[-empyre-] mythic violence / reintegration

Michele Danjoux michele.l.danjoux at googlemail.com
Sat Nov 29 09:09:19 EST 2014

“If Scarface losses this battle he will lose his legacy...

Time to strike...

And he returns to a heroes welcome

but it's only to be a temporary respite.”

I share the words of broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough, spoken
as a form of commentary on his wildlife programme “Life Story,” as a monkey
“Scarface” prepares for battle, performs and is victorious, returning a
hero to his community.

I caught this tiny section of Attenborough’s programme last night and as I
listened to his mesmerizing voice speaking these words (a man who has
studied animals intimately for almost his entire lifetime), I found myself
drawing comparisons with aspects of the discussions I have read in this
month’s Empyre debate. In a moment, I perceived all the same core elements
and motivations intermingling - status, territory, community, precarity,
gender-bias, language all in circulation through the lifeblood of this
monkey’s legacy.

How strange I thought...

And I ask what does it mean to receive a “heroes welcome”? Why only
temporary respite? And how long will it last? An why so many similarities?


On Fri, Nov 28, 2014 at 3:39 PM, Aristita I Albacan <A.Albacan at hull.ac.uk>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> I'll start by responding, with a bit of delay, to the request to elaborate
> on the TO practice. As I mentioned in my first post, it has its limits,
> but also holds multiple possibilities. Since 1997 I've seen it working via
> projects that were either led or closely supervised by me. In Romania,
> Germany and the UK. In a diverse range of settings, addressing communities
> that were either already solidly constituted, or temporary. I've also had
> the chance to participate in exchanges where TO practitioners from
> Palestine, Nepal, Ghana, South Africa, Afghanistan, as well as various
> European countries were sharing not only stories about their experiences,
> but bits of practice (ie. workshops strategies or exercises adapted to the
> needs of their communities). I've come to the conclusion that TO practice-
> whether is Forum Theatre, Image Theatre, or, occasionally, Invisible
> Theatre- works best at grass-roots level. It IS theatre for social change.
> It manages to empower the communities to think and act differently, even
> if they do so through small steps, especially at the beginning. It also
> empowers the facilitators, enriches their approach substantially. From the
> outside, a) it is a technique that bears similarities with other
> improvisational techniques (differences are subtle and related to how well
> the specific dramaturgical path is adapted to the needs of the community)
> and 2) performances "suffer" from a raw,unfinished, perhaps even
> amateurish aesthetics, which works usually as a turn-off for theatre
> specialists. From the inside, it can lead to life change. It does not work
> as a palliative, nor it documents issues and problems, it leads to
> empowerment and encourages people to have an effective dialogue. In this
> sense it is performance for social action and has a strong political
> component. Upon his return to Brazil, Boal developed a new TO form- the
> Legislative Theatre- which aimed to create a direct dialogue between the
> legislative and the street. I do not know how well that worked, I have
> only read about it and seen the official video of the Centre for TO in Rio
> de Janeiro. It could be said, from a theoretical point of view, that
> Legislative Theatre was most ambitious in undertaking overt political
> change.
> Of course, TO practice still has some issues, one of them being evolving
> its aesthetics in line with the times we live in. The other being that,
> due to the precarity induced in the arts by the neo-liberal climate almost
> everywhere, training periods for practitioners are shortened and some end
> up going into communities with a knowledge of the techniques and key
> dramaturgical steps, but with limited understanding of the ethos of work
> in relation to communities. I am talking here about empathy and the
> understanding that, in fact, in a TO process, there is an exchange-
> facilitators/artists come with the knowledge of their tools, the community
> comes with an in-depth knowledge of their issues. And sometimes, it takes
> a while until these can be communicated effectively, most oftenly via
> theatrical imagery, words come later. One last observation: I was amazed
> to see, hear or read about the reluctance communities in established and
> (apparently) solid democracies have towards the notion of the "oppressed".
> Of course, the "oppressor" is more diffused here. But, as Boal puts it,
> the enemy does not have to always be one and visible in order to act, it
> can act quite effectively through "cops-in-the-head," as oppression can be
> internalised.
> Bottom line:  I'm not saying TO is an ideal practice, but rather still an
> effective tool at grass roots level.Even in situations of terror (i.e
> Palestine). And perhaps more importantly, in line with the new type or
> performances  that occurred in the public sphere in the past years
> (Occupy, flash mobs, etc,  that looking at the notion of spectator turned
> into a spect-actor, not necessarily as as in Forum theatre, but in the
> sense of shares similarities- collective/ communal creativity enhanced, a
> sense of empowerment an activation is of help in understanding potential
> ways forward.
> That being said, I would also like to add that I agree with Alan's
> statement about "the deterioration of life and erosion of civil
> liberties," perhaps not only in the US, but in many countries of Europe
> (not only Balkans)- in the end far to quickly police teargases people
> these days, when the effects upon health are already known- or, as Ricardo
> puts it, with the ³accelerated and unprecedented decomposition of the
> political, legal and constitutional conditions needed to guarantee a
> minimum measure of civil and human rights² a process that happens more
> slowly maybe, yet everywhere, and I see people tend to feel either
> terrorised or depressed, in taking a closer look at the state of the
> world. The political elites are not what they used to be, civil societies
> are more and more fragmented and disoriented, etc. It is clear serious
> rethinking, not only at the arts level, is necessary, but perhaps most
> importantly at social and political level. Yet, as I have mentioned in my
> first email, I believe arts have the ability to influence this re-thinking
> process. The many examples and practices discussed  in this month
> demonstrate it. Rethink modernity  and post-modernity and most importantly
> attempt to seize the newly emerging collective practices and understand
> their ethos, their way of working. The world is maybe re-becoming tribal
> and with it, barbaric tendencies resurface, but it maybe also could
> develop in a communal sense that may bring good things with it. And
> Performance is/can be a powerful tool in this respect. I think.
> One last note: I personally differentiate between the spectacle- that
> mesmerises, subjugates and conquers (temporarily), and performance- that
> stimulates/articulates/alters perception and holds the possibility to lead
> to action.
> Warm regards,
> Aristita
> On 27/11/2014 19:49, "Johannes Birringer"
> <Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk> wrote:
> >----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> >
> >One one level, what interested me reflecting back on "The Market from
> >Here" was the approach, by artist/ethnographers from the south (Latin
> >America)
> >to set up a market in the courtyard of an anthropology department in the
> >US, and propose a scene of trading in 'ready-mades.'  The curator was
> >Cuban, and
> >Cuba at the time was under the "bloqueo", the US embargo against Fidel
> >Castro's Cuba which forbid all trade. When I worked in Cuba in the early
> >and mid-90s,
> >the country was going through a severe era or economic precarity (after
> >the dissolution of the Soviet Union) and that era was called período
> >especial (special period).
> >
> >
> >Shifting the conversation/framing of reality,  the "market from here",
> >then, also commented on the complexities of negation, or transgression
> >(no US citizen was allowed to travel to Cuba and "deal" with Cuba, Cubans
> >were not allowed to
> >"leave" their island unless when approved by the government) of a taboo;
> >and when I listened to the performances by the Latin artists, and looked
> >at the artifacts and sensual objects and magical
> >polyphony in the market, I glimpsed some of the meaning of what Bataille
> >called the accursed share, the sacred in the meaning of the "accursed",
> >the pure as well as the impure.  I began to wonder at what is meant by
> >secrecy at the core of power. And what is the "make believe" - the
> >theatre - that religion or shamanism require?
> >
> >Some of you have spoken here of the deep wound, and only yesterday Ana
> >shifted attention to the "forbidden" sex or eros. The necessity of the
> >wound in the holiness. Yes, surely, de Sade and Bataille
> >and Artaud can not be assimilated easily, their visions too close to
> >death, corpses, bodies without organs, eroticism and laughter., and the
> >sacred dimensions of violence.
> >
> >Have we talked about the sacred (sceret) dimensions of taboo?
> >
> >
> >(and is not the door keeper in Kafka's parable "Vor dem Gesetz" a kind of
> >shaman, and more terrible ones, he says, are behind him, further inside
> >the forests......)
> >
> >
> >+  +  +
> >
> >On the other level, social-communal-political, I asked myself, since I
> >also teach and meet Muslim and middle eastern students on a regular
> >basis, what would societies and communities now do when in Europe, for
> >example,
> >an increasing number of young men become radicalized, travel to Syria to
> >fight for Islamist movement or ISIS, then perhaps become disillusioned or
> >wounded or tired, and return home.  The other day, en route to Dresden, I
> >came across a report in The Guardian which mentions that western
> >countries, fearful of the threat returning Jihadists could pose, crack
> >down on returning fighters. In France, tough new anti-terror legislation
> >allows authorities to seize passports and ID cards from would-be
> >jihadists ³likely to jeopardise public security on their return². Britain
> >has arrested at least 60 returnees; government talk has been of long jail
> >terms, or trying to ban more from coming back at all. At least 30
> >returning jihadists are facing trial in Germany, which is mulling far
> >stricter exit controls, while, in Antwerp, 46 people were recently
> >accused of belonging to a Belgian group that allegedly recruited and sent
> >fighters to Syria; the group¹s leader could face up to 15 years in
> >prison. etc.
> >
> >The report then recounts the strikingly different approach chosen in
> >Aarhus, Denmark:  <The so-called Aarhus model, says Preben Bertelsen, a
> >psychologist, is about ³inclusion. Look: these are young people
> >struggling with pretty much the same issues as any others ­ getting a
> >grip on their lives, making sense of things, finding a meaningful place
> >in society. We have to say: provided you have done nothing criminal, we
> >will help you to find a way back.²>
> >
> >"In his office on the fifth floor of East Jutland police headquarters in
> >Aarhus, superintendent Allan Aarslev, who is in charge of the police end
> >of the programme, waves away any suggestion that the city¹s approach
> >represents the easy option. ³What¹s easy,² he says, ³is to pass tough new
> >laws. Harder is to go through a real process with individuals: a panel of
> >experts, counselling, healthcare, assistance getting back into education,
> >with employment, maybe accommodation. With returning to everyday life and
> >society. We don¹t do this out of political conviction; we do it because
> >we think it works.²
> >
> >"Combined with a newly opened, intensive and sometimes difficult dialogue
> >between city officials and leaders at the Grimhojvej mosque, it does
> >indeed seem to work: from late 2012 until the end of last year, 31 men
> >aged between 18 and 25 left Aarhus, a city of 325,000 people, bound for
> >Syria. This year, to the best of anyone¹s knowledge, there has been just
> >one. It may have launched only at the start of this year, but Aarhus¹s
> >'exit programme' builds on a longstanding, integrated and very Danish
> >approach to crime prevention that has operated for more than 30
> >years....."
> >
> >Here is the full article:  "How do you deradicalise returning Isis
> >fighters?"
> >
> http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/12/deradicalise-isis-fighters-ji
> >hadists-denmark-syria
> >
> >
> >This approach relies on collaborative communication across
> >religious/secular communities, social services, educational agencies,
> >psychologiists and counselors,  the city, the police, legal services.
> >
> >It fills us with hope.
> >
> >
> >respectfully
> >Johannes Birringer
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >_______________________________________________
> >empyre forum
> >empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> >http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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