Participatory Carnivalesque Performance Art

I feel marginally better from my previous foggy state, digging for resources of hope is not an easy task.  It seems I have to dig deeper.  Luckily, I`ve had an August to remember where I have not only documented a rich diversity of women`s perspectives from the GDR (German Democratic Republic) but also seen some incredible performances at the Edinburgh festival-both main and fringe and made connections for further international projects.  So I shouldn`t complain, but the state of UK and its so called services really tries my patience.  Whilst there is so much to tell about these women, they will get the attention they deserve when I can.
At the moment my mind is wondering to the performance art groups that I´ve had the pleasure to see.  The first, although, I have to admit it has been a year that has passed since I saw them live is Fueza Bruta-Brut Force-an appropriate title of how one needs to get through life in contemporary times. Although, like life, there are moments when this sheer brute force gives way to something altogether more serene.  In New York last September my sister-in-law had booked tickets to what had seemed from the outside a hyped up show and a place for punters to spot celebrities, however, I was pleasantly surprised.  This   show in Central NYC union square has been incredibly popular since its opening in 2007 and was in part an attempt to bring theater to the masses.  Instead of having to sit quietly, we stood, walked and danced--yes, danced, through the whole performance.  Actors randomly choose a little bewildered and nervous audience members--which surprisingly happened to be myself and my companion--to unexpectedly crashed a canvas full of feathers over your head that activated you to join a rhythmic dance in union with the actors that wouldn`t go amiss in a Clifford Geertz ethnology of natives going wild.  Whilst we were busy thumping to the beat, behind the scenes a swimming pool constructed from clear plexiglass descended from above us.  Siren like creatures glided and slid through the centimeter deep water only inches from our heads straining to see such spectacular sights.  This focus on spectacle, whilst impressive, has been the source of criticism that the wow factor may be the dominating factor of contemporary theatre.  This is certainly a valid point I thought as I watched the DJ towered above us at the end of the show, encouraging us with great force to dance the night away; I found myself forgetting what the show was supposed to be about and just remembering that swimming pool.  Nevertheless, we need to incorporate both.  We have such technological advancements that enable us to experience more, even Shakespeare used special effects for his plays.  To deny these pleasures, feels like a puritan ignoring Joie de Vivre, but there does need to be an awareness of the spectacle taking over whole meaning.

     One recent production that didn`t fall into this trap was Page Blanche.  that weaves themes of amnesia, language, disappearance and values through a narrative of images split into sections where actors dressed as worker-decorators skilfully paint symbols of disappearing people of our past.  The audience, standing in a public square, usually dominated by busy shoppers rushing to their next purchase are challenged by the actors who are sometimes asking us questions, sometimes sounding like the longing voices of the people they are representing and sometimes inviting us to enjoy a celebration of long hard work by popping champagne and raising a toast--Champagne Socialists indeed, Engels would be proud.  My father and I found ourselves guessing which symbol belonged to which people before we were given the context either through song, text or word--we were never allowed to fall into a state of dazed wonder and rather were given the historical context that perhaps other spectacles have lacked.  There was no shortage of entertainment though and the scenes hurried on hardly before you´d understood what the scene was about, the actor-decorators were ripping down their skilled painted creations and throwing them to the floor.  What a shame! I found myself thinking, I was just looking at that, before I realised that was exactly their point.  Before we had fully understood the rich signs and symbols of a certain group of people, it had been painted over, disappeared onto the next exciting thing, an MTV-like cut making this plentiful culture disappear before our very eyes and be cast aside as waste.
 After the show, all that was left were the actors dutifully reconstructing the stage-rigging that had been altered through performance and one man gathering the screwed-up painted sheets that had been ripped and thrown to the floor by the actors.  Another audience memory who`d been like us, hanging around long after everyone else had gone, catching the last glimpses, somewhat reluctant to leave "Can I have that"? he tentatively asked the stage hand reaching out his hand to black plastic bin bag filled with the painted remnants of the performance.