pere faura
   performance artist
  Foreign Affairs 2013_Interview Pere Faura

This interview was made on the occasion of the Berlin premiere of "striptease" and "bomberos con grandes mangueras" at Foreign Affairs 2013 / Berliner Festspiele, July 2013

The interview with Pere Faura was made by Anne Phillips-Krug and Cornelius Puschke.
Translated to English by Karen Witthuhn/Transfiction

Foreign Affairs
                                                          ( view pdf short version in deutsch )

When and where did you see your last striptease?

The last striptease I saw was a very stupid one in a gay disco. And it’s funny because male striptease is usually more boring than female striptease.

What’s the difference?

Women do all that virtuosic stuff and pole dancing, and wear make-up that is totally fantastic and costumes with thousands of zippers… with men it’s all about being a big guy, who has completely no rhythm or presence and who is taking his clothes off very quickly and has a huge dick. That’s male striptease. And that’s why I got inspired by female striptease to do the show.

Why do you think striptease is interesting?

For me something really beautiful is the question where is the balance or the frontier between sex and art. Why are you turned on or why are you excited by some aesthetical experience which we would call art? And of course it’s about the body and the body in movement: I come from a dance background, and dance has always been very erotic, it has a very long history of eroticism, in contemporary dance all the people are naked. In “striptease” I try to question this which really fascinates me, where do you put the difference between sex and art? How do you look at a body in movement that is getting naked – as some sort of artistic experience or as something to turn you on?

Do you think your performance “striptease” is a theatre piece or a dance piece or a strip piece or is it something for you head, like intellectual pornography…how would you describe it?

I decided that as an artist I don’t care about the question anymore. I come from dance, but I use a lot of text in my work, and I did a lot of theatre as well, and music. I try to create a space where several things happen, affect and reflection, sensation and information. When I started studying dance in Amsterdam it was the beginning of so-called conceptual dance and we had a lot of talks and theory classes and I was really turned on, conceptually speaking…Theory is also about stripping, it’s revealing something you didn’t see before. And sex is also about discovery; suddenly you’re discovering the other person’s body, a pleasure you didn’t know about, your own reactions…it’s kind of the same as reading Deleuze for the first time, he talks so much about sensation, the affect…so yes, I like to put these two things together.

Maybe it’s a really great art piece, but maybe it’s an even better striptease…

Of course, it depends on how the audience looks at it. If you come from a more intellectual theatre, arty background your response would be like this… In Madrid I performed it and on both days there was this man with a big coat and sunglasses sitting in the front row, it was really scary…but it was clear what he came for and I’m fine with it. You can approach this work also from this point of view and then suddenly find an intellectual revelation… And yes, I would love to do it at a strip club, at 2 am…to see the reactions by the people that usually come there to see striptease and then would see a different kind of striptease with Demi Moore projected and me sitting there… talking about striptease….

What would the reflection be about that you wish the audience to experience?

For me there is something interesting about the tension between the individual and the collective, the difference between private and public. People go alone to see striptease and to the theatre they go as a group, it’s a collective experience, we’re sharing something in the same space and in the same time.

Which was the sexiest performance you saw in theatre?

I saw a video of this guy masturbating on Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and he always jerked off at the exact same moment - he has a glass between himself and the audience and spring is masturbation and autumn is his semen coming down… So “bomberos” follows this idea of how we deal with sex and pornography and theatre, because there is something different which is imagination because theatre is all about imagining and pornography is all about not imagining, is all about concrete, exposed bodies, everything is shown, in close-ups…so there is no space for imagining something else, you have that in front of you. So the idea of “bomberos” was: how can I bring back imagination in a pornographic context, or deal with a pornographic imaginary…

How did you come up with the idea for the pieces?

I was doing a Master in Amsterdam in choreography and the second year I decided to study pornography as a choreographic device. So I started reading a lot of theory about pornography, about imagination. Then I started reading about striptease and I was surprised to see how much theory there is about the most simple thing on earth and the most common thing. I mean we all know what a striptease is and we’ve seen “9 ½ Weeks”, we’ve seen Demi Moore, we all know what it is, but suddenly there was all this theory related to gender issues, performative issues, dancing issues, social politics, and I got really amazed, that’s why it became all this academic kind of performance.

In Germany there’s still a big discussion about the issue of nakedness on stage, I don’t know if it’s the same in Spain. But I’m always surprised that people are ashamed to see naked people on stage, because in our environment in commercials, movies, etc. there’s so much nakedness, but in theatre it’s something else, why do you think that is?

I think it has to do with the fact that we are there, the audience and me; we are facing each other, even if it’s dark and I can’t see your face, theatre is more direct than television, cinema, publicity, the body is not mediated, the body is there, live. It was interesting to compare this question of nakedness with the question of dancing. When the so-called conceptual dance started a lot of people said, why do you move on stage? You need a reason to move on stage, so dancing for dancing’s sake was no longer valid. Suddenly with nakedness it’s the same, why are you naked on stage, you have to give me a reason…

Thinking about your pieces, the word transparency comes to my mind…they reveal a lot…the dynamics of the body, of theatre, the stage…

When I started some ten years ago, all concepts were dealing with this idea of killing the black box and transform it into a white box. They were all saying let’s make the whole machinery of theatre transparent, so it’s not about the trick, it’s not about the effect, because this only last for a couple of seconds, like in a horror movie you are in shock for three seconds… so how can you provoke this affect or some aesthetical experience when everything is shown, when everybody knows the trick, and the machinery, so it’s not about illusion or illusionary in the sense of a magician, but it’s more about what a thing provokes in you, and of course it has to do with striptease, it has to do with undressing the whole mechanism of theatre.

What do you think is the realest thing that could happen on stage? Something that is completely related to reality and not to theatre anymore…

It has to do with sex. If you compare it to crying, if you see an actor crying, for me it’s so real, but, fuck, it’s a technique. With sex is the same, there’s people that can get a hard-on on stage with a hundred people watching, so it’s a technique. I think everybody puts their boundaries wherever they want – for some people having sex on stage can be the most real thing and for some people it can be completely staged. I come from a background of dance where teachers said you are not representing a character; you are presenting a body, or some sort of movement, or a way of being on stage. So in the dance world they talk so much about this realness and I got a bit fed up because I can make reality happen like this….I don’t know anymore what is real and what is not on stage…and maybe I don’t care…sometimes the actor said I had such a great experience today, and the audience thinks he faked so much…

A friend of mine saw a Bob Wilson piece here in Berlin and suddenly there was a fly entering the stage and annoying the actors like hell… it crushed the whole scenery, it was still theatre, but reality entered.

I had a similar experience at an open air performance when this cat entered the stage… Fortunately in my shows I can do whatever I want, so I started dancing around the cat - and I am allergic to cats…But when it’s a show like Wilson’s, where everything is so timed and choreographed, I can see how they get confused when there’s a fly on stage, and that nobody knows what to do…
I like to include whatever happens in the show, trying to not fall off the horse, to continue and integrate it. Normally you either try to completely ignore it, dismiss it, or just stop what you’re doing and then deal with this problem. There should be a third option where you can integrate it to what you’re doing, so that it doesn’t become a problem, but a challenge of how you deal with it…

Does it make a difference to be alone on stage? You are presenting two Soli. Is there a reason behind that?

I worked alone a lot, I made many solos. I like it, and it goes faster, because between my mind as a choreographer and my body as a performer it’s a shorter way. There is something beautiful about the loneliness of being alone on stage, and the fragility of it, the vulnerability, and especially when you do striptease or porn… because the stripper is also almost always alone, confronted with the mass…

To be at the situation’s mercy…being alone in a situation where you can’t hide…

There is also something about eroticism or pornography when you work alone. the only people you have to have sex with or to eroticise or to turn on is the audience. When I work with somebody else and I want to deal with sex then it’s more easily going into representation because it’s me and the other person representing how we have sex or how we eroticise each other, how we meet each other, how we turn each other on…but when I am alone the only way you can do it is with the audience and than it goes in another dimension than representation…so if I have to deal with sex I prefer to be alone.

Has your work changed since you did your first piece “this is a picture of a person I don’t know”?

My work changed in the sense that I try to be more rough … When I finished my dance studies in Amsterdam, I always tried to please the audience. “This is a picture of a person I don’t know” is a very kind and beautiful and boyish well-done piece…

What was it about…?

It deals with loneliness and memory and how because you feel alone you go back in your memory to the times when you didn’t feel alone and that had to do with musicals…I started with musicals and dancing, so I did “Fame” and “A Chorus Line” and then I went to school in Amsterdam and when I finished I said, there is also something crap about contemporary dance and I miss the musicals and dance and show…so I did a show about “Singing in the rain” and “Chorus Line” to express my loneliness… And then came “striptease” which dealt with another pop culture element of musicals, but it was also still a bit naïve and little by little I tried to get rid of that and just understand that not being liked doesn’t mean not being seductive. Seduction comes in very different ways and there is something about awkwardness and these edgy points that “bomberos” has that creates some sort of question or attention … And that is where I am now, not trying to be nice all the time, but also provoke strangeness or a question so that the public can approach me from a different point of view, but still they approach me which is a more subtle or a more fragile way of understanding seduction.

What sort of secret is it that you would kind of reveal…

For me it’s more about flirting and about one night stand…that’s how I understand theatre. I am here and I want to seduce you and we have something together and then you leave… I get drunk during the whole time and it’s a very special dance of getting wasted on stage, it’s like partying in Berghain, you go through all kinds of phases, at some point in the night you are so wasted, you are tired and drunk and in this state of wastedness for me there’s something beautiful, and that’s what happens in “bomberos”…

Theatre and dance is normally more related with controlling, in “bomberos” it’s more about losing control and in this sense it’s related to clubbing or to exhaustion…

This losing control has to do with realness…and it’s so difficult to get drunk on stage…maybe the adrenaline prevents you from getting drunk easily…like when you get injured on stage you don’t feel it, only afterwards. …

Do you think your work is political? That there is a connection between people, like the most basic form, something we can’t achieve in society, being connected, do you try to do that within the theatre room?

In Spain right know, it’s like THE question. So yes, I do think my work is political. But then let’s talk what is political. For me what is political is not pamphletic. It’s not about staging your political ideas in a straight-forward way. Because this is pornography, sorry. It is political in the sense that it questions how we look at the body, how the body is represented, what the body represents – sexuality, religion, gender. You can think about politics in how I relate with the audience basically. How I relate as an individual to the collective, how I relate what is public and what is private.

So what are the political questions that people ask you in Spain right now? What are the issues, what are the circumstances of working in the arts?

Of course, there’s a real big crisis and we don’t see the end. It’s getting worse and worse. There are six million people unemployed, so it’s like what the fuck are you doing art for? And we the artists, or the people who work in culture of course we know why culture is important, but the whole society is questioning what’s the need, I want to eat, what’s the priority? And of course we went from a kind of subsidised public system to there’s basically nothing, there’s very little…so what do we do? The good thing is that we are inventing new ways of making work, and that’s great. The subsidy system has changed so I have to make a living with something else, or how can I make a living through my art that is not like that? So my art has to change. Maybe I have to perform in people’s houses and make money that way, maybe I have to do smaller things that can travel more. But of course it is a double sided thing because it is what the right winged mentality people are saying to validate this system, that this crisis makes your creativity grow…and I think it’s true, that crisis makes creativity appear, but in another way, socially and politically, I don’t agree, that we are cut with many rights and many possibilities. And when you put something on stage you really have to have a necessity, so the urge becomes much bigger, because it is so difficult to make something happen that when it happens you really believe in it. And that is also something very beautiful to see nowadays in Barcelona.

Is it a new experience for you, to work that way?

In Amsterdam where I was coming from two years ago, I myself lost my urge because I was kind of involved in some sort of productive rollercoaster that expected me to produce a new piece every year that’s as good and sellable and able to tour as the last one. And I was too young to understand that I have to be my own boss, in a political way, so that I have to know how to create the right conditions for my work to happen and not the opposite. In Holland there was a lot of money coming from above saying we give you 50.000 Euros if you make a piece about that in this space in May. And then you squeeze your brain and try to adapt all your creativity and your interest and your curiosity and your artistic vocabulary to this situation. I like commissioned work and I have done a lot of it and I am okay with that, but not all the time. In Holland I lost my own track, and at some point I felt like too many resources made me lose my own drive. And now in Barcelona it’s the opposite.

Besides that there are big cuts in Holland now, too.

Yes, I just left when all that started. But I didn’t leave because of the cuts. I could have stayed, I could have made myself a place there in the new situation with the support of some theatres, but then I decided to go because I had a very big fuck-up. I made the worst piece ever in this festival Spring Dance. That was a huge crisis and I felt terrible. And that’s when I decided to go back and when I came back the whole country was in crisis. And I was like, oh, I know what it’s like to be in crisis. Artists – we’ve been in crisis most of the time, much longer before the economic crisis, because in Spain as artists we’re always looking for a job. I don’t have a fix job, I am always looking, and of course I have my network and sometimes I get offers, and sometimes I am refused, I want to do this projects, I knock doors…so I am used to do this. But what happens in Spain now is that they told you, you study a career and then you get a job and then you’ll get money enough to get married, get a house, get a dog, get a car. And suddenly all of this is past. And then all these people go into shock because they don’t know how to get a job, they don’t know how to look for a job, they don’t know how to deal with crisis. I think as artists we have a little advance in that sense because we were a bit more prepared.

What do you want to do next? What is a thing you want to tackle in your work?

I recently discovered that something that works well for me is little shows that I can do with little money. Another dream I have is that I would like to direct opera, I would like to deal with the big machinery. Because I come from musicals. I studied a lot of music also, singing and playing flute. There is something about classical music and opera that’s so tight, it’s so hierarchical, the singing comes first, than the acting, than the dancing, and I would like to change this.

In order to define cultural identity usually people tend to refer to some so-called high culture aspects. You refer instead to aspects of “Western” pop culture…

For me, understanding pop culture or low culture is another tool of making high culture or art. The reason behind it is very political and comes from understanding that all of you motherfuckers that paid 20 Euros to come and see a dance show have also seen a striptease or a porn movie in their life. Or “Singing in the rain” or a stripping Demi Moore. So it creates common experiences, we share something together, we all know these references, they are part of the collective memory so this way art becomes more accessible…