10 September 2010

De-sacralising’ Spectacle

De-sacralising’ Spectacle

Samantha Daly

Burkinabé Filibert Tologo
in “The Making of Spectacles”
by Swiss choreographer Foofwa d'Imobilité
Picture by Cedric Vincensini
Last evening JOMBA! hosted Swiss choreographer, Foofwa d’Imobilité with his The Making of Spectacles (2008) . It directly involves the audience in the creation of the performance, which, Foofwa explains, serves as a way “to look at the psychology of spectator expectations, aesthetic desires, and participation in the making of a work of art... [And] ‘De-sacralising’ the grandeur of the spectacle”.

In this way then, the piece aims to deconstruct the notion of the ‘spectacle’ by involving the audience in the creation thereof.

The work, described by the choreographer as “the social collaboration needed to start changing the world”, begins very informally, with Foofwa greeting the audience directly, and chatting to them as though he were an old, familiar friend.

We then get introduced (equally as informally) to each of the performers, and the technical crew too. One can’t help but be struck by the performance’s strong Brechtian element. Not only do the performers speak directly to the audience, but they do so dressed in rehearsal attire (tracksuit pants and vests), while warming up in front of the audience. The lighting and technical equipment is also placed on stage, in full view of the audience. These, I believe, are conscious choices which support Foofwa d’Imobilité’s attempt to deconstruct and ‘de-sacralise’ the notion of spectacle.

The Making of Spectacles, is an unorthodox mix of dance and choreography, mime, theatrical action (mostly melodramatic and comic) and social commentary. The premise of the piece is the inclusion of the audience in choosing, through voting democratically, their preferred option for the various performance elements, including the choreography and theme thereof; theatrical action, costume and music.

Mid-way through the performance, the performance is ‘paused’, and the audience is asked for their assessment, making alterations if necessary. This was the case last night, as some audience members felt the original choice of music was unsuitable, and opted for a different style. While it is difficult to say whether this was for better or worse, it did give the piece a significantly different tone, which allowed the performers to explore the performance and their choreography in a different way.

The options for theme of the choreography presented to the audience included ‘The Fabrication of Visions’ (dedicated to the unseen), ‘The Fabrication of Artifices’ (dedicated to society) and ‘The Fabrication of Desires’ (dedicated to the global economy). The audience chose the latter, while the “White Sugar Collection” trumped “The Plastic Fantastic” and “Aircastle Collection” for preferred costume choice. The audience voted for ‘the previous show’s lights’ (Moving into Dance Mophatong’s Threads) for the lighting design, and “the T.V. on the balcony’” emerged as the winner for music choice (which was later changed to “spring”). The title for the show then, based on the audiences’ choices became “Previous Desires of the Balcony in Sugar’.

While I have to commend the choreographer and the dancers on their noble attempt to deconstruct the notion of the spectacle, and their brilliant improvisational skills on stage, I have to admit I found the work somewhat tedious and monotonous at times. While I thoroughly enjoyed the audience participation and unorthodox manner of performance, I feel somewhere along the line, the piece fails to captivate the audience entirely, making them bored, restless and frustrated. Not to detract from the brave and exceptional display of talent, charisma and technique of each performer, I feel if the piece was shorter, less fragmented and abstract, it would make for easier viewing.  

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