Saturday, June 6, 2015


This is an actress. This is a piece of theatre. This is not real. It's a performance.

So I had to keep telling myself during DivanOccidentaleOrientale's IVETOTELLUSOMETHING, a piece of microtheatre in a bathroom, on this occasion executed by Italian actress Rosa Palasciano. The performance, so says the sprawling description, speaks of a crisis, failure, or precarity. These are common themes for artists today as they try grapple with an increasingly shallow and difficult world, at once moving too quickly for tragedy, not quickly enough for comedy. The search is for some genuine, authentic connection, and the fear is that the days in which that might be possible have now passed.

Photo: Merima Salkić

The performance is in a bathroom, and for one person only. So there's a lot of standing around waiting whilst Rosa - adorned in coat tails and a pencil moustache - grandly sweeps out of the bathroom to semi-seductively select her next victim, and plenty of time to imagine what the hell is going on in there. Yet more intrigue when you see the faces of the post-ops, grimacing or strained with discomfort. Still, of course when it came, it surprised me. I don't know if it was the awkwardness of the encounter, the manufactured nature of it, the feeling that I should feel something. After putting on the headphones, I am suddenly conscious that I am standing in a bathroom with a stranger, who is manipulating my movements, staring at me expectantly.

Expecting what? I suppose this encounter is mine, too - I can control it, and interact with it. And yet there are rules in this place, and naturally I can't do what I want to do. If I could, it would be a fantasy. So, what then? Something? Anything? But of course, nothing happens, and the performance finishes in a strange kind of disappointment, as though I looked in the mirror and didn't like the reflection (hence the grimaces, I suppose).

From what I understand, this is something like the kind of fucked-up-ness facing people who saw Ontroerend Goed's Internal, which famously left critics and audiences reality totally shattered. Like that work, the piece trades on the intimacy of the encounter, here handled with skill and honesty by Palasciano, and the ethical management of such a moment for both performer and audience. There's a kind of suspension of the rules, and then again, they are ever-present. It's a dangerous fantasy.

There is certainly something to be learned from IVETOTELLUSOMETHING. What that is may be entirely subjective, but is undoubtably something about happiness or pleasure. How do we stand together, without specitic objective, in intimacy, yes - why not? And why isn't that enough? What is this need for something more? Why can I not enjoy this moment of paralysis?

There will be those who find IVETOTELLUSOMETHING a cruel trick. But if it's cruel, it's cruel like life - offering and taking away at the same time, filled with brevity, with transience, and with illusion. At best, though, there is an opportunity here for personal transformation, even a broader change, and a window to a different reality.

by Giuseppe L. Bonifati
with Rosa Palasciano

Touring selected locations in 2015.

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