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Insulted by the two fingers of chance

November 10, 2008

Last night a brief conference on Futurist dramaturgy at the University of Toronto was brought to a close with a cabaret of Futurist performance, presented by the university’s graduate drama centre.  I don’t know how the conference itself dealt with the difficulties in hosting Futurism (which by its nature resists intellectual discussion) in the academy, but the perfomers at the cabaret seemed to employ a few counter-strategies:

— The evening had a distinctly retro feel.  Mock-ups of manifestos, scrapped-up and shredded and stuck all over the walls — cabaret-seating strewn with streamers — a  hostile birthday party in anticipation of the centenary of Marinetti’s Founding Manifesto Futurist (next year).

— Marinetti himself was brought onstage in effigy, roundly abused, shouted at through large red horns in the name of “the Russian team”: Russians 1, Italians 0.

— Did I mention that my girlfriend was insulted by a futurist artist?  This evening was not so much a celebration of, as an argument with the Futurists and all of their reprehensible pronouncements.  A passeist tableau vivant — three ladies passive-aggresively pop bubble wrap at Marinetti’s ambitions to glorify contempt for women.

— You can’t say I didn’t enter into the spirit of the thing: given the choice between paying the standard price for entry, or rolling dice to determine how much I would pay, I thought I ought to enter into an aleatoric experiment.  I rolled a 19 on a 20-sided die.  Insulted by the two fingers of chance.

— There Is No Pig: in a re-writing of a Futurist piece called There Is No Dog, a small mechanical pig, spotlighted, travels slowly across the darkened stage.  It shuffles forward three steps, pauses, makes a timid grunting sound, and progresses.  Most of the audience hurl abuse and missiles at it.  Others applaud.  A similarly hostile response is given to a vacuum cleaner, left alone onstage following a  dance with Susan Bertoia, as it is inelegantly pulled of from the wings, by its cord.

— Katherine, sometime-collaborator with Idle Tigers, dances in a short film called Vita Futurista. She is as superb as ever.  There’s also magic tricks, aerialists, whiteface dancers on stilts.  The performers are welcome to confront you at any time.

— Just as the room had got fully warmed up and quite accustomed to insulting or otherwise hijacking performances such as a musical piece scored for power tools, and Francesco Cangiullo’s famous gun lowered into the audience, Toronto artist Ulysses Castellanos arrives as a guest performer.  No-one except one brave soul boos or hisses.  He’s swinging a hatchet and yelling “thankyou” repeatedly over a dissonant sound-collage.  In a way his performance is far more menacing, and for better or worse closer to the original intentions of Futurism, than the comparatively safer re-workings of Futurist originals.  The rest of the evening falls a little flat, the cartoon hostility of the remaining pieces (dance pieces set to the onstage shredding of books) not quite meaning the same.  By the end of the evening theatre was not so much abolished, as restored.

— Me, I don’t feel remotely hostile.  I leave the theatre with nothing but admiration for the pig and the vacuum cleaner.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Virginia permalink
    November 11, 2008 3:24 am

    I noticed you left out the bit where the miss dressed as a marble statue receives a phone call from a cell phone pulled out of her vagina… followed by dry humping an audience member… followed by pulling a red clown nose out of her vagina and putting it on. But ya know, that’s one of those everyday events so I guess it’s not worth mentioning.

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