Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Wow. The show went just brilliantly well.

Here is what it's all about:

1. Concept. An intimate space in the middle of a busy city. Street art as a space for communication : a stage. Theater in the most unlikely place. But not quite street theater. Not in the sense of puppets and circus acts.

2. Inside. Stories of the homeless. Actual stories, told without any pathetic tones, no moralizing or tear-jerking. The lives, tastes, loves, sleeping choices and favorite football team, of those we avoid most. A confrontation with difference - a private meeting with a stranger.

3. Realization. Five 2,5-meter-long egg-shaped, hallow forms with two holes on the bottom. Ten chairs.

4. Material. Scotch tape. At least 95% of the "performative helmets" were made with transparent scotch tape. Some also had a little resin and 2-3 layers of transparent film. The holes and the tips were reinforced with wire.

5. Experience. It's night. People go out to have a few drinks. As you approach one of the city's busier squares, on it you see several strange, large shapes that look like sculptures. There are people gathered around it. You come closer and notice there are legs sticking out underneath the sculptures. Actually, those are two people sitting with this thing on their head. Bewildered, you approach one of the production people. S/he says: "This is a performance that's part of the FATAL academic theater festival. One of the people inside is a performer and the other is a spectator. If you wait a little, you can try it. It lasts about 5 to 10 minutes and is free." You wait, then sit on the spectator's chair. The helmet is put on your head. You are isolated from the rest of the world. The sound changes completely - it hushes. But also visually, you have nowhere to run - all you see is the face of a young person. A head completely cut away from the rest - including the body. The person looks at you. S/he starts talking. You have been told to remain silent, so you just enjoy the ride. She talks in the first person, telling you about how she ended up on the street, who his parents were, and why the bakery window is the best place to spend the night. She speaks calmly, with no rush. It doesn't really sound like a theater monologue, but more like just someone telling his story.

6. Joker. The joker is another type of experience in the performative helmet. What you hear, then, is not a story. The performer describes a face. She speaks as if she were describing her own face. But after a while you realize she is actually describing your own face. Neutrally, without judging. Simply telling you exactly how your face looks to her.

The performance went on for three nights, between 11PM and 2AM. We had spectators non stop, often with big lines of people waiting. The performers gave their individual performances about 250 times, which was the maximum they could. Nearly a thousand people stopped to watch the performance as an installation and read the flyer we gave them (many more were watching from across the street). 90% of the "inside" spectators came out very impressed and enthusiastic about the project (needless to say some of them are theater-goers, but many others would never consider going to theater). Many people waited in all the lines to go through all of the performative helmets, since the story was different in each of them. There were a lot of smiling faces. There were tears. A young homeless punk who first wanted to ridicule the event, after hearing two stories asked one of the perfomers if they could change sides - which they did, and the punk told her life story. She asked the perfomer to keep the story as a secret between them.
Now, we are all exhausted. It was very intensive, with nearly none production support.
But this was so good, it would be a pity too keep it at that. If you know of any festivals/venues that could be interested in this work, let me know. We are now preparing a "festival package", in English, possibly with local performers, street-level research and acting and sculpting workshops.

Me and Performaria co-director Verónica Fernandes next to one of the performative helmets. Inside of it, the person to the right is performing, the one to the left - watching.

photos by José Miguel Soares


Hans said...

Very cool ideas and realization.
For me, they look like some of Dali's weird Baguettes, and walking ;-)!
The Themes of the Monologues could be easily changed, like some recent lies of some of the politicians. What happened, when one or the other did not like the confrontation with the performer. Did they interrupt the sessions? Could bystanders hear it as well or only the customer inside ?

Anonymous said...

bardzo spodobala mi sie wasza instalacja. szkoda, ze jest w lisbonie i w najblizszym czasie nie bede miala szansy wziac w niej udzialu. naprawde piekny pomysl.

Anonymous said...

No really, this is a John Bock wanna be thing! He has done the same exact idea over and over. Mein Gott. Travel? You really have the nerve. Maybe you should try Dokumenta. John Bock has sold his idea there, maybe you can sell to them also your idea since it is the same. (AHAH, sarkasm laugh).

vvoi said...

hans, thanks for the comment. (anula, thank you for the kind words as well!)
to answer hans's questions:
- whenever you wanted, you could start lifting your part of the "helmet" and there was a production assistant to help you. so if you didn't like it, you could lift it at any time and leave. it didn't happen even once, though, and we've had some apparently very controversial spectators (groups of young people going out to party...). they really came out fascinated and convinced their reluctant friends to try! the perfomer could also stop at any time, if he didn't feel comfortable. from what i know, they never did it, though. only after one hour or so, a break between "sessions".
- bystanders couldn't understand anything, although they could hear that someone was talking if they put their ear close to the "helmet" (it isolates surprizingly well). a big part of the intimacy was the feeling of protection - you were really to yourselves.

Anonymous said...

I regret not beeing able to see it! As it seems to me the project goes along with Wodiczko way of thinking about art in public space,but with more intimacy. The art and the life are separated words linking together with a kind of a secret.

vvoi said...

dear john.
i will only write this once. not only are you wrong, but, above all, you write in a very unpleasant manner. i do not appreciate this and seem no reason for it.
as for your meritoric question.
john bock seems to have been doing things that are so very much in another world, i can hardly think of any relation at all. here is why:

1. aesthetically, his objects are chaotic, colorful, often aggressive, playful, child-like, self-ironic. the objects in our show were pure, monochromatic/translucid, formal, self-contained. his sculptural references seem to be close to a sarah lucas or david altmejd or even a paul mccarthy (and many more anarchist ones i can't think of right now). mine, here, are maybe vanessa beecroft's vb47, some of ernesto neto's works. it couldn't be further away.
(for comparison at the documenta you are probably refering to, see http://www.documenta12.de/archiv/d11/data/english/artists/bock/images/dandy.jpg)

2. on the level of performance, it is not enough to say that someone makes works that include sculpture and performance to associate the two. bock's performances are half-crazy lectures that play with the idea of "scientific" work. there is an excellent portuguese artist called patricia portela that also makes some works with pseudo-scientific sculpture-performance, but that doesn't mean she makes the same stuff as him! how ridiculous! do take the time to read what i've written. the attitude towards the spectator is different, the methodology seems different, the atmosphere is different and the world we create is just so far from bock's, it really takes a lot of effort to consider him part of the same category! for comparison see bock's dokumenta performance here: http://www.documenta12.de/archiv/d11/data/english/index.html

3. as for trying dokumenta, thank you, that's a great idea.

4. if you intend to comment here - your welcome. but please, change your attitude.

Anonymous said...

This sounds great. You should try La Nuit Blanche here
If you are interested, let me know.

Anonymous said...

I have been following your blog, and thought maybe you wanna check something from Porto, related to art
and from there on and on

vvoi said...

litcha, thanks for the links! i have recently discovered the first one, but didn't know the others.

Anonymous said...

Documenta12 is an exclusive art institution. Will Random Screendust exhibit at Documenta? Random Screendust: "There is no Documenta12+. Free art thrives in the Internet". The Documenta had already started: www.screendust.com


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