Thursday, May 24, 2018

Faki Kronik Day 2 - La(s) Caída(s)

The shows are over, and I'm sitting in the courtyard of Medika listening to the electric guitar wailing from the huge speakers, and watching as the flashes of lightening from an equally electric storm rolls in.

Zagreb has changed in the four years since I've been making my yearly visits to the festival. For one thing, it's gotten much more expensive. It's not a cheap place to visit anymore, whether you are in the tourist economy or outside of it. For another thing, if you're resident here, the wages don't seem to have increased much at all. So now you can pay just as much for something as you would in Germany, on half the wages - in a familiar story repeating itself across eastern European countries, were wealth is increasingly concentrated at the top, and cost of living increases as wages stagnate.

There are different proposals for why this is, but I view it as a basic result of globalisation coupled with a social licence to fully embrace capitalism, present in many eastern European countries where I've hung out. The old working-class critiques  have disappeared with the labour movement and socialism, and the result is a kind of hard-edged competition and social pretending, present in Zagreb everywhere from the students to the elderly. In Zagreb, people are still managing to stay social - but you can see the cracks appearing, and soon a familiar migratory pattern will emerge - the city will be unaffordable for the elderly, poverty-stricken, and otherwise vulnerable, with alternatives few other than moving out to poorer areas of the country, where, due to a centralisation of resources in Zagreb, opportunities are few and problems are rife (including newly energised white supremacy and Croatian nationalism).

In this context, Cultural Centre Attack! offers something of a relief from the conditions surrounding it. Things have changed here as well in the four years, but some concrete things stay the same - the festival still operates as a kind of default community centre. It still invites artists every year and ensures that they have no costs, they are fed and housed (as well as possible) every day. You don't have to pay money here - your basic needs are, in principle, provided for. It still relies on a sense of community some would see as nostalgic - connections are not made over networking and mutual mother tongues, schools attended, facebook likes, even common acquaintances, but over some collision of 'trash' and art - as well as Croatian black humour, a kind of insincerity, and a relaxed attitude to life (and death).

Today, I also have just one show to review - La(s) Caída(s) from Chilean/German collaboration Hija de Rosa. The other, Walls from Serbian group Puzzle Pie(s)ces, I will discuss in an interview with the artists, published later in the week.

La(s) Caída(s)

In the four years I have been writing for Faki, there have been some really crazy shit happen in the Film Studio space at Medika. I don't know if it's something about the space (it's depth? It's tunnel-like shape?) but this space seems to bring out some severe performances.

Some of those people have been women (!), and indeed, there is a sub-genre of Faki performances regarding shows specifically from women, about violence against women. Evie Demetriou's The More You Dance the More You Get, performed in the Film Studio 2 years ago, was an exquisite union of form and content that performed a kind of revelation of human trafficking for the sex trade (whose victims are predominantly women). Here, Demetriou used her body and a mask to create a kind of strategic self-objectification, revealed to be a device at the show's conclusion. Last year, although it is only intersectionally in the same category, Nasheeka Nedsreal's Obscure Noir explicated racist and mysoginist taunts, turning these back (quite shockingly) at the politics of the audience's own gaze.

Taking as its starting point the gruesome 2016 assault of Chilean woman Nabila Rifo, who had her eyes removed and body defiled by her husband for "cooking badly" and who appeared in court in a mask, La(s) Caída(s) (which might be translated as 'Fall(s)') continues this tradition of powerful solo shows from women at Faki. The subject of femicide and physically inspires an investigation of a 'falling' movement, which frames the investigation in the performance and offers the show its title. 

From it's opening, the falling begins, as Andrea Lagos Neumann drops onto the stage, her red dress splaying across it. She is dormant for what feels like an eternity, before dragging her body up again, only to inevitably fall in a slightly different direction.And so it continues.

In fact, this falling makes up a bulk of the stage time of La(s) Caída(s), and if that sounds boring, well, it isn't. It is, however, repetitive, and this is the very point - not only the repetition of patterns of behaviour from individuals, but of violence against women occurring on a social level. The movement is marked by some attempts to break out of this from the central figure, only to be pulled back again by her inevitable fall.

Far from stagnant, the gesture of falling offers a useful site of contemplation.The audience is placed in the position of a witness to the aftermath of the violent act, over and over again. In staging this aftermath, La(s) Caída(s) questions the viewership of the fallen women, asking the audience - do we want to help? How does it make us feel, to witness this? The figure's nature as a stand-in for women symbolically is emphasised by her face being largely masked by her hair, a device that portends the later twist.

When the twist comes, it's a playful one, but it's not trivialising, and nor does it offer us any real respite. Throughout Roy Orbison's Crying, the figure remains forlorn but not pathetic, very much beaten but nevertheless defiant as she attempts to tap dance to the song. Then some stage wizardry plays out for the finale, with the figure falling one last time.

 La(s) Caída(s) is a celebration of the aforementioned defiance - as much a homage to the protests across Latin America that followed the crime against Nabila Rifo as a simple demonstration of her repetitive and ongoing plight. The replacement of one mask for another emphasises that there is no escape - and yet the piece is not without a defiant sense of generousity, possibly the only mode of performance known to Neumann even as she fights through the (very real) pain produced by the performance itself.

It's a piece that benefits hugely from its simplicity and specificity, the result of a willingness to follow through an idea with complete dedication, and impeccably staged by Carolina Sagredo.

La(s) Caída(s)

Directed by Carolina Sagredo
Performed by Andrea Lagos Neumann

Photo: Ivan Marenic

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