On 13-17 October, Centrum Kultury in Lublin (ul. Peowiaków 12) and curator Joanna Krakowska will present their thematic block Decency Clause as part of the 20th Theatre Confrontations. The presentation will include Polish premieres of New York dance and performance avant-garde pieces. The block will also make direct references to the identity of the Confrontations festival which springs out of alternative, avant-garde, and political theatre.
The emancipation efforts taken up by Holly Hughes, Split Britches or Penny Arcade have reshaped contemporary art forever and paved the way for such artists as Martha Graham Cracker, who presented her work at the last year?s edition of the Festival. We will engage in dialogue on the social, political, and economic conditions for arts with the leading figures of American queer and feminist performance. We will touch the avant-garde to gain a better understanding of the present.
The programme includes presentations of American queer performances, i.e. Penny Arcade (B!D!F!W! ? Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!, 13-14 October, 9 pm), Holly Hughes (Clit Notes, 15 October, 9 pm), Split Britches (RUFF, 15-16 October, 7:30 pm; What Tammy Needs To Know About Getting Old And Having Sex, 17 October, 8 pm), Citizen Reno (Money Talks with Citizen Reno featuring guest appearance by professor Jerzy Hausner, 16 October, 6 pm).
On Wednesday, 14 October, Xavier Le Roy will return to Theatre Confrontations (following his 2013 presentation of Low pieces) to show his Untitled. In the words of the choreographer, ?Sometimes sitting in a theatre watching a performance I say to myself, ?What an odd set up this is with people sitting in the dark watching others doing things in the light.? This thought is often followed by a feeling that translates the importance of this rare moment that brings human beings together to form a precious community for our time. I have the impression then that I have to relearn to be together, and that theatrical situations can aid this process. At the same time, however, I am aware that that theatre entraps us into individualism. The dividing lines between the public and the actors, fiction and reality, truths and beliefs, life and death, object and subject, forgetting and remembering seem to want to be repeated and to confirm the divisions.
The three pieces of this evening try to displace these lines so that the sense of being stuck gives way to the possibility of moving. For this purpose, in each piece a factor needed for habits to function is removed to produce three situations in which the habitual relationship and exchanges of this gathering (spectators and actors) are no longer self-evident and must therefore be re-negotiated. Each of the pieces hinges on the loss, disappearance, or death of an essential protagonist. The words and actions are motivated by the need to reconstruct with the remaining elements rather than to set out and find or replace what?s missing. The actors and the public are then engaged in mourning and conversations whose transformations try to turn melancholy, loss, or death into driving forces. These movements yield fictions where amnesiacs mix with corpses to produce strange and unsettling situations.?
More on the Decency clause thematic block
It has been twenty years since the infamous ?NEA Four? controversy. In 1991, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), an agency of the American government established in 1965 to support arts and culture, rejected to pay four previously awarded grants to a group of artists on account of the supposedly indecent content of their work. In this case, ?indecency? included feminist and queer works of art, which strayed from heteronormativity. Holly Hughes, Karen Finley, John Fleck, and Tim Miller did not receive NEA funding for their pre-approved projects. Additionally, conservatives argued for the introduction of a ?decency clause? to the NEA regulations to rid the competition of projects they frowned upon. The artists? appeal went all the way to the Supreme Court which overturned the decision. Still, the case had far-reaching consequences for American arts: since 1991, under duress from the Congress, the NEA has not been granting funding to individual artists.
Holly Hughes, one of the ?NEA Four?, a New York-based performer, University of Michigan professor, and an icon of American feminist and queer movement, will visit Confrontations to present her Clit Notes. The piece was created in response to the NEA controversy. Together with Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw, Holly Hughes established the legendary Women?s One World (WOW) Café in the 1980s, a cooperative of artists in New York?s East Village, which later became one of the centres of avant-garde art; it is at the WOW Café that leading female practitioners of experimental theatre, women?s underground and queer performing arts made their debut and/or made a name for themselves.
Lesbian collective Split Britches (Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw), legendary lesbian company famous for their Belle Reprieve based on Tennessee Williams? Streetcar Named Desire transcribed for women roles, will show two solo pieces. The artists will be joined by exquisite performer, activist and one of Andy Warhol?s stars Penny Arcade, who will engage Lublin-based performers in her B!D!F!W
Decency clause will also feature a special guest performance by Citizen Reno, who takes the queer question to an unexpected level. During her Lublin performance, she will be given a chance to grill Jerzy Hausner.
Censorship did not vanish after 1989 ? this is but a myth. We are very much familiar with the concept of decency clause, which operates everywhere and adjusts to the local senses of decency. Our bodies, desires, ideas, age, gender, race, and liberty will always be deemed oppressive by some institutions or politicians. The culture wars currently waged in Polish politics, women?s rights, gender issues, economic disparities, social solidarity, religion, war, and sex are a glaring case in point.
More on the performances:
Split Britches: RUFF; What Tammy Needs To Know About Getting Old And Having Sex