postcards from berlin #20 [frenzy, or trump-era art #2]
BACCHAE — PRELUDE TO A PURGE (r. freitas) @ HAU1
ok so about the piece—pretty fucking brilliant. definitely the most satisfying take on the bakkhai i’ve seen. some beautifully subtle nods to euripides’ play and the structure and story but this one was the fullest experience of “undergoing” the bacchic ecstasy the play itself rarely seems to satisfyingly deliver (perhaps because by now the theatrical container that was once so dionysian in origin has itself, after 2500 years, come to represent something deeply apollonian to us).
there was one point where the piece almost lost me, but in the time that’s elapsed since seeing it the strange medium-shift in the middle has faded in the the background of my experience and mostly what i’ve hung onto has been a deeply visceral, strange, sexy evening that had me by the guts most of the way through. a choreographic vocabulary i’ve never really encountered before, a really satisfying design, insane facial mask-work (like masks but no masks), all the overalls, gold lamé headwraps, and oh man that music.
(if marlene monteiro freitas has anything playing near you, wherever you are, at some point, get out there and take a look. she’s really fucking exciting. and it’s worth checking out the video i’ve linked to, short though it is.)
it strikes me though, thinking back to all the unsatisfying work i’ve seen that tries to tackle fascism head on, that there is a category of work that does feel really urgent, maybe now more than ever. a form and thematic that’s getting developed that transcends late-night-TV truisms and the desperately flinging of punchy one-liners toward the advancing threat of nuclear war.
i think it’s totally fair to suggest that weinstein and #metoo and the many other associated fallouts would not be driven by this degree of fury if we had a decent competent woman in the white house. instead we’ve got “grab-em-by-the-pussy” with his very small finger on the red button antagonizing foreign leaders in overblown dick-measuring contests. one of the worst misogynists ever to occupy that chair. and so while weinstein would be appalling under any circumstances, the fact that the man nominally in charge of the free world is widely understood to be a sexual assailant—and is tolerated as such-has poured gasoline onto the raging tirefire that is the very justified widespread rage at centuries of sexualized abuses-of-power. it’s the most polarized it’s ever been.
so to be really reductive——on the one side we’ve got these hordes of not-so-well-educated men who feel so threatened by the feminist revolution that they’re turning to fascism and electing a sunburnt sphincter with a bad toupee as their führer. on the other we’ve got women, BIPOCs, queers, and yeah, even some straight cis white dudes who would really genuinely like to do the right thing, who all collectively feel so fucking helpless in the face of neoliberal capitalism and heteropatriarchy and the terrifying populism that has risen to champion it that the collective impulse seems to be to a) shout imperatives on the internet (“13 things you shouldn’t————“), b) tear down venerated icons (statues and statesmen alike), and c) more or less burn the whole fucking thing down (and who cares if the justice system and its most basic tenets burn with it).
there’s dogma on both sides, and most of the time the terms of engagement exist on a fairly apollonian plane (rhetoric, media, internet)———until they really don’t.
and up through the increasingly narrow space between these two camps, where there are still a few buildings that haven’t been scorched, there’s some really interesting artists turning to questions of frenzy, intimacy, chaos, & pleasure that feel really fucking urgent and useful. the chthonic, dark, wet, pink, wriggly, sorta embarrassing, hungry, lonely, bit frightened, squishy sides of ourselves that are full of complex appetites for simple things.
bakkhai and olympus have obvious commonalities, and also some more subtle ones. questions of how we transform an action over a duration. of what rhythms bring us pleasure. of how we can push our bodies to generate existential release. (i’m gonna write some stuff about meg stuart soon that also connects to this)
we don’t need to see work about the mechanisms of politics that got trump elected, but it seems to me that one thing we really need our art to do is to tell us about the howling, lonely, hungry animals inside us. what the tremendous scope of their earthly power really is. and how we can feed them. dance with them. stand face-to-face with our own chaos (preferably in some really great lighting). and where we can belch out our rage so that one day soon we can occupy the same subway cars. or corners of the internet.
to read more about the show click here.