Pavol Liska

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2013

New York, NY

Pavol Liska began collaborating with Kelly Copper in 1997, and together they founded Nature Theater of Oklahoma in 2006. The company is committed to “making the work they don’t know how to make,” an approach yielding new amalgams of opera, dance, and theatre, combined with popular culture and humor. Their epic Life and Times series—the life story of one 30-something woman revealed over 10 episodes—has transformed a series of meticulously transcribed phone conversations into songs, dances, a murder mystery, and more. The company has been commissioned by theaters and festivals around the world and have received grants from MAP Fund (2013), NEFA National Theater Project (2011), and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (2010), among others. Liska and Copper host OK Radio, a series of free podcasts featuring long-form conversations with artists, curators, and instigators. Their most recent work, a version of the Nibelungenlied, made in site-specific locations and with hundreds of local participants in the rural Rhine-Neckar region of Germany commenced in 2015. A filmed version of these live performance events will premiere in fall 2016.

  • Pavol Liska- “Screen Test No. 7 (Shizuoka)” (2012):
    “Screen Test No. 7 (Shizuoka)” (2012)
  • Photo Credit: Anna Stocher/Burgtheater Wien
    Life and Times—Episode 2 (2010)
  • Pavol Liska- “Breast Fed,” Life and Times—Episode 1 (2009):
    “Breast Fed,” Life and Times—Episode 1 (2009)
  • Pavol Liska- “Admiration of Both Boys” Life and Times—Episode 1 (2009):
    “Admiration of Both Boys” Life and Times—Episode 1 (2009)
  • No Dice (2007)

What are the creative challenges you face as an artist?

I always strive for my work to be socially undismissable. Every day, I fight for what I do to be central to public discourse. However, if I want the world to see my relevance, I myself have to be able to see it first. Unfortunately, it is not always easy. I live in a perpetual existential crisis regarding the meaning and purpose of what I have chosen to do with my life. On a daily basis, I struggle against doubt and futility. There is very little in the world I live in that tells me what I do is important, or that it even matters, and I have a hard time seeing the impact of my work on my environment. The few compliments I receive don’t have enough staying power to convince me it’s necessary to continue. This is my biggest challenge as an artist: to wholeheartedly take myself seriously as an artist, and to take the artist’s role in society seriously. How is it not just me playing in my own private sandbox, by myself, while the rest of the world moves ahead without me?