pere faura
   performance artist
  Ploughing the lot:
Explorations in live video in the theatre

Live-video in Works leading up to Discopolis by Pere Faura

Gasthuis Theater March 2007
Performed by Jefta van Dinther, Naiara Mendioroz, Pere Faura, Adnan Hasovic

text by Jeroen Fabius - March 2007
> see pdf published version on VOLUME #8

In March of this year Pere Faura presented Discopolis, a work that deals with live video in the theatre. Below I will explore how this work can be seen within the persistent attempts of Pere over four years to investigate the possibilities and meanings that live-video can bring to dance and the theatre. In particular Pere has been working with video to explore the sensation of liveness, showing the very constructions how video creates a sense of presence. The liveness also implies its opposite, absence, how theatre promises a meeting, but at the same time creates a gap between performer and spectator that cannot be overcome. Theatre then becomes an affirmation of a deeply felt solitude.

Discopolis is an extension of Pere’s investigations already from the very first year of his studies at the School for New Dance Development. Pere and I have worked together on a number of these works and I have been able to follow the development of his works over the years. There is a surprising and tenacious consistency in his work in which he is exploring live video, recorded video in all kinds of possible relations with choreography. At the end of his career, the television writer Dennis Potter (well known for writing the six part television drama Singing Detective in the 1980s among other things) was asked, how come the range of his work was always around a limited number of issues. Some characters and themes were repeated in different works, and even entire story lines returned in new versions over the years. He said that we all just have so much to work with, we are all just ploughing a relatively small lot of land. It is funny to think that Pere, being only 26 might be like that. But perhaps it is different, and it is more like a step-by-step, piece-meal exploration of his interest in our ways of dealing with reality.

"and tomorrow because of the salads"

That was the title of the piece Pere made in 2003 that was a little longer than the 10 minutes he was allowed to make, according to the production rules of the school at the time. As form of punishment (or perhaps reward), he was obliged to remake the piece and show he was able to deal with production conditions. He made the piece in a week, out of pure rage, and it turned out a pearl. In the space we see a VCR player, a monitor, and a beamer, that are all operated by Pere during the performance. The visible presence of the equipment and the manipulations create transparency in the way video technology is used as part of the performance. The monitor and the beamer are operated with a button, allowing us to see one thing at the time, the monitor or the projected image on the wall. The monitor showed a clock, after all, he needed to adhere to the 10 minute rule that was the one and only reason for this presentation. As additional marker of the special occasion, the director and production manager of the school were placed on a high platform so they could oversee, and be witness of these facts. The piece consisted of Pere dancing live with a recording of the original duet that he had made with a dancer some months before, projected by the beamer on the wall. Each time it is his turn to dance he will join the video projection; in the moments the other is dancing he can go to check the time. In this solo, or duet with a virtual dancer, he has to race between the clock and the recorded duet projected on the wall behind him to be able to execute the duet, and check the duration of the piece.

As spectators we are both drawn into the fictional duet, of Pere dancing with his recorded partner on the video projection, and into the reality of the time passing by. He is reminding us of both realities existing at the same time, but exclusively, they oppose each other, with one push on the button he switches the projected image from one to the other reality. These two realities reveal different dimensions of space and time that can exist within the theatre, and also in our imagination. The dance with the projected images creates a fiction of a duet, in which physical and virtual presences are combined. At the same time it refers to a real history of this piece beyond the here and now, it is a recording of the previous version of the same choreography that he is dancing for us. The video of the clock makes us aware of the ‘real time,’ and the real setting, and the politics of production within the school that determined the event. The piece shows how we continuously negotiate various realities, both in the present and in the past, simultaneously and how the 10 minute time rule invades this negotiation as an inevitable sign of authority. The live manipulation of recorded video here plays an essential role to show how we operate with these presences and absences.

Panoramas 2

‘Panoramas 2’ (2005) shows the construction of a live video event, i.e. the manipulation of the recording of the event itself. As the title suggests it shows us views, possible views of a choreography that is repeated three times, and every time we see it differently through interventions of video. Again Pere works with transparent manipulations of video technology on the stage. Where “and tomorrow, etc” shows us how we negotiate different realities in the present, Panoramas 2 constructs ways for us to look at one event and perceive different co-existing realities. In that process we become part of the theatrical event, and thus also of the multiple co-existing realtities.

In this work we see three dancers ‘at work,’ setting up the event on the stage: with theatre lights, a video beamer and a camera on a tripod, a spatial setting is created where the dancing will take place. Once they have completed the set up, they execute the choreography, three times and each time with a different. First, the camera on the tripod is upstage pointed towards the spectators behind the dancers executing the choreography, but there is no image projected. In the second part, the camera is moved down stage in front of the dancers, the beamer projects live close ups of their dancing. The third time that the dancers dance the choreography we see the recording of the first time they danced the choreography projected on the back screen. The projection is life size, the projected image covers the entire width of the stage, including the live dancers and creating a doubling of recorded and live stage. It takes a while to understand what is happening, that we see a recording of a previous moment and not a live projection from the camera positioned in front of the dancers. And we can compare between the third version of the live dancing and the first version on the video, puzzling with how the different dimensions communicate with each other: the two dimensions of the screen, with the three dimensions of the live figures, the mix up of left and right, as the recording was made from the back, and thus reverses the direction of our gaze. And importantly, through the reversal of the gaze we see ourselves and the entire seating with all the other spectators while we were watching the first version. We have become part of the performance.

The third version seems to finally bring the piece to the point that long eluded the spectator. By then it is clear that all that was happening was in function of making us aware of this: the fact that we are together here for this to happen. We have become part of the event. Theatre creates a space for people to come together. It seems the dance has taken on a sort of relay function, it has not demanded much reading. It has made us aware of the room, of the fact that the entire space is filled with energy and the presence of moving bodies, just like any dance would do. But the dance does not represent emotional messages or states, it just ‘does’ something. Just like the work like setting up of the space with the equipment. The theatre is a place of promise, by ‘just doing’ the dance postpones a sense of revelation, of what it could all be about. In this case it was the video that delivered the promise that created the moment of revealing what the piece was proposing. Panoramas 2 has given us the opportunity to see one event in different ways, and has included the spectator as part of the event, theatre has been shown as a place of, multi-layered, gathering.

This is a picture of somebody I don’t know

The inclusion of the audience by the use of video augments a sense of gathering, of shared co-presence, that is so essential to the theatre. The jewel in ‘This is a picture of a person I don’t know’ (2006) is a scene in which a recording of a member of the audience is shown. She or he has been recorded for 40 seconds during the performance with a camera that looks more like a photo camera. So we do not expect that we will see the footage later on as a video close up projected on the back screen. The moment of the filming itself was already intense. Pere singles out one spectator for 40 seconds and points the camera at him or her. This person is surprised and uncomfortable and tries to keep up decorum over the stretch of time that seems to be endless. While the camera produces the close up through physical means of the lens, you can say that the embarrassment of the individual doubles the sense of intimacy of the close up. When we see the projection later in de performance, Pere describes in words what we see, while he looks at us, not at the screen. In fact, while not looking at the projection but at us, he tries to remember what he saw while he was filming this person. The scene creates gaps between what is happening in the projections and the words describing what we see. Pere speaks about factual things he remembers, the awkward face of the person in question, becoming red with embarrassment or starting to smile awkwardly, moving his or her hands about to find comfort, but he also speaks about what he thought the person was thinking. The timing of his descriptions and what we see does not coincide. All this together creates an eerie sense of liveness I have rarely witnessed before with video in the theatre. The sensation of the recorded version is extremely ‘live’, i.e. as if the thickness of emotion, the intimacy created by this scene is happening in the ‘here and now’ even though we know it was recorded before. We were present when he filmed this person, but that was minutes ago. The ‘here’ is clearly established, the ‘now’ is fully confused. Video warps our sense of time by bringing back moments in time to the here and now.

‘This is a picture’ tells a story, about a man who is alone, who seeks company. This piece is both an audition and a proposition. It starts out with footage from the film the ‘Chorus Line,’ where Michael Douglas as the director is auditioning dancers and tells them what is expected from them. Pere however says that this time he wants to be the choreographer of his own life, and love. It is a complicated woven structure of monologue, and even dialogue with his alter ego, a recorded footage made before the public enters, video footage of famous films, also ‘Singing in the Rain,’ that ends in a unresolved attempt to overcome his loneliness. The collage of the wide range of materials allows the spectator to ride a wealth of associations, but also proposes a puzzle to sort out the narrative of this lonely soul looking for a lover.

When the piece ends, we see a dialogue of Pere with his video alter ego that ends when on the video screen we see the audience entering. Some of them recognise themselves, we also see how we ourselves join him in that very room. Again time is warped, at the end the story of the piece leaps back to the moment we were entering the room. Very confusing. It seems to express the impossibility for him to meet with us, with his lover, the unbridgeable gap between performer and audience. The dialogue with his alter ego is a declaration of love to the last resort, his own alter ego, when he has given up trying to find love with others. The gap with the audience has not been closed, but made impossible forever. The video carrying us back to where the very show started that very same evening, when we were there, implicates us in this very impossibility, we are back to where we started. We too, spectators, haven’t achieved anything to get closer to the performer this evening. If the theatre is a place of loneliness for Pere, then it is for us all, we are part of this game as much as he is, we are made to look at ourselves as part of his act. This is not the first time in Pere’s work that this is happening, but this time the video focuses on the gap, and the impossibility of overcoming the gap between performer and spectator, and showing the great desire for overcoming the gap that is so important for making theatre.


Discopolis (2007) builds on from ‘This is a picture,’ and earlier pieces in ‘constructing liveness’ and now focuses on the gap that ‘This is a picture’ laid bare. For the piece Pere organised a party. An event outside the piece became part of the project. Afterwards there was some discussion how important the party was or not, and now it only achieved the status of a failed party. The people that came for the party become the absent world in the composition, all the people he is not dancing with. But we see them filmed in the very same room, they are projected nearly on the same spot where they were dancing during the recording, it makes their absence all the more felt.

The piece starts with the gradual introduction of the various elements that could construct a sensation of the presence of the party-goers, of the party, the party in a discotheque. We enter an empty room that looks like a disco, we even see a video of a deejay playing the music for us. Then we are indicated to be seated in a room adjacent that was divided by curtains, and we look onto the very room we were in, now it has become a theatre.

Pere comes in and starts to dance to the music. That is the piece. All we see is one figure dancing during the entire duration of the piece. The presence of this singular body is clearly stated, it does not move from its place. It performs a kind of dancing we know well from the discotheque. It has its lows and highs, it changes its themes with the phrasing of the music. You could call this a ‘documentary’ approach to choreography, again it just asks us to look and does not attempt to construct its own narrative. Pere makes us look at the disco dancing for an extended period of time, to zoom in or out and witness this well known reality. Where Pere continues to dance, gradually the elements of the party are added, or taken away. Two performers, Naiara and Jefta are operating the lights and the sound on the right and left corner of the space. Again the technology is visible and the interventions are transparent. First there is only a very bland light, then it becomes more atmospheric, then the stroboscope is added. Then the video of the dancing party-goers is introduced, and will stay for the whole time. At some point the music stops and there is just the sound of people dancing, their stamping feet, and their cheering voices. And later the music speeds up, and the video projection of people dancing, the energy of partying increases but the paradox widens even more, the binary of the sensation of presence and absence is felt more and more. This is not a real party, or discotheque, even though that is all we are watching. Finally Pere is replaced, by another dancing body, by Naiara. She takes over from Pere in very much the same way, just by dancing to the music.

We are not supposed to identify with the dancer on a psychological level, but just with the energy, the waves moving through the body. During the piece we do not stay with this dancer, our mind drifts, and moves away from him. Very much like we do in the disco we perceive time differently, we are in a ‘sea of time,’ where waves carry us back and forth to what we see, perceive, think, associate, it is a kind of freedom, that is so pleasurable of going out, no more linear time. The physical presence is undeniable, but what the piece wants to communicate is the experience of varying sensations of presence, and disappearance. How is it possible that we forget about this dancing figure, and is that a problem? He is the only character. What else is there?

With the introduction of the elements of light, sound and video, and even replacing a dancer, the space is constructed as a partying space, a disco, a temple for the celebration of happiness, where real happiness seems to be absent. Again we are looking at a deliberate construction, and we perceive the moments of intensity as live even though we are looking at recordings of people who are not in the room anymore, and at the same time we are always aware of the constructedness. When we only hear the stamping and shouting of the dancing crowd in the room, they feel present, or when the music gets upbeat and the cheering in Pere’s dancing raises, we can feel with this impossible attempt to achieve a party. The sentiment is there, but just to share, to look at the dislocation of the disco dancing. This solo performance becomes an ultimate test for presence, in which presence disappears, dissolves. That is where the spectator becomes part of the event as well, becoming aware his own role of witnessing. In the end, this piece too tries to overcome the division, tries to overcome the status of being theatre, but fails.

Ploughing the lot

Video has been a persistent element in the work of Pere Faure. With each piece he has explored different expressive possibilities. In particular he has explored the use of video in exploration of unbridgeable gap between performer and spectator. As close and intimate ‘This is a person’ suggested to become, it only revealed the impossibility even more. In the meantime the spectator becomes explicitly and visibly part of the performances by the fact they get filmed and projected during the performance. The paradox of being together and being lonely at the same time seems to be gradually worked out by each piece in a new way. And the plot gets thicker, his next work is entitled striptease.

Jeroen Fabius


Jeroen Fabius was dramaturge for this project, and also for ‘This is a picture of somebody I don’t know.’ He is coordinator of Dance Unlimited Amsterdam, master in choreography and new media at the Theaterschool Amsterdam. He teaches dance history and anthropology at the School for New Dance Development since 1991. He studied anthropology and communication science at the University of Amsterdam, and choreography at the School for New Dance Development. He has worked for ten years as choreographer, dancer and actor, and now regularly works as dramaturge. Since 2007 he has started with a PhD, ‘material political body’, at the University of Utrecht, supported by the Amsterdam School of the Arts.



Program text for Discopolis by Pere Faura

When absence can only become a celebration. The celebration of an empty house. I dance to imagine you dancing with me. A one man party.

Partying as a means to escape
Escaping as the creation of absence
Absence as the illusion of presence
Presence as the end of loneliness
Loneliness as the end

Partying as means to escape the end

When theater can only become a party. The dance of an empty stage. I celebrate your imagination. A two way conversation.

Theater as a means to escape
Escaping as the creation of absence
Absence as the illusion of presence
Presence as the end of loneliness
Loneliness as the end

Theater as means to escape the end

Robert Longo – Men in the city
A single, isolated figure, enlarged to epic proportions, stylishly dressed but stripped of any background or context, Eric is an almost life-size lithograph by super-realist artist Robert Longo of an earlier untitled work from his series, Men in the City.
Eric depicts a young white man spinning violently out of control. Longo achieved this effect by working from photographs he took of friends on the roof of his loft near the financial district in New York City. Reportedly he hurled objects at them to get the desired responses, thus the theatrical “poses.” He then projected the photographs larger than life, onto the wall and sketched the images.
Longo has been called a media artist in his liberal use seduction and drama. Influenced by movies, his works tend to tower above the viewer.
In his early 30s when he created his series of young urban men, Longo said it was about the “loneliness of being alone. You’re always alone, no matter if you are in a room full of people, you’re always going to be alone."

> see pdf published version on VOLUME #8