The poetics of risk at Teatro da Vertigem



The group montages "Look At Our Own Cancer"; “look at the inflamed vein within the city”

Since its creation, in 1991, the Teatro da Vertigem group has been a study and research community on the direction of contemporary art, and, in particular, on the presence of theater in the city. Each staging carried out over months and years, results from a detained, restless aesthetic reflection, which forces thought. We will highlight, in this text, some of the contributions of the group, in these twenty-nine years of uninterrupted activities, to the contemporary aesthetic debate that has architecture or the city as its centrality. Parts as BR 3, by 2005, and Bom Retiro, 958 meters, from 2012, which we will highlight here, contributed significantly to the reflection on the relationship between aesthetics and politics, or even, on the negative potential of the artistic form today.

In these pieces, we have nocturnal wanderings through the city of São Paulo. In Bom Retiro 958 meters, the spectator, starting from a shopping centers, it travels 958 meters through several streets in this immigrant neighborhood until it reaches its destination, an old abandoned theater. In BR 3, the spectator embarks on a boat trip along the deteriorated Tietê River, flanked by the marginal roads, in which a family saga is enacted that intertwines the cities of Brasiléia, Brasília and Brasilândia.

These urban shifts show the hybrid character of the group's stagings that, since its creation by former students of the ECA-USP course, conceive theater as an expanded field, or even as a community of the arts, in which each one of them turns to for the capture of forces, that is, for the agency of new sensitive forces in new materials, even though the “scenic writing” of Antonio Araújo operates, in each new project, as a “vector of unification of languages”, in the expression of Silvia Fernandes.

This reciprocal insemination between the languages ​​is evident in the aesthetic walks of the Vertigem group, which are inserted, without epigonism, in a walking genealogy that goes back to the anti-artistic visits-excursions of the dada group, organized by Tristan Tzara, in 1921, to banal, tasteless places, of Paris or its surroundings, chosen according to gratuitous criteria, such as a small garden around the church Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, in 1921, commented by André Breton; surrealist wanderings through the unconscious part of the modern city, under the ruins of Haussmann's urban reforms, such as the one described by Luis Aragon in “The Peasant of Paris”, from 1926, in search of surprises or extraordinary revelations, that is, the sensation of the wonderful in everyday life, brought by the “wind of eventuality”, in Breton's verbal finding; or the situationist drifts that aimed to inhabit the city in alternative ways, in which useful time would be replaced by ludic-constructive time (and not by dream time, in the surrealist sense); or even the experiencebe dizzy” (to wander aimlessly, or to pas perdus) fur "current territory” by the Stalker group, coordinated by Francesco Careri in the 1990s; or, finally, the nomadism of “radical artists”, in the expression of Nicolas Bourriaud, who, not putting down roots in a single territory, would produce, with their displacements, “cultural exchanges”.

Em BR-3 and Bom Retiro 958 meters, however, unlike these artistic interventions, there is a dramatic action that guides the aesthetic journey that infiltrates the city, even if this action is open to indeterminacy, to the imponderability of becoming at each new presentation. During walking, in Good Retreat 958 meters, the dramatic action shows, darning scenic pictures, that this neighborhood has historically been characterized by receiving different migratory flows: Italians, Jews, Koreans and Bolivians. Without the aim of a didactic or even chronological reconstitution of the history of immigration, the play shows conflicts in labor relations, especially between Koreans and Bolivians, in the region.

One cannot, however, attribute the epic genre to his dramaturgy, but rhapsody, understood here as a “mosaic of writing in dynamic montage” (Jean-Pierre Sarrazac), that is, as a hybridization of the epic and epic genres. dramatic. This tension between genres, as well as between the tragic and the comic, is characteristic of this theater in which everything is placed under the sign of polyphony and criticism. The participation of the audience, also made up of casual passers-by, is another concrete, creative voice in this polyphony that modifies the work, insofar as it is incorporated, in the course of the presentations, into the dramaturgy itself.

For this reason, the plays by the Vertigem group scenically materialize the notions of “sharing the sensitive” and “dissensus” of Jacques Rancière, without resorting to such notions to apply them to their dramaturgy. Rancière, it is worth remembering, believes that “collective art”, promoting the “sharing of the sensitive“, can oppose spaces of social segregation. In a reaction to the stereotyped public reception, these manifestations would promote, in the author's language, an “authentic politics of the anonymous”. This last notion, however, has no substantial or ontological meaning, since the author does not identify it with a particular group or social class.

Rancière characterizes, in other words, the “anonymous” as “a collective of enunciation and manifestation that identifies its cause and its voice with any other, that is, with all those who have no right to speak”. Bom Retiro 958 metros, in this direction, would attribute visibility to the “forms of life” that challenge the “practices of consensus”, because, by “granting those who have no name, a collective name” (such as clandestine immigrants, made invisible in sewing workshops) , would be “requalifying a given situation”. At the heart of Rancière's reflection lies the belief that certain aesthetic manifestations can establish dissent, which would be at the origin of politics.

Dissent is a space of conflicts, not of points of view, nor of reciprocal recognition of rights, but of “conflicts over the very constitution of the common world”; about “what is seen and heard in it, about the titles of those who speak in it to be heard and about the visibility of the objects that are designated in it”, in the author's own characterization. Bom Retiro 958 meters would not, therefore, be political theater just for the messages it transmits about the unequal order of the world, or for the way in which it represents the structures of society, class conflicts or the identities of social groups, but, above all, for the way in which, in the course of of the staging,time is divided and space is occupied” in this neighborhood of the city of São Paulo.

The Vertigem group's community vocation is present at all levels of the creation process, from initial research to self-criticism after each new presentation. For the scenic realization, for example, of the successive relations of exploitation that reduced the immigrant worker to a condition analogous to that of a slave, covered up by the interested disregard of the São Paulo government, the group performed workshops with the inhabitants of Bom Retiro and with those who went there daily.

This collaborative work was even more intense in BR 3. In this case, the creation process involved a trip of four thousand kilometers, during forty days, to Brasiléia, in the extreme Acre, and to Brasília, in the central plateau, as well as the residency, for one year, in Brasilândia, peripheral neighborhood of São Paulo. Paulo, where the group built a temporary headquarters. The incorporation of the experience lived by the group in these regions into the structure of the staging did not, however, result in a theater as a document, that is, of mere immediate communication.

It is important to stress this fact because, since the end of the 1990s, as Hal Foster has shown, there has been a progressive return to the so-called referent, with the replacement of the subject defined in terms of economic relations by a subject characterized according to ethnic or cultural identity. It would be the notion of the artist as an ethnographer that would allow, according to the author, to understand the current trend of “return of the real”. The playwright, assuming the position of “ideological patronage”, would end up, in this sense, by reducing the works to “ethnographic reports”.

This is not what happens in the projects of the Vertigem group, it should be noted, because their dramaturgy does not “take the other being as a primitivist fantasy”, in an idealization according to which there would be “something pure, without mediation”, and, at the limit, unfathomable; and, conversely, it does not assume that “full access to the other” would be possible, assuming a “realistic assumption” — which would imply, in the latter case, linking aesthetics to politics without mediations. Rejecting these assumptions, Teatro da Vertigem assumes that “reflexivity”, or “critical distance”, is a necessary condition to protect the artist from an “over-identification with the other” which, in the extreme, would end up compromising even the “condition from another". In this way, the group's collaborative processes are not a rationalization, a compensatory activity, driven by a mockery of social reconciliation that would make up for the absence of public policies on the part of a degraded State, as if the general state of the world could only be rectified with a little goodwill and some commendable examples.

It is in the idea of ​​an “unstable formalization” – in the expression of Silvia Fernandes – however, that Teatro da Vertigem's greatest legacy to the contemporary aesthetic debate resides. Its forms “almost procedural flows of theatricality, unfinished and updated from the spatial occupation vectors” of the city, as we saw in BR 3 e Bom Retiro 958 metres, they uniquely rearticulate the autonomy of the theatrical form.

There is no intention in the group's stagings to overcome the artistic form, with the purpose of aestheticizing life in the sense of the artistic vanguards of the last century, nor the replacement of the artistic form by the forms of social relations, in the direction of the theater of the real or relational aesthetics of the last two decades. Their elaborate theatrical forms prevent them from becoming too close to the so-called existing reality – the voracity of the city – to the point of sinking into it. In these forms, “the scenic space and the urban space are reciprocally reconfigured”, preventing one from subsuming the other, as Vera Pallamin has already pointed out.

Preserving the distance between art and vital praxis, these pieces allow us to think about alternatives to reality; something that finally breaks with the horizon of the probable. In other words, in the mobile, floating forms, which change as the encounter with the other in the streets, we have an alternative concept of artistic (procedural) form because it is based on the tension between autonomy and heteronomy. This theater of occupation of the city, taken as a “problematic form”, allows thinking about the possibility of replacing the notions of autonomy of art (as a self-referentiality of theatrical form, because it is governed by its internal law) and of heteronomy (as submission of this form to the exteriority of the city). , to the logic of capital that disintegrates urban life) through the notion of “heteronomy without servitude”, in Jacques Derrida's expression. In the “heteronomy without servitude” we would not have the regulation of the theatrical form by a sovereign exteriority, but its incorporation and transfiguration in the interiority of that form.

Teatro da Vertigem is, for these reasons, a contemporary theater in the sense attributed to the term by Giorgio Agamben. Pieces of it “look at our own cancer”; “look at the inflamed vein within the city”, such as the Tietê river, in BR-3, or at the exploitation of work in private prison, in Bom Retiro: 958 meters, incorporating violence in Brazil into the very materiality of the work.

It is an untimely theater, in the sense of Nietzsche, as it “comes to terms with its time”, taking a critical position, in an elaborate artistic form, in the face of the present: “It truly belongs to its time, it is truly contemporary [says Agamben] that which which does not coincide perfectly with this one, nor is it adequate to its pretensions and is therefore, in that sense, out of date; but precisely because of this, precisely through this displacement and this anachronism he is able more than others to perceive and apprehend his time”. The Teatro da Vertigem group “perceives the darkness of its time as something that concerns it”; that is to say, he is the one who has received in full face for three decades “the torch of darkness” that comes from Brazil at that time.

*Ricardo Fabbrini He is a professor at the Department of Philosophy at USP. Author, among other books, of Art after the vanguards (Unicamp).

Partially modified version of the chapter “The poetics of risk of Teatro da Vertigem”, originally published in the book Vertigo Theater; Org. Silvia Fernandes. Rio de Janeiro: Editora de Livros Cobogó, 2018.


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