pere faura
   performance artist
  Written Interview for Ddanza

Guillermo Aarzo and Pere Faura
december 2008

- In your work there is a kind of discussion between theater, dance, performance and musicals. Why all this elements?

First of all, discussions are always artistically very interesting, because in them there’s always a conflict, therefore, a challenge. I understand Theatre, in capital letters, as the encounter between some one who proposes a conversation (the performer) and some one who is seeking for a conversation (the spectator) even if sometimes this conversation also ends up in a discussion.

Any element used to develop this conversation is for me completely valid: movement, text, lights, video, music… and it’s clear that some of these elements belong more than others to some of the categories you are mentioning, like text to theatre or singing to musicals. But I believe in the performance as a whole, where all the elements included serve the concept of the piece from their own particularity as elements, in discussion with each other, creating every time a new event, however people want to call this event: dance, theatre or performance. I don’t care.

It’s clear that my pass trough the “theatre” and musicals world has had an influence on my choreographic development and I’ve kept on including elements of talking, singing or tap dancing in my works. These elements are part of my history and part of my body, and both my history and my body are the result of many different influences and experiences that coexist or maybe fight in one same place, and that is what I also do that in my work, I combine different disciplines to live or argue with each other in one same place, the stage.

- These days you are presenting your last project “Do you havea cigarette? and other ways of approaching”. How important is the clubbing culture in your work? What is what fascinates you the most from it? And what is what you hate the most from it?

Clubbing culture is again part of my history, of my body, in the same way as tap dancing or musicals. Actually I think I’ve spent more time in discos than in some dance classes. On the other hand, clubbing culture has to do a lot with theatre, it’s an encounter of people where there is dance, sweat, seduction, laughter, and where ideas and stupidities are sheared for a while, just for a while, cause probably next day they are already forgotten. Both Theatre and Disco have a very strong ephemeral component, and that’s very fascinating for me, as it is at the same time the most beautiful and the saddest thing of both worlds.

Another element that fascinates me as well is the element of superficiality: a lot of people think that people only talks bullshit when they go out, and I completely agree, I say and hear a lot of bullshit in the disco, but I like it, that’s why I go out, cause sometimes, in between all that bullshit you find that conversation or that encounter that has a strong impact on you, and you remember it for some time. That reminds me to “Theatre” or “Dance” very much, like when you go to see a performance, and after a lot of bullshit they finally do or say something that you will remember for a long time.

- In “Striptease”, you play with the gaze, reflections, and impressions. Which were the motivations to create this piece? Where do the rolls shift?

The piece was a commission, but thanks to that I discovered the big potential that striptease has as a performative event. I got fascinated by the relation between dance and eroticism: dancing to seduce, the choreography of desire, but also dancing to hide, to tease, to fool. Dance as a tool of desire control. And on the other hand, the gaze, the sexual gaze versus the artistic gaze. The disquieting gaze of the spectator who decides weather that body is a sexual object or the motor for an artistic experience.

In the piece I compare the roles in Striptease with the roles in Theatre, specially concerning the issue of expectations, the contract that performer and spectator sign when audience gets into their chairs, in search for something new, different, never seen… in other words, in search for the end to their dissatisfaction. I think that both striptease spectators and theatre spectators have some dissatisfaction in themselves, that’s why they are there, to see if “the other” can satisfy them in that aspect in which they can’t satisfy themselves. Therefore, they leave very disappointed if they don’t like the show, cause that means they still remain empty, that something is still missing.

In striptease maybe it looks more obvious, as sexual pleasure is easily recognizable, both when it is already present or when you look for it. But in Theatre, it happens something similar, yet the pleasure we look for is different than the sexual one and more difficult to detect, but it is pleasure anyway, subjective and individual. And is in this comparison where the rolls shift, where the spectator is confronted with his own way of being spectator. U think the performance becomes a kind of big mirror for the spectator.

- Do you like stripping your inner self in front of an audience?

I guess so… cause in a way I show the part of me that I want to show, what I think it can be interesting to establish the conversation with the audience. What I don’t want to show, I don’t show it. Well… sometimes talking with people after the performance, they say things that reveal that probably very unconsciously I have shown parts of myself or my personality that were not part at all of the initial concept of the piece… So I think that in a way you are never in full control of what you are showing or producing when you are on stage, but that’s also something very beautiful and unique about theatre, cause in a way you always end up naked, stripped by the gaze of the audience, and you ought to be a bit exhibitionist and find pleasure in stripping your inner self in the same way that Demi More finds pleasure in stripping her outer self.

- How importance is in your work the irony and the symbolic means?

Irony is very important in my work as a humoristic tool. I think the contemporary world we live in, so complex, unequal and serious needs a humoristic and ironic contemporary art that helps us laugh about ourselves.

Irony is a very strong unifying tool, as it tends to unify the perceptive experience, it creates a common ground of understanding, when in contrary, the abstract is always a disintegrating element, cause it has to do with subjectivity, with each individual’s own interpretation. I personally like mixing both in my work, the abstract and the ironic, once again, in constant discussion.

- Which are your sorts of inspiration?

My main sort of inspiration is the common, the global, what unifies me with the other, with the spectator. I’m interested in those materials that belong to the collective memory, what makes us become a group, what we share, and therefore, what defines our identity. And once I pick up one, I take it and break it a part in thousand pieces and create a new puzzle made out with the same pieces that reveals a new picture. I like transforming the common, the known, into something new and unknown. Cause in the result there’s a strange mix between the joy for the newness and the nostalgia for the recognition. A very nice discussion again. My last works have dealt in this way with musicals, striptease and disco dancing.

- Did you get afraid with the success of “This is a picture of a person I don't know”? What did this piece represent in your carrier?

“This is a picture of a person I don't know” represented a lot for my artistic and professional development in many ways. From an artistic perspective, it became the sum, the ultimate culmination of many different artistic obsessions I had been collecting till that time, it was the end-exam piece for my choreographic studies that brought together not only what I learned in the school in Amsterdam, but everything I had learned in life. All my artistic and even personal influences are some how visible in that piece; from musicals, to video-dance, tap dancing, singing, contemporary dance improvisation and my last (un)love affairs.

I think it was a success cause it stayed very close to me at the same time that it stayed close to the people, to the audience of contemporary dance who were starting to get familiar with referential work and a bit tired of abstract subjectivity often too serious and distant.

The success is the perfect harmony among all the parameters involved in a creative process, that’s why it occurs so little times, cause there are many, many factors to be considered, more than the ones that as a creator you can control. And “This is a picture of a person I don't know” came in the right moment in the right place and in the right format: a solo, easy to sell in a market hungry for newness and “young talents”.

The success of the piece generated big expectations that forced me to produce something new in a short time and obviously the result was not the expected. I’m talking about my solo “Discopolis”, that I showed as a studio presentation in Gasthuis Studios, just after only a month of working. A lot of people came, and they all left disappointed, no-one looked at it with constructive eyes, from a work-in-progress perspective, from its potential, every one wanted another finished product as good as “This is a picture of a person I don't know” to fulfil again their dissatisfaction. From that point on, I decided not to show work-in-progress again, never ever again… Something I haven’t achieved completely, cause in one way it is quite impossible task and on the other hand these kind of presentations are always helpful, even if they make you feel very insecure. But thanks to all that I think I learned to manage better all those production elements that have an influence in the context where you show your work. And that’s important.

I kept on developing the ideas of “Discopòlis” in my next project in the National Theatre of Catalunya, where it finally became the solo piece called “Striptease programat”, a performance much closer to my initial ideas and what I really wanted to make from the beginning.

I think I’m a quite fast dancer, I can shift between different techniques very easily and change from tap dancing to say a text or sing a song in a moment, but as a choreographer, I think I’m really slow.

“This is a picture of a person I don't know” was a success cause it was the result of many years dancing jazz and tap, two years of recording the audience in different ways, and 2 previous pieces that relate video and dance together. This is what I later called recycling technique, where I use the same ideas in different conceptual contexts to understand them better and finally use them in the format where they become most powerful.

Success, then, in my case, has to due with time. And once after graduating from SNDO, enrolled within the professional market, time is gold, and people want successes without paying for the time to create them. And specially if you need a lot of time, like me.

- How was working with Jerôme Bel? And how important has he been in your own work?

I entered Jerôme Bel’s company as a performer at “The Show Must Go On” three years ago when the show was already created, so I was not part of its creation. Nevertheless, Jerôme always rehearses and re-rehearses every moment of the show when there is a new gig, probably cause the 20 performers are always different. This work is always very interesting. Jerôme is master in presentating, which is not representing, the quotidian: how to walk, look or simply be on stage. This work has been very influential to my own work, but while Jerôme presents it completely isolated, just the quotidian individual and that’s it, I present the quotidian body next to the virtuous but embodied by the same performer, who sings or tap dances and in the next moment, he’s quiet, tired and takes his sweat out of his face. And these two bodies embodied in one they remain again in constant discussion.

The work of Jerôme, on the other hand, was also a big influence concerning the concept of meta-theatre. He was one of the first choreographers to talk about theatre in the theatre, to talk about what all the people that we gather there in the theatre to make a show happen, performers and audience, have in common. About the conventions we follow, most of the time unconsciously, when we go to the theatre. And he makes them visible in a humoristic manner, and that’s also another reason why I like his work. I think Jerôme is one of the best theatre-strippers.

- How is your work at Frascati Theater?

Frascati is a production house for young makers, where they produce and assist their projects during their first professional years. It’s a very interesting and important structure not existing in Spain yet. But it also has its negative side. It’s a very big structure where personal relations become more distant and impersonal, and the administrative work that I also have to do because of its dimension sometimes overwhelms me, but little by little I’m learning how to manage myself better inside that structure, and how to take as much profit of it as possible.

I’ve recently had a lot of economical problems with my last project due to some subsidy issues, that made me rethink how I would like to finance my projects in the future and which organizations I would like to collaborate with. I think this will be always a constant reflection anyway… But for now, I think it’s just a luxury to know that every time I want to do a new project, there is someone who takes it in consideration.

- Do you get inspired by old musicals?

It’s funny because old musicals inspired me more when I was a child than later. Now I can’t say “inspire” is the right word. I look at them with nostalgia and respect, I use them in my projects, like “Singing in the rain” or “Gilda”, but in the same way you classified them, that’s how I see them: old.

I admire their neatness and precision, the virtuous smile of Gene or Rita, but in all musicals History it seems that this virtuosity has only served simple stories and archetypical characters, characters with no inner discussion at all, yet “Singing in the rain” and “Gilda” could be one of the few exceptions, as their plots or sub-plots are a bit more elaborated, but nevertheless, they just feed one unique aim, common in the whole genre: entertaining. And that’s why I see them old.

I do believe contemporary art has to entertain, but not as an aim, but rather as a tool to generate reflection in the audience. Contemporary theatre should be a collective space for individual reflection.

- Have I forgotten any question that you would have liked to answer?

I think your work is a bit similar than mine. We both invent questions, but your questions are meant for someone else to answer, when my questions I have to answer them myself in the studio. So with the ones I already answered to you and the ones I have for myself for tomorrow’s rehearsal, I can’t think of anything else I would like to answer myself. I hope all the answers you got from me are anyway enough for you to write your article tomorrow. Thanks a lot.

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