»It’s All about Communication« Interview with Jérôme Bel
Übersetzt von Christoph Nöthlings
PDF, 12 Seiten
An Interview with Jérome Bel on audiences, communication, judgment, criticism, presentness, and, of course, theater.
This interview was conducted by Sandra Umathum and Benjamin Wihstutz in December 2013 and March 2014.
Jérôme, you recently came back from New York and Minneapolis. How was touring the United States with Disabled Theater?
Jérôme Bel: It was not that easy. The audience was problematic. It was very tense, not at all like in Europe.
What do you mean?
The piece was shown at the Performa biennial, so it was presented in a theater usually showing dance. I could feel a tension in the room right from the beginning. People would hold their breath during the first scene, when the actors are asked to stand in front of the audience for one minute. Or for example, when one of the performers with Down’s syndrome, Damian Bright, says: “I have one chromosome more than you guys in the audience”—people normally start laughing out loud. In fact they snort with laughter, but not in New York. Here, nobody laughed.
Why, do you think, were the audiences in America so serious?
I am not sure. I think people were embarrassed. It is certainly an American issue, although in Minneapolis it was a little more relaxed than in New York. But even there, everything was much more tense than in Europe. The reviews were also more critical; some accused me of abusing the performers. At least the spectators did not applaud as much as in Europe during the show.
In Berlin, people were clapping all the time. It seemed like every single line was applauded.
I think there is a certain dynamic involved. Once they have started applauding, they get into it, they don’t dare to stop because they want to respect every single one of the performers. Even when it is not great they cheer and clap, it’s ridiculous. In New York, there was only applause after the dance solos, which was nice. But applause is not only about appreciating the performance; people use it also to relax, for relief. When you clap, you say, I am still here. So I guess after the dance solos, the people in New York wanted to show that they were present. I really regret that I did not join the tour to Korea. It would have been interesting to see the audience reactions over there.
Would you like to continue working with disabled people?
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Jérôme Bel’s Disabled Theater, a dance piece featuring eleven actors with cognitive disabilities from Zurich's Theater HORA, has polarized audiences worldwide. Some have celebrated the performance as an outstanding exploration of presence and representation; others have criticized it as a contemporary freak show. This impassioned reception provokes important questions about the role of people with cognitive disabilities within theater and dance—and within society writ large. Using Disabled Theater as the basis for a broad, interdisciplinary discussion of performance and disability, this volume explores the intersections of politics and aesthetics, inclusion and exclusion, and identity and empowerment. Can the stage serve as a place of emancipation for people with disabilities? To what extent are performers with disabilities able to challenge and subvert the rules of society? What would a performance look like without an ideology of ability?