How to Stage – 2016 | 240 min
(A festival proposal)
Amitesh Grover, Neel Chaudhuri, Vishal K. Dar, Ismail Fayed, Tang Fu Kuen
Curated by Zuleikha Chaudhari
Through the last year-and-a-half, several colleagues from the theatre and the visual arts and I have been meeting for a series of conversations – ‘rehearsals’ – at my studio in Delhi.
These conversations came from an interest in unearthing a discursive ground for the language of our practices, and the multiple ways in which we engaged with the form and content of theatre/performance in our present context.
Principally, the processes of thought and consideration and their related notions of version, repetition, and failure, are what constitute a rehearsal. This proceeds to become the so-called ‘real thing’ of performance. In my opinion, rehearsing is a metaphor for a way of thinking, and an operating strategy. When used as a strategy, the rehearsal foregrounds that which takes place offstage or “before the stage.” The very important work of rehearsal may be obscured by the presentation of a polished and final piece.
How to Stage – 2016? is a continuation of the ‘rehearsals’ in my studio that invites these practitioners to stage themselves, each other and in doing so reflect on the collective time that we share.
How to Stage – 2016? is framed as a festival; a festival is considered to be an intensive concurrence of ideas under development and propositions for new divergences.
The practitioners are asked to imagine and propose a future performance festival. Proposing a festival links to the demarcation of a new territory and expanse. The practitioners can propose either a manifesto or a festival catalogue. A manifesto is a set of promises or propositions for the future while a catalogue expands on the set of repercussions that emerge from a particular context. Revolt, a systemic agitation against prevailing hegemonic conditions, is a central thematic of the festival and to be considered in the context of the evolution of forms and their vocabulary as well as a political force.
How to Stage – 2016? considers saying as doing, or that which performs something while articulating it. The performative implies action and opens up questions of agency – how we live and take action, how we identify ourselves and others, how we engage with and write history, and how we approach local versus global tensions and intersections.
– Zuleikha Chaudhari
For How to Stage – 2016, I will be looking at kinships produced between vocabularies and concerns in the works of directors working in India in the last decade. I will investigate the modalities of affiliations and collaborations of ensemble production, and the idea of performance as a toolbox, an archaeology of knowledge, and as an all-embracing environment.
Amitesh Grover’s practice spans gatherings-as-performance, interactive art & installations, documentary-stagings, and occupational realism; essentially his practice explores the meaning and threshold of performativity in a highly performative world. Working along with his studio partner Arnika Ahldag, their recent projects include ENCOUNTER 6134 (Philosophy in Crisis, 2014), DOWNTIME (Sleep as Performance, 2014), and NOTES ON MOURNING (Mourning as Practice, 2015).
A series of instructions between chairs and open space
This presentation proposes to unpack the act of staging into two moments – the director, the performer and the material; and the audience, the performance and the critique. In examining lines of development in Roysten Abel’s theatre work across two decades, it frames its inquiry into the movement between these two moments. Are they actually successive? Is the performance already being read before it is staged? What is the relationship between authority and authorship? It is not a debate or discussion. It is a participation.
Neel Chaudhuri is a playwright and director based in New Delhi. He is a Founder and Artistic Director of The Tadpole Repertory, a collective of writers, actors, directors and designers. Neel studied history and film and worked in Berlin before returning to India to work in the theatre. He was the Artistic Director of The First City Theatre Foundation from 2006 to 2009 where he wrote and directed his first five plays. His work includes ‘Taramandal’, winner of the MetroPlus Playwright Award (2010), ‘Still and Still Moving’ (2011), developed in collaboration with the Royal Court Theatre in London, and most recently, ‘A Brief History of the Pantomimes’. Neel is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater’s Directors Lab in New York, and PLUTO, a coalition of international theatre directors. He is actively involved as a mentor to college theatre groups in Delhi and for the past five years has helped to run and programme Downstairs, a small performance studio in South Delhi.
Contemporary performance practices raise questions about formats and modes of presentation and representation, specifically in defining what is performance and how can it be staged. Such questions are inextricably linked to the production of truth and the definition of reality. In the context of Egypt, nearly all facets of performance that have endured since the early 1800s retained elements of satire and parodies or epic storytelling, reflecting a very specific relation to reality and the production of truth. ‘This is what the nadim said’ is an experiment in re-staging different forms of performance history, as a possible process of understanding what kind of truth these performative strategies produce or in telling us about our relation to reality. Historically, ‘the nadim’ was the wine pourer, the friend of the cup, the keeper of the secrets, a symbolic figure invoked again and again throughout Arab literary history to reveal moments of truth and ecstasy. In today’s world, where wine is forbidden, the poetry forgotten and the Arab-speaking world is ripped apart by civil wars, what would the nadim say? And if we could stage a performance by al-nadim, what would it be like? Drawing on historical and contemporary material, this experiment will engage a live audience in ‘rehearsing’ new modes of performance and performativity.
Ismail Fayed is a freelance writer, translator and researcher in contemporary artistic practices. He has been a critic in residence at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin and Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels. His writings and reviews have appeared in ArteEast, Mada Masr, Nafas Art Magazine and Ahram Online. He is currently Associate Editor for the upcoming publication, ‘Arab Art in the Twentieth Century: Primary Documents’, published by the Museum of Modern of Art in New York.
Vishal K. Dar
‘Being There’ is an activated site-specific work that investigates place-making through passive viewer presence in the lover’s garden with a storm brewing between somewhere and nowhere.
Vishal K. Dar (b. 1976) is a Delhi based artist whose works reach ambitious technical heights with the help of his early architecture background. Dar uses satire and scale to address deeper personal, political and sociological issues, and his practice often extends outside the gallery and into the public realm.
In 2009, Dar started a series of mysterious glowing insect sculptures made from stolen car lights, sourced from the Old Delhi grey markets. These creatures sometimes remind us of sci-fi monsters and sometimes of exquisite lapidary work in gemstone that could be conceptually connected the ‘post-human’ theory. In 2012, he produced NAAG-Z, a site-specific sculpture which with cutting-edge projection mapping technology, aspiring to deconstruct the notion of sculpture. Recently Dar exhibited a new version titled NAAG-XY at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco as a part of New Experiments in Art and Technology. Light continues as a recurring motif and was powerfully harnessed in his 2013 site specific work ‘Prajapati’ which refers to Vedic texts. In 2015, in continuation with his investigations with site-specific works that create experience territories and hallucinatory zones, Dar produced ‘Maruts’, his first site-specific work in Pune, in an abandoned 40,000 square feet storage facility.
Tang Fu Kuen
Tang Fu Kuen, a Bangkok-based independent dramaturg, curator and producer, works in contemporary performance and visual fields across Asia and Europe. He was sole curator of the Singapore Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale, presenting artist Ming Wong, receiving a Special Jury Mention. In various capacities, he has worked for the Singapore Arts Festival, Indonesian Dance Festival, In Transit Festival (Berlin), Exodus Festival (Ljubljana), Colombo Dance Festival (Sri Lanka), Bangkok Fringe Festival, and is a current director of TPAM (Tokyo Performing Arts Meeting). He has produced at many international platforms for artists Pichet Klunchun, Eisa Jocson, Choy Ka Fai, Daniel Kok, Sujata Goel, amongst others. He has worked institutionally in immaterial heritage conservation at UNESCO (Paris) and SEAMEO-SPAFA (Bangkok). He read media and cultural theory at Goldsmiths College (London), and literature and theatre at National University of Singapore.