The Dis/Appearing City – A Curatorial Statement on Cinema Imaginaire & Fare Thee Well! by Norman Armour
December 08, 2014
I use the essence of theatre as my trademark: theatre is live, theatre is here and now. You can’t switch it off or casually change channels. You’re right in the middle, you’re part of it. Spectators and performers are in the same space, they have chosen to be there and depend on one another. My theatre stems from a firm belief in people coming together. The fact that we may show our vulnerabilities in theatre, in each other’s company, to me is extremely comforting.
Lotte van den Berg and her contemporary Dries Verhoeven are Netherlands-based artists pushing the boundaries of “immersive” performance practices. Alternatively referred to as “site-specific,” “intimate” and/or “experiential,” these artists have forged highly distinct artistic agendas as they have explored pressing social issues, the perspectives of disenfranchised communities, new audience/performer relations and aesthetic innovation. They are at the forefront of a generation of groundbreaking artists whose aesthetic and thematic concerns shares a set of parallel, and at a times, intersecting interests.
When I first encountered Lotte and Dries’s work in Utrecht in May of 2012, I was immediately struck by the fluidness and far-reaching ways that they tackled a given thematic. Their aesthetic and logistical handling of performance questions was steady, assured and without a trace of any trickery. I was swept up and entranced by their understanding of an audience’s experience of (and in) their work and its proposition. Their work has travelled widely, though not in North America, save for one piece of Lotte’s (Agoraphobia at Crossing the Line, NYC in 2012). And like previous PuSh Festival presentations such as Mariano Pensotti’s Sometimes I think I can see you (PuSh 2013), and Projet In Situ’s Do You See What I Mean? (PuSh 2013) the artists are devising Vancouver-specific versions of their work.
Dries Verhoeven’s practice lies between theatre and fine arts, while much of the work that Lotte van den Berg creates also takes place outside the theatre, in public spaces or institutions. She regularly devises pieces with non-professionals and with an aesthetic that eschews words and conventional dramaturgy for a cinematic poetry. Both are deeply concerned with and passionate about the place—physical and otherwise—that the contemporary performing arts occupy in our world. Each holds the politics and nature of “perspective” as a central axis for their practice. They are widely considered to be two of the most articulate, thought-provoking, rigorous and committed artists to be found anywhere.
Fare Thee Well! and Cinema Imaginaire are twinned under the name Dis/Appearing City. The curatorial project furthers PuSh’s interest in questions of the shifting landscape of both our city and its creative milieu. Vancouver’s theatre and visual arts communities have long-standing relationships to questions of “place.” They each have a rich history of situating works in public spaces and unconventional performance and exhibition venues. Identity, history, disenfranchisement, civic space, and urban development—these are all prominent strains of inquiry running through both the independent theatre and artist-run-centre cultures in the province.
At the heart of Dis/Appearing City is a desire to shine the spotlight on two artists whose work share and diverge on questions of aesthetics, politics and subject matter. Together, they represent an intriguing example of how artists within the same milieu can work in seemingly relative autonomy, and yet play off of, be in dialogue with, and act as counterpoints—for each other, for a public, for an audience and for a creative community as a whole.
Artistic & Executive Director
Cinema Imaginaire is available to book on the PuSh Pass, Youth Passport, or as single tickets. Runs February 4–8, 2015, rain or shine.
Fare Thee Well! is a free performance from January 30–February 8, 2015, on a 20-minute loop.