Reports

Furious, traumatised, confused

Gipca

PROGRAMME G. A component of the GIPCA Live Art Festival, 27 August – 7 September 2014, Cape Town City Hall and UCT’s Hiddingh Campus.

STEYN DU TOIT

It’s been an eventful first few days at the GIPCA Live Art Festival. Curated by Jay Pather, the line-up this year consists of 39 presentations/performances deliberately created to evoke some kind of response from audiences. Furious, traumatised, confused, disgusted, irritated or stumped; anything goes other than warm and fuzzy.

Grouped under umbrella themes such as Body and Mortality, Femininities, Republic, The Abject Object and The Periphery as Threshold, the only thing these programme components have in common is that they ask you to think beyond the status quo and to consider the complexities and contradictions of our society two decades into democracy.

So far this week I’ve walked through an exhibition made up of post mortem photography and human remains, nearly fainted over seeing a man suspended via hooks pierced through his skin, was invited to touch a cancer survivor’s remaining testicle, attended a hypnotic lecture on Hendrik Verwoerd’s notorious 1930s experiments A Method for the Experimental Production of Emotions, saw a performer dressed in a disco outfit jump on a trampoline while clutching a live chicken, and got frisked/fondled by artist Gavin Krastin, who was wearing nothing but knee-length leather boots with horse hooves, a black-laced mini skirt, a pearl necklace and an erotic asphyxiation face mask I can't even begin to describe.

Wednesday night’s Programme G consisted of four pieces clustered around the theme, Framed (and Framing). Encapsulating works reflecting on representation, they are referred to in the programme notes as meta-theatrical, playful and with the intent to “rupture layers of reality”. This immediately becomes clear when, after collecting our tickets, we aren't escorted to a performance venue, but instead ushered onto a bus. It takes us off the campus and drops us off at a farm/commune a few kilometers away. You might have read about a dispute involving the municipality and those living on the property in the news recently.

Walking past sheds that offer brief glimpses into rooms full of artifacts, strange machinery and geese, we are finally allowed to sit down in a workshop packed to the brim with outdated technology. Recorders, mixers, amplifiers, printers, projectors, vinyl players and computers: all are crammed onto shelves that stand littered around a water-filled hole in the floor. And chairs – lots and lots of chairs, constructed out of everything from wood and steel to plastic and Meccano.

Titled Shakespeare’s Chair, the production then sees John Nankin – co-founder of the iconic Glass Theatre – play himself as a performer playing a character named The Old Foley Man (a reference to the art of foley, in which everyday sounds are artificially manufactured for films or radio dramas). Joining Nankin on stage is Glen Mellvil and Marco Filby, both appearing as themselves playing sound and lighting technicians. Responding in real-time to a soundtrack performed by the Chameleon Man (played in creature costume by Chas Unwin), Nankin produces his own series of sounds/movements over the course of the show. The result is a surrealistic, dreamlike audiovisual journey through which the Old Foley Man gets to rebel “against the humble parameters of his craft ... [insisting] on the primacy of his own right to be heard.”

Back at campus, dancer Pauline Wassermann greets us on the Little Theatre’s stage for the start of Nicole Seiler's Un Acte Sérieux (A serious act). Standing in front of a large screen, Wassermann’s co-performer, Krassen Krastev, is introduced via Skype all the way from New York. A piece investigating how we communicate dance away from the actual performance, festivalgoers are then invited to choreograph a piece between Wassermann and Krastev (who can't see her or us).

While Wassermann strikes a pose, whichever audience member is holding the passed microphone in his or her hand tries to direct Krastev into a similar position. Proving much more difficult than it sounds, part of the fun is derived from hearing the exasperation in fellow patrons’ voices the longer it takes for Krastev to follow their instructions. A playful, witty take on an otherwise rather serious artistic medium, Un Acte Sérieux ends with a intercontinental cowboy pas de deux between the performers.

Covered in white make-up and twirling around in a kimono upon arrival at the next venue is Ntando Cele, channeling her caucasian alter-ego, Bianca White.

Complicated Art for Dummies is Cele's third piece featuring this character. It makes its South African debut as part of the festival. As a white woman, Bianca allows Cele to address knotty issues around race on a universal scale. Through the incorporation of stand-up comedy and live music (there are three musicians on stage) she goes about presenting a calm and collected exterior, alternated by sporadic fits of wacky behaviour. It is as if something short-circuits. She goes from charmingly asking patrons to give themselves a “warm round of applause because you’re so beautiful,” to suddenly grinning with her gums, misshaping her facial muscles and pulling macabre poses.

Following the success of her previous two “lecture series”, Bianca this time around feels inspired to share the secrets of becoming a successful artist in Europe with African audiences. Revolving around Bianca's powerpoint presentation laced with visual imagery, in-jokes and examples of racial stereotyping in pop culture, the experience becomes at once a jocular and sober one.

Inspired by Andy Warhol’s concept of “15 Minutes of Fame”, we become our own performers in a final piece by Nadja Daehnke, called My Minutes. Assigned random numbers, we are invited, one by one, to enter into an empty theatre. Inside everything is set up, including lights and a microphone on stage. What is absent, however, are people sitting in the auditorium. With no cameras or any other form of recording equipment tracking you either, you are then left free to do whatever you want for three minutes before heading home and returning to the framed reality that is life.

To view the full GIPCA Live Art programme, or to book tickets, see

www.gipca.uct.ac.za or www.webtickes.co.za.

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