How can theater make a difference in a society that is trying to come together again after political crises and violent conflicts? Can a common voice be found in times of upheaval? These were the questions addressed by the third international academy for the performing arts EXPERIMENTA SUR. For two weeks, the academy offered artists from 13 Latin American countries a shared space for reflection and collaboration. They joined theater makers from Europe to work on experimental formats. The performance program introduced participative formats and emphasized theater as a social experiment.
Unconventional views of the public space
Director Akira Takayama, who made a name for himself with projects in urban spaces, went to Bogotá from Japan. He addresses political topics in his work, such as the social situation of youth or environmental issues, which directly relate to the living environment in Japanese society. Together with artists from Colombia’s Mapa Teatro, Takayama developed a project in a public area that builds upon the encounter of this concept with everyday reality in Colombia. A report of Akira Takayama and Natasha Tiniacos gives an insight into this project.
In the Colombian National Library, the French artist Fanny de Chaillé showed a Living Library Project of personal stories from different people. She deals with language in her work, focusing particularly on what lies hidden behind turns of phrase and how they can be used. Under the slogan, “If you were a book, what would be your title?” de Chaillé met participants on site, spoke with every single one extensively, and challenged them to become the author of a tale of their choice in the context of their own personal story.
Societal topics as a starting point
Argentine-Spanish author and director Rodrigo García made a guest appearance with three pieces. In his theater work, he broadly examines the daily struggle of each individual for political self-determination. His work is particularly characterized by angry dialogue and the extreme physicality of his productions. Rodrigo García and his ensemble find the origins of their observations in the reality of everyday life and poke a finger in the wounds of social injustice. In a country like Colombia, whose recent history has been marked by violence, García’s drastic theater work is particularly poignant. His work amounts to a wake-up call that is equally alarming and hopeful, because García is looking for nothing less than a “Modus Vivendi,” survival strategies for the present, and possibilities for a peaceful coexistence.
Theater as a collective experience
The works of Brazilian choreographer Lia Rodrigues also appear raw and existentialist. “Pindorama,” as the piece that was performed in Bogotá is called, is the original name of Brazil in the language of the aboriginal people. By using this title, Rodrigues seeks to keep alive the memory of the country’s colonial history. A transparent plastic tarp is spread-out over the entire length of the stage. The audience sites or stands on the edge of this path, which is soon transformed into the raging Amazonas. Rodrigues addressed questions of the collective in this piece and even let it turn into a collective experience. The choreographer is also known for her social engagement: years ago she moved the rehearsal center of her company to the Maré, one of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. She sees her cultural center as a public place, and the residents of the favela can take part in free dance courses or conduct political meetings.
Choreography as a social exercise
Berlin-based artists deufert&plischke put what contemporary choreography can be up for discussion with their participatory choreographies. Their performances, which take place in museums, theaters, and sometimes on the street, are always an invitation to participate and get involved. With “InsTanzen,” they turned the entire performance over to audiences in Bogotá. The choreography was a collective process generated from an initial set of suggested basic movements. This turns choreography into a social activity that is not determined by aesthetic principles but by existential or philosophical concepts.
Encounters on the continent
All of the visiting artists worked together in labs with artists from Colombia and other South American countries at EXPERIMENTA SUR 2015. Discussions, presentations, and encounters with the local scene intensified the program. Spanish theater scholar José Antonio Sanchez and philosopher Peter Pál Pelbart from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo enriched the working processes with theoretical input. A summary of the entire program can be found at: www.experimentasur.com
Stipends for young artists
The Goethe-Institut once again awarded stipends for participation in EXPERIMENTA SUR for artists from South America. (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, and Venezuela)