terça-feira, 2 de dezembro de 2008

Less America, More Tenderness! (Review of Empire)


Monday, 24th of November 2008
Text: Ana Schnabl

Ljubljana –International Festival for Contemporary Performing Arts Exodos is taking place in these November days, and among others we saw a performance by Ricky Seabra Empire, Love to Love You, Baby, which he performed twice in the frame of the festival.

In his project Empire, Love to Love You, Baby, Ricky Seabra deconstructed American national fixations.
Formerly a graphic designer at Miramax, Seabra is a graduate of visual communications and Master of Arts in industrial design, who nine years ago quit his job and moved to Amsterdam to become a storyteller – mostly performing on stage.

Against Imperialism
Seabra owns a Brazilian as well as an American passport and this duality is exactly what legitimates his project, presented last Friday and Saturday at Plesni Teater Ljubljana (more precisely, at the “Imperial PTL Theatre”, as he called it) and grants this project with much appreciated connivance. Seabra as a kind of lecturer/performer takes on the task of deconstructing American national – if not nationalistic – fixations that are exceptionally successful and persistent in getting under the skin or rather into the »souls of individuals« and the phantasmagoria of pop culture phenomena following 9/11, while explaining at the same time that the historical foundations for all of this were laid long time ago. He talks about how the question marks at the end of particular lines of the American anthem were erased so that there would be no doubt of the American sense of equality, freedom and courage; he talks about the sacredness of the American flag, about the symbolic slogan "Support your troops" and ethical primacy of American army and other forms of Imperial attitude. His performance / presentation is comic and satiric and reminds one of a stand-up comedy with an excellent dramaturgical concept and make-up of live animations, music hits, TV shows, projections of websites and a very persuasive and thought-out choreography.

With the appearance of Rickyoncé - the new Empress who bets on bootylicious United States of America - the irony of American imperialistic tendencies is brought to absurdity: Seabra, who in his transvestite edition oscillates between the point of view of an MTV star and the logic of an average Quaker, has plenty of sexy ideas and suggestions about how the Sons of Sam could really rule the world. In any case, Empire, Love to Love You, Baby leaves the viewer with an ambiguous impression. Mocking the icons and American symbols and re-contextualizing this imagery surely comes out as a critique and the artist stands up against the imperialism of his home country, displayed on the level of a nation and originating from the demonic collective unconscious (or, as the author says, it's about »deep shit«). The target of Seabra's offensive however, is not limited just to American nationalism but also points to the institution of prejudice and stereotypes non-Americans foster about America and its people. In other words, he is not trying to be apologetic on behalf of American identity or be overtly moralizing, instead he puts himself exactly on the spot from which most people see USA: the disseminators of the holy truth. Seabra, however, doesn't try to force this truth on you instead he only displays its mechanisms.

translation: Barbara Hribar

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