International Festival of Contemporary Theatre “Homo Novus”
02.09.2013 – 08.09.2013
The performances have been selected arbitrarily, without any programmatic considerations.
The texts have been consciously kept concise, sketching the plot and the context of the performances only as necessary.
On the concept of the face, regarding the son of God (02.09.2013)
The resigned frown of the Son-of-God looks on as actors perform the best-known vision of Adolf Loos’ “Ornament and Crime” (Ornament und Verbrechen, 1910) – the struggle between disciplined cleanliness and scatological pleasure – in all its olfactory glory. And, no matter how many grenades the freshly-educated children throw at it, the frown does not go away, it stays mute. Perhaps its lips are a giant vulva (no women take part in this performance, none are even mentioned), and that is the site of this face’s impossibility – and salvation. Who is (not) whose shepherd – is drowned out by ambient noise.
Hate Radio (03.09.2013)
The undeniable Afro-charm and memorable visual impression make the translation of the lyrics of an “oriental” hate song more shocking than the incredibly cynical contextualisation of Nirvanа’s “Rape Me”. Still, everyone (in the audience) listens to the radio, and pop-music has neither borders, nor frontlines. The argument of all arguments – Adolf Hitler – has also been imported, for a moment making the West appear one-dimensional, flat and stuck in a receding past, where only disasters and sporting events take place in the same time-frame. Meanwhile “genocide” is a word as everyday as the affirmation of a particular narrative of colonialism and its consequences. Despite faultless logic, the hyperrealism of the airtime reconstruction remains in sharp contrast to the other-worldliness of the framed truth in the intro and outro.
Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni (both mentioned in the perofrmance) are current presidents of Rwanda and Uganda respectively; both of these countries are suspected of involvement in the fighting in the Eastern part of Congo DR.
Lost Gardens (04.09.2013)
On the bus to the allotment gardens the urbanely reserved representative of the Riga Free Port puts forward the company view of the situation: based on numbers, facts and acts; rationally, politely, openly. She does not travel till the destination.
Quite like the earlier presentation, one catches Katrīna Neiburga’s video with a delay – this is a bus, not the theatre. The suburban tranquility of the allotment gardens is constantly broken up by “faster, faster” from one of the girls leading the audience from one site of action to the other – and it is not easy to tell, what of the surrounding activity and sounds is staged and what isn't.
The gardens have been demolished, there is no trace of the railroad, the past has passed, the future is uncertain – is it even the point? The specificity of the videos, the documental and verbal message, all details and chronologies dissolve in the therapeutic act of “unartificial” human presence. One assumes, it is mutual.
With a cup of tea and a slice of carrot cake, in a pleasant bedroom a pleasant young man appears from below the sheets, puts on a pleasant music record and in a pleasant manner tells of his suicide attempts, social activism, panic attacks, fragments of relationships, inability to cope with his suffering.
Everything seems so relaxed and free, as though it were not an autobiographical performance, as though it were not the artist’s own life, that is being projected on the wall, the fragments of which are being told in the first person, and as though this same carrot cake were not the last thing he wanted to eat before an attempt to hang himself. It is peculiar indeed – who would have thought that these fleeting moments of happiness are the ones requiring enactment and emphasis, that these are the ones that look somehow “not normal”. And, of course, the author’s presence, the fact of the performance testify that everything still goes on. The yearly cycle of illness.
Prescription: being part of a community (and trusting that the social contract will be upheld) and/or a relationship helps; it also helps if one has a goal; it is important to be able to lock the door; one can hide from people by reading books; knowing one’s diagnosis allows to do something about it.
Night Tripper (06.09.2013)
The audience is taken into the forest (somewhere in Vakarbuļļi), placed in a semicircle; two dancers perform rhythmic, repetitive movements in the centre; sounds are being produced in the background, initially with a growing, then shifting intensity; the night falls.
It soon becomes clear that this is all there is going to be (the performance is to last about an hour). Certainly, duration has a role to play, but it is not the avant-garde duration of sameness/rhythm. It rather refers to an older practice. When this encounters the post-electrification era (the audience is asked to switch off their mobile phones so that their lights (sic!) would not disturb the performance), it becomes obvious, that a certain social contract has broken down here. Not only an outmoded, pre-industrial one, but also – the contract of the calm and alert observation of a performance: around 10-15% of the audience sooner or later start to chatter, leave their seats, play with their mobile phones, applaud nervously in a moment of quiet, or smoke.
The venue is an empty plot of land – smokestacks in the background, noise of machinery from the port, noise of birds from the bushes. The spectators are seated in a single row of chairs, nothing blocks the view on this scene of post-industrial abandon for every one of them (at the same time, it may have felt a bit claustrophobic without a shoulder to each side). The setup puts one in a position of a security guard of sorts, and after a noticeable moment of observation, in the landscape, at distance, a human form appears. Almost by accident. He completes his trajectory, sits down on the ground and runs grey soil through his hands. The simple trajectories acquire an epic scale in this expanse, and the barren land is depressing. Each crossing of them – mostly by want of an other’s property–flesh–life – is enveloped in galactic significance. The actions these people take look puny and futile, sustained communication and cooperation exists only when gathering the corpses (death still makes a pathetic thud here). Meanwhile, the outsider is never accepted into this community, even when the others slaughter each other – she has to retreat into the soil by herself.
(Curiously, this post-industrial trance holds better than the pre-industrial trance of Night Tripper.)
A carefree show with British garb and humour, suitable to the wide and unrestricted (by entrance fee) audience at the Vērmanes Garden open-air stage. But there is an elephant in the china shop here – this staged failure (and success is the very life-blood of juggling and tricks) that grows into a total anarchy on stage, is the element that drives some spectators away (“Quite a party here,” say a group of elderly people in Russian and leave), while it relieves certain others: this is no mere circus.
10 Years for “Operation Iraqi Freedom”! (08.09.2013)
Paradoxically, a central argument in a speech, opening a session of the Parliament that is to vote on the participation of Latvia in the invasion of Iraq, is an allegory (haven't a couple of millennia passed?) – of a citizen, who, seeing a hooligan attack another, perhaps, weaker, citizen, considers his options.
From a wider perspective, it is a debate between, on the one hand, UN’s Responsibility to Protect initiative (formally established already after the invasion of Iraq, yet using very much the same arguments), and vigilante justice on the other. The rhetoric of the speech is hardly breathtaking, at some point it becomes tiresome, rubble crumbles beneath the actress' feet, photos of dismembered bodies attack from the walls (is there such a thing as a just and painless war?). At the end of the day, it is clear that everyone holds the answer in his/her own (voting) hand. The transcription of that day’s vote is being read on record, and it is not easy to determine, which side has gone more astray. Yet the question put forth by this performance could not be more timely, and searching for an answer, perhaps, is more fundamental, than any of the possible answers.