Photo of Paradise Now at Space Electronic, Florence, 1969

All of Living Theatre’s work before 1968 seems to be leading up to Paradise Now. And all their later work appears to be heading away from it. I never tire of watching the film clips of that show. There are several clips included in the documentary Signals through the Flames (1983) and a fairly comprehensive recording in the DVD that Arthur Mag brought out in 2007. The actors wander through the audience shouting libertarian slogans, undress, perform ritual scenes and, without it being very clear quite how, the audience start to get involved. Some people take their clothes off and join in the scenes; others challenge the performers about the piece. Those who saw the show speak of hallucinogenic trips and a final street scene which usually ended with the police turning up. When, as a result, the show was banned from the 1968 Avignon Festival, the company walked out. Sadly I’ve been unable to find any footage of that “street theatre” in the truest sense of the term.

Photo of Accions

 These last few days I’ve also been thinking back over the early shows by La Fura dels Baus. From Accions to Tier mon. On YouTube there is a complete recording of Suz/O/Suz made by TV3 in 1983(?). In contrast to the actors in Living Theatre, who shouted their slogans like Artaud, the actors in La Fura dels Baus didn’t speak — the sound came from the deafening industrial music that blared out. Nevertheless, like Living Theatre, there is still an eagerness to get the audience involved. The actors’ adrenaline takes control of those watching. Touching and groping have been replaced by pushes and blows, but anyone who has ever danced at a punk gig will know that there is no truer experience of bonding between strangers than a frenetic mosh pit.

Still from El ocaso del miedo by Productora de comunicación social

 Txalo Toloza sent me a link to a documentary entitled El ocaso del miedo [The Dusk of Fear] by Productora de comunicación social. A bike with a camera strapped to the handlebars roams the streets of Santiago de Chile during last year’s student protests. There is no voiceover, just images of the students being chased through the city streets by the over-zealous police. The soundtrack to this 20-minute short creates an atmosphere of a science fiction city in an apocalyptic state. And just as in the above shows there is a contagious feeling of freedom.

Both the documentary and the shows set out to try and suspend established values in favour of a different reality. There was “… an instantaneous communication of ideas and feelings whose fusion could move the social body without any object or objective – through the simple pleasure of shaking things up – but also being pushed in any direction, thus turning their worries into new realities” (Manuel Delgado, foreword to Gerard Horta’s Cos i revolució [Body and Revolution]). In this sense we should interpret Paradise Now or Suz/O/Suz as devices for shaking things up. Fiction is able to suspend reality because of the energy in the room. An energy that has been branded as fascist from some quarters and that sees raising the temperature as more important than fashioning an intelligible discourse worthy of Apollo. Energy Yes, Quality No! as Thomas Hirschom said.

APPENDIX: Here is La Fura dels Baus’ Rogue Manifesto

F.D.B. It is not a social phenomenon, it is not a group, it is not a political gathering, it is not a circle of like-minded friends, it is not an association in favour of anything.

F.D.B. It is a criminal organisation on the current theatre scene.

F.D.B. It is the result of a symbiosis of ten very different, unique elements that are mutually beneficial for its development as a whole.

F.D.B. It comes closer to how fauna defines itself than to any model citizen.

F.D.B. It is a theatre of behaviour without any rules or planned route. It works like a piece of mechanical machinery and generates activity purely out of necessity and empathy.

F.D.B. It is not interested in the past, it learns nothing from traditional sources and it does not like modern, prefabricated folklore.

F.D.B. It produces theatre through constant interferences between intuition and research.

F.D.B. It experiments live. Each and every action represents a practical exercise, an aggressive action against the audience’s passivity, an impact to alter their relationship with the performance.

 

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