Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Geneve Journal: Update, Nov 29-Dec 1

Met up with Mathias Aubert around midday.  We had lunch and ran to an art store so I could pick up a few things.
Mathias' cousin Tiffany was appearing in a production called Psychodrame 3 at the Theatre Saint-Gervais, so we decided to go.
We arrived a bit early, so we took in an exhibit of work by Gea Augsbourg.  Mostly loose, caricature-esque drawings of society types.  It's a kind of typical mid century Frenchie portraiture imbued with a facility of drawing that I can envy, but which I find boring to look at. The works that did interest me were some made while the artist was in NY and Atlanta.  These are quick "reportage" drawings of life in the streets.  I have to admit to a solipsistic interest in the symmetry, as Mathias said "He was a Swiss artist in NY, and you are here."

A sketch of Madison Sq Garden by Gea Augsbourg.
A Space Invader work in the stairwell.
 Given the title of the play we were set to see, I was expecting some sort of noirish thriller, even after Mathias reported that it was an example of "new theater" production.  As we entered the theater we were given our show "kits".  This is when we learned the show was going to be interactive and participatory.
I took this news pretty calmly.  Participatory theater is normally something I try to avoid - even when it's conducted in a language of which I have a command.   French is not such a language.  I didn't panic, though.  I was resolved to sit tight and pray I would not be called out of the audience for any kind of role playing game.

The kits with which we were armed were made up of a pen, a short stack of white, Post-It sized pieces of paper clipped to a piece of cardboard and a pair of ear plugs.

The piece started in Spanish, actually- easy spanish for certain, and it comforted me.  Shortly after the intro, though, the standard theater form was "broken" and the writer, and main protagonist, Oscar Gomez Mata, explained that what we were in for was an example of a theater "atelier" or theater workshop.  The nuance of everything that followed was lost on me.  However, I was able to comprehend the general direction of the narration, including a riff on the dichotemous nature of Geneva as both an open, welcoming International city and as a closed provincially conservative enclave (as evidenced by the Canton's bisected heraldic crest depicting an eagle with opened wing on one side and a skeleton key on the other), a trip unfused with Bertolt Brecht essence (was it a trip to his home?), and footage of recent demonstrations in Madrid.

We in the audience were invited to write words or phrases - one per piece- on the paper provided in our kit.  Were the words meant to be aspirational?  I can't remember.  After an interim, we were instructed to fold in half and place the paper in boxes being passed through the aisles.  After all the paper was collected, the boxes were passed back and we were to pick three pieces of paper out of the box.   We were then invited to arrange these word/phrase combinations into randomized poetry and read them through microphones being passed around.
My found poetry elements: manifestaion, Etre un ami des homme, TRAVAIL

I never used my ear plugs.   Overall, the work was an exercise in the theatrical principles of action and inaction through a plotted course of scripted narration and orchestrated, but unexpected response.  It was a play about a workshop of theater, as metaphor of life AND theater, captured as a unique theatrical moment all in pursuit of a utopian ideal, all with a very play-like ending.  I can't explain more, as, I'm sure much was lost to me and my franco-ingarus ears.  I ultimately did get up and do a little jig (speaking quasi-metaphorically), and it was a good experience.
Even more satisfying was talking about and critiquing the work with Mathias and Tiffany at the bar afterward.  Don't ask me to recount any of that, but for someone who's been more and more exposed to the participatory actions of artists in the gallery/museum environment, which generally don't go much farther than a call and response sort of moment of exchange, that Oscar Gomez Mata takes the added step of fitting these moments of intercourse into a broader narrative work, is ...I can't think of another word but interesting - but I mean that favorably.
The last ten minutes of each performance - the moment in which the audience is the action - are recorded and posted to vimeo. The L'Alakran website has links to these videos (our performance was on Nov 29th).

The following day, I did a little work on postcards for my kickstarter supporters then a couple of hours wandering around.  As the sun set, preparations were underway for the Christmas light festival around the old town.
I made the mistake choosing to take a short nap at around 7pm.  The nap wasn't so short.  I woke up just before 11pm.  Groggy, I thought I detected the sound of human commotion intermingling with the normal, constant soft but high pitched tone that is my co-inhabitant in this apartment.  This new sound got me out of bed.  I did a quick search online to see if something was a foot in town.  I couldn't find anything definite.   I got myself ready to head outside and follow the sound to it's origin.  My hunt didn't take long.  Just outside on the Rte de Florrisant, there was a foot race in progress.  The street was lined with spectators shouting  ALLEZ ALLEZ ALLEZ! and some beating on drums and pots.  It was a big race, and as most of the hundreds of runners I saw had LED lights strapped to their heads, I assumed it was part of the Lumiere fest.  It took me a few moments to realize that the lights were a normal accessory for runners running at night.  It was just in their collective mass, that I interpreted this illumination as some form of a performance or installation.
This was the Course du Duc, a prelude to the all day series of races set for the next day, Saturday, which wind through the streets of old Geneva.  The races are a part of the observance of L'Escalade, a celebration of the Genevois repulsion of French Savoyard invaders back in 1602.  The vanquishing of the French is emblemized by a Genevoise woman who, from on high, tossed her pot of hot stew on on a soldier as he passed by.
A storefront history lesson.
 Every patisserie and chocolate shop is laden with these chocolate stew pots with marzipan vegetables inside.

The celebration continues this weekend with, as I understand, revelry and period costumes and the opening of a secret passageway that descends from the vieille ville. 
That's on for this coming weekend, on this past Saturday I met up with Mathias again at the Promenade des Bastions where the Course de L'Escalade races were starting and ending,.  His father, who's run in this event for 50 yrs, and his younger brother were both participating.
Some kids in their pre-race warm up in the Place Neuve.
This is a pretty serious deal.  Some 2500 runners of all ages participated in the races throughout the day.  I was particularly struck by the teams of kids preparing with their trainers.

A pretty great sculpture.

Forsaking the crowds, Mathias and I parted, he to a Godard film and me to the flea market at Plaine de Plainpalais.
Plaine de Plainpalais
That's some head of hair.
Might be my xmas card this year.
 More wandering, back through the old town, and back home to work some more.
I came back out later in the afternoon to visit the Musee de l'art et l'histoire.  Museum visitors were relegated to the archeological and applied art galleries as the painting and sculpture galleries were all closed.  They remained closed a when I returned a couple of days later, I learned, due to a shortage staff, and due to temperature conditions being too cold.

So all of this gives you a rough update through Saturday, Dec 1.

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