and hope to have more interviews like that. We also read articles and tried to contact oncologic centers, but they are very busy… We really wanna go beyond the medical part of it, yet it is important to know about the statistic information and have it as some kind of base.

Dada: And we also just googled to see what is written in the internet about cancer, what pictures come up and so on… It’s also important to talk to several different people: for example doctors who deal with cancer.

What processes take place in our body during this disease? How can these processes be seen symbolically? Cancer really becomes a part of yourself – it is a part of yourself: everything that happens, happens inside your own body.

 They’ re your own cells that form the cancer in you. And the cancer grows bigger and bigger and takes you completely in it’s stride and you have to deal with this and communicate it… That was often a topic in the interviews, affected asking themselves: Why is it me? What did I do wrong? Why did the cancer chose me? There is always a symbolic language, which is especially suitable for theatre.

Nela: And then we layer it all with romance. There is this psycho-somatic technique where you are supposedly be able to treat different kinds of illnesses by how you treat yourself; your soul, how much you love the things that are inside your body… From this point of view came the idea to approach the topic as a love story. When you fall in love or love comes to you, it totally changes your life and affects your whole being, your whole body – same happens with cancer. We hope that this layer will bring new metaphors and lightness into this otherwise heavy theme. Let’s give our tumor love. Our tumor wants love and attention. This can possibly generate a lot of strange or funny or beautiful images. It will create platform of how we can formally work and play with such serious topic.

artist in residence: Nela Kornetová in the space of Bakelit MAC

Dada: So for now, we just talked a lot about our personal experiences and everything that comes to our mind as well as doing interviews and researching. I started to write some texts and Nela as well, we will see how all these will work together or not. But for us, it’s important to handle with care because cancer is such a delicate topic. At the same time, it is good and necessary to talk about it. The media often uses kitsch to display cancer and for us the romance and a bit of kitsch as well is a means to illustrate this disease.

This is the beginning of this project, how do you feel about having a presentation of your work so far?

Nela: It really is the total beginning, first two weeks on our journey. Our premier is planned in a year from now. We’re worried and excited at the same time. There is so many unknowns. To give a work-in-progress presentation on Thursday is a little bit too early. We have a lot of ideas we would like to test – so to share it at this point in front of an audience feels dangerous, yet exciting. But for me – it’s really the time to start working on the floor, not just in the head.

Dada: Although for me as a dramaturg, the head is the floor where I work!


25.10.2018 – 18:00 – work-in-progress-presentation @ Bakelit Multi Art Center, Budapest


written by: Diana Fischer


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