PuSh Blog

PuSh 2010 Curatorial Statement: Jerk

January 07, 2010

by PuSh Festival Executive Director Norman Armour

When I first saw this work at the Avignon Festival a couple of years back, I was astounded by Jonathan Capdevielle’s performance. Rarely does one get a chance to watch something so resolute, so dangerous, compelling and unflinching. You can not help but be reminded of Greek tragedy and the roots of Western theatre. But here, there is no catharsis, no radical cleansing, because while we may be the same human species, the conditions have changed and the same truths perhaps no longer hold.

But why program Jerk? Why present a piece that deals with such horrifying events, seemingly senseless tragedy, without any redeeming or life-affirming values. Well the events did occur. These things have and will more than likely occur again. Are we being asked to face true Evil? The tragedian’s mask has been removed; the comfort of illusion is noticeably absent. Whatever it is, it is out there. Was there ever a time when it wasn’t ultimately buried within the human species’ capacity?

So it’s simple reportage? Not quite. Like Aalst from Belgium’s Victoria, presented in the PuSh Festival a few year’s back, Jerk tackles actual events that are so horrifying they can seemingly defy the human imagination and the limits of our ability to comprehend. Like Gus Van Sant’s film Elephant (on the events surrounding the Columbine murders), Jerk not does not offer any answers; it does not even attempt to frame the questions.

Gisèle Vienne’s artistic proposition, based on the writings of American author Dennis Cooper, is not opportunistic, not sensational, and certainly not a bald-faced set of declarations delivered dispassionately without artistry or consideration. While Jerk could be called “raw”, the work is in fact conceived and staged with great skill, with a modernist’s attention to economy and the fundamental elements of theatre: a story, an actor, a text, and finally you, the willing witness.

For me it’s what one might call “neo-Brechtian”—for it peculiar combination of both immediacy and distance. And in a time when theatricality and production values have become synonymous with big budgets, flourishes of technical wizardry and a magician’s slight of hand, it is sobering to experience a work that is so pure, so actor-driven, so human centered.

Jerk is part of the 2010 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and is presented with grunt gallery. Jan 21-24, 2010 at 8pm, VIVO Media Arts Centre. Click here for full details.

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