Cláudia Dias invites Luca Bellezze
ALL THAT IS SOLID MELTS INTO AIR
Next presentations of Tuesday:
24 jul 2018 /// STUDIO Teatrgaleria, Warsaw, Poland
31 aug, 1-2 sep 2018 /// Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival, Groeningen, The Netherlands
14-16 mar - Dance Fabrik / Brest, FR
Cláudia Dias e José Goulão | 2017
Concept and directed by: Cláudia Dias
Guest artist: Luca Bellezze
Text: Cláudia Dias
Performers: Cláudia Dias e Luca Bellezze
Critical Eye – Seven Years Seven Pieces: Jorge Louraço Figueira
Set and Lights: Thomas Walgrave
Animation: Bruno Canas
Technical Director : Nuno Borda De Água
Coproduction: Maria Matos Teatro Municipal; Teatro Municipal do Porto
Artistic Residencies: Teatro Municipal do Porto/Teatro do Campo Alegre; O Espaço do Tempo, Centro Cultural Juvenil de Santo Amaro – Casa Amarela
Acknowledgments: Ângelo Alves, Anselmo Dias, Ilda Figueiredo, José Goulão, Jorge Cadima, Paulo Costa
The project SEVEN YEARS SEVEN PIECES is supported by Câmara Municipal de Almada
Alkantara – A.C. is funded by: República Portuguesa | Cultura/Direcção-Geral das Artes e Câmara Municipal de Lisboa
TUESDAY – CLÁUDIA DIAS
Like many others of my generation, as I child I was fascinated by Vasco Granja’s TV show, enchanted by the worlds he created with plasticine, cardboard, or a single line.
Thirty-some years later, I evoke that world, namely the work of Osvaldo Cavandoli, for this second installment of the Seven Years Seven Pieces project.
Knowing that a line is the shortest distance between two points, Luca Bellezze and I have chosen this as the starting point for our live cartoon, made with a piece of string. Frame by frame, we build a visual and aural narrative that portrays, in a synthetic fashion, particular aspects of contemporary reality.
At a time when dividing lines, borders, barriers, front lines of conflict, queues and the drama of refugees standing in line to be identified, lines demarcating national waters, and the hard lines of the radical factions of political and religious organizations are the order of the day, we intend to work on a unifying line, able to hold together things that are separate.
by Jorge Louraço Figueira
Carefully follow the lines and strokes of the letters on the page, before they transform into words. I’ll try to do the same. If we both do this, we’ll have time for an exchange of ideas even before the text begins.
The subtitle of this piece is a quotation from The Communist Manifesto, written by Marx and Engels in 1848. The original phrase is in a paragraph about how capitalism destroys what it must in order to perpetuate its profits.
All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
Cláudia Dias’s piece alludes to this destruction, which some people consider creative: the destruction of jobs, the destruction of homes, the destruction of lives, the destruction of the planet. The advantage is that we can see the threads that connect us.
Cláudia and Luca have constructed a visual narrative, using a line to tell the story of a ten-year-old boy, whose grandparents were expelled from Palestine and then from Lebanon, who travels from Syria to Italy. In parallel, they have created a sound narrative, with the noises of this escape. All of this, including Cláudia and Luca’s bodies, is non-verbal, precisely to avoid preconceived ideas. And the text, rather than coming from the mouths of the actors, which would create a false sense of identification with refugees, is projected on the set, in order to underline the distance that separates actors and refugees.
In the centenary of the Russian Revolution, quoting Marx and Engels should be almost vulgar. The theater where the piece will premiere — Maria Matos, in Lisbon — is programming a cycle on utopia, which encompasses the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s book and the commemoration of the 1917 Revolution. It’s an appropriate setting. As can be read in the manifesto, “It is high time that Communists should (…) meet this nursery tale of the Specter of Communism with a manifesto of the party itself.”
So why does it sound so strange — almost provocative — to use this quotation for a dance performance? It’s much better to quote Marx and Engels than, let’s say, Lúcia, Jacinta, and Francisco*. But I bet it’s easier to quote the three shepherd children (whose centenary is also being celebrated this year) in a performance, with our without irony, than Lenin, Trotsky, or Stalin. The quote in the subtitle is more agitprop than dance-theater.
In his study of epic theatre in Brazil in the years leading to and following the 1964 coup, Iná Camargo Costa summarizes and highlights the artistic, cultural, and political relevance of the defeat of agitprop movements in Russia, Germany, UK, and USA, at the hands of Stalinists and Fascists alike. The democratic reach of this theatrical form was more than the elites and bureaucracies could handle. Today, so-called political theater is recognized at international festivals and the formal resources of agitprop and epic theater are used by well-respected artists and groups.
The popular nature of this type of theater and its articulation with political movements are not so clear. Perhaps totalitarianism is not the difficulty today for an artist like Claudia Dias, who wants to change discursive conditions. The difficulty today lies in the normalization of artistic forms occurring in democracies, where performances function as a showcase of cultural commentary without ever entering into contradiction with the mode, media, or median of the prevailing ideology. The same Iná, quoting Walter Benjamin, warns against the risk of political battles becoming another form of merchandise, an object of pleasure rather than the desire for decision. In this showcase of cultural commentary, perhaps the Manifesto quote goes down better with a swig of the coca-cola of Fernando Pessoa’s slogan (primeiro estranha-se, depois entranha-se — roughly, “It’s strange at first, then you can’t get enough”), just like a consumer product. On second thought… Perhaps the phrase “All that is solid melts into air,” taken out of context, can be adopted as an acronym, turning what was a criticism into a motto. Isn’t that what happened with the expression “cultural industries,” coined with a critical connotation, but generalized into a business opportunity?
Words matter, though not always as we expect them to. Cláudia and Luca use string as their working material to draw what they see and make visible the ties that bind us, before words are formed. The important things are on this side of language.
2. Absent-mindedly follow the words on the page, until the words transform into strokes and lines. Perhaps there is space to read something else.
Early this year at Maria Matos, in the context of that cycle on utopia, anthropologist Alexei Yurchak closed a notable conference on the end of the Soviet Union with the following sentence projected on the wall:
Soviet socialism provided a stunning example of how a dynamic, strong, monolithic social system can quite suddenly and unexpectedly implode when the discursive conditions of its own existence are changed.
The first question Yurchak was asked was not directly about the end of the Soviet Union, but about whether there is any similarity with the changes in discursive conditions occurring now and the current moment of world capitalism. What public sphere — the reader can chose another geometric solid if a metaphor with more facets is preferred — exists today? What fields of debate have been formed in recent years, since the explosion of the internet? Who is outside and who is inside the bubble?
I am not writing from inside the revolution, or the dictatorship, or the war. I am not before glasnost or after PREC**, or during the Spanish Civil War. I am writing on the inside of so-called democracy. This is where the performance situates itself.
Inside western democracies, support for austerity in favor of the financial system on the part of right-right, right, center-right, center, center-left, and left parties opened the door to all sorts of segregationist policies. Only the left-left was in opposition. All over the world and every day, millions of people are hounded by inequality, discrimination, and civil war. What is the theme of this performance? At the beginning of this century, refugees, from lands Europeans had until recently colonized and still indirectly subjugated, were prevented from entering the former metropolises. This story has been repeating itself for well over 100 years, and we’ve lost the storyline. Cláudia and Luca attempt to outline this story, finding ways out of the labyrinth of history.
If we were to send a e-mail to Cláudia and Luca each time we came across a news item about the theme they have picked for this performance, not only would their inboxes be full, but the monstrosity of the destruction would become more evident with each passing day. On the day I am writing this, months before you will read it, Hungary has declared that it will detain all recently-arrived immigrants to prevent them from continuing onto other countries in Europe. I don’t want to think about what state things will be in when the end of February arrives, and then the end of March, and so on. Perhaps we should forward all the e-mails to everyone and, by unravelling this ball of thread, find our way back to the source of the facts, going back along the footsteps of political, economic, or environmental refugees, until we find the climate disaster, famine, or war, and at the source of these hells, the moral sins commitment in the South and East of Europe by white European men — mostly them, though not only.
Is all of this connected? If it’s true that we are connected, now more than ever, thanks to new means of transportation and communication, making connections visible with string is perhaps the best step. But how to account for everything, without sounding like a Miss World contestant who has studied her soundbites to exhaustion, until she can repeat them flawlessly before the covetous jury? What is an artist to do? Even a poet should call the firefighters if her house is burning. Afterwards she can write about the fire. More agitprop, please.
* Three shepherd children from Fátima, said to have witnessed several apparitions of the Virgin Mary in 1917.
** A period of the Portuguese transition to democracy which started after a failed right-wing coup d'état on March 11, 1975 and ended after a failed left-wing coup d'état on November 25, 1975.