I chatted with Flick- who came to us through his work as a videographer for the Art for Social Change project. Flick filmed the run of ‘Tracks et Deraillements’ as well as a few rehearsals before. I spoke with him a few months after about the experience as part of my series of evaluative chats. I pulled out this section about the encounters way of performing the other and how that relates with current political discourse about representations of otherness. –Mars
Flick: My expectation- it was more radical than my expectation. Often these kinds of works are really explicitly very didactic. It was poking at didacticism, trying to find holes to poke at didacticism without abandoning its core values.
It’s like- here are the values that we want which are like, progression, inclusion. Here are the set of rules which are like, in the year 2016 how does that look in terms of organizing structures. And those are way more ephemeral than they feel. They feel like we are laying down the new rules for how we are going to do things, and you realize in the context of 10 years from now, that will maybe look really regressive or maybe that will be like a stupid wrong path, or maybe that will be it. But then the core values won’t have changed.
So I was expecting to see some of those 2016 rules of procedure to be more evident, but I was glad to see some of them being broken.
For instance, Farah told me- she was talking about one of her monologues and I was telling her that I like the idea of playing with who’s doing whose monologue was playing with the rules of procedure. Putting someone’s voice in someone else’s body, representation is not ok right now. It’s forboden.
And as an artist I get the reason, especially economically, actors from marginalized communities don’t get work. So you need to solve that. But then representation, its like, every actor playing a part is representing someone other than themselves so how far do you take that and go this is not politically ok anymore.
And there is this set of rules on how we see it now, and there is how Hollywood sees it and they are way off and totally wrong. So where do you draw the line? Maybe an artist doesn’t go to the meeting every week and breaks the rules and gets called out. […] Activists can have ground rules and clear goals but artists should be questioning, and especially with a progressive audience most of whom agree with your ground rules already, artists should be asking how we can take this further.
Mars: Yes when talking about Encounters space- there are things that get said within encounters that in other spaces might [for me] feel like a sign that the space is unsafe or people are connected to damaging power structures, but often within Encounters those things come out because of not everyone sharing the same radical vocabulary- and that makes the space one where transformations can happen- and often criticisms of “PC culture” come from a place of dehumanization or wanting to retain power but Encounters wants to break down those things in a direct way. I hadn’t even really thought about that thing about performing the other as taboo but it totally is. Do you feel that the show that was presented held back a little on that?
Flick: Yeah I think it did. I don’t know if it’s because the people making it weren’t radically interested in that challenge or if they didn’t see the potential that I saw anyways of the magic of that.
Because I guess I think about, the theory of what the anarchist avant-garde is supposed to do. There is the socialist avant-garde which is like, we’re leading the revolution, we know what we are doing and the workers will follow us as we open up this new territory. The anarchist avant-garde is always about, well lets see where those guys are going, and if they get too powerful we’ll shut them down. Anytime power structures are forming within the revolution our job is to break them. That’s art’s role.
Mars: like art has to be anarchy and not socialism.
Flick: Right and if the power structure is ‘representation is not allowed’ then the question is, does that look better than what we had before or does it look like it’s shaping up to be another power structure we don’t like?
Mars: yeah because it’s not one or the other, if we are choosing to represent the other its not inherent that were doing it in a way where the goal is to dehumanize the other.
Flick: […]There is something about that that is an interesting challenge for artists. Yeah it’s not just: ‘lets never do that ever again because most of the time it’s done in a racist way.’ […] and it was really getting there because if there is two people in the room, and one of them is doing a monologue that belongs to the other person- that’s a beautiful way to do it.
Mars: Yeah it’s not these disembodied ideas of difference- its whole people who are literally in the room.