PREMIERE THE 17th SEPTEMBER, 2023 AT LA BIENNALE DE LA DANSE OF LYON
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
The notion of frontiers struck me whilst listening to the stories of those who have braved them. The young, isolated migrants that my partner and I welcomed into our home particularly moved me with their stories. We heard how they had no alternative but to embark on an uncertain journey towards an equally uncertain future. The facts are there for all to see: the difference is dramatic and immorally unjust. Your skin colour, your religion and your passport make a huge difference when it comes to en-tering Europe.
It has to be said, Schengen Europe is a castle protected by walls and moats, and we choose to remain deaf to the screams of those drowning in its waters. Every now and again we lower the drawbridge, as we have done with total solidarity for the Ukrainian migrants, rushing to help the victims of Putin’s Rus-sian invasion. This sudden show of benevolent solidarity makes us question why it is so absent when it comes to migrant war-victims from Africa and the Middle East, who for years have been turned back and locked away, victims of police violence and deadly migrant pushbacks by coastal guards. This un-welcome attitude to coloured migrants is a choice and also a protective reflex, and both of these vio-lent reactions are proof of many people’s self-interested selective empathy. Those of us who have watched Raoul Peck’s film “Exterminer toutes ces brutes” (“Exterminate all these brutes”) or who are brave enough to look back at history, understand that global inequality derives from the disturbing legacy of colonisation. The West’s accumulation of wealth is based on the slave trade, the stolen land, the exploitation of resources and the spilt blood of the first indigenous peoples. It can’t be denied: frontiers and borders are a matter of money and nationalism. Unfortunately, this story continues to-day…
As I write these words I feel very white, privileged and guilty. I was born in the right place at the right time. I’m not standing in front of barbed wire, trying to find a way through, I’m not on a tiny raft trying to cross the sea. I can’t speak for those who are trying to flee, escape, cross borders, those who will never give up when someone says no, or because someone hurts them, or because they are faced with a wall. I believe the victims’ stories and I listen to them when they talk of those physical, despica-ble frontiers!
This angle of focus is the starting point for ART.13, whose title comes from an article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This article strikes me as the one that acknowledges the fact that humani-ty lives on a sphere, on a planet named Earth, whose only clear frontier is infinite space! This is also the one article which defines the difference between left-wing thought and right-wing thought, as Gilles Deleuze explains in his “Abécédaire” (alphabet book). These are the words that spin in my mind with fascination: “deconstruct”, “transform”, “live”. Our way of considering humanity by dissociating the concepts “nature” and “culture” seems
questionable to me. It is yet another frontier, an ontological one this time, making me contemplate our fear and uneasiness just “To Be”, to evolve, the possible and the impossible, how long things last and how long things take.
ART.13 is an act of theatre which tells the tale of an arrogant world on the point of collapse, refusing to fall silent. The starting point is a bucolic scene set in a domestic garden, where, on a perfectly mown lawn, the statue of a man sits high above the ground, raised on its stand (its “socle”). A symbol of Cul-ture. Nature breaks into this scene when an animal digs itself out of a hole with an axe. Should the statue be knocked off its stand, or should the stand be destroyed? Is this an attempt at revolution or is it the dawn of a new way of functioning? Destroy or Deconstruct could be the subheading of the piece. Maybe there are other ways of transforming ourselves. Ways described by Joseph Beuys, Davi Kopenawa, Charles Stepanoff, Val Plumwood and many others. Ways which engage our capacity for dreaming of other worlds, of something different, something better. Ways which would allow me to no longer be defined as a white, blond, European woman, and to break through spaces with frontiers, since they would no longer exist. To no longer dread hardships and ordeals, because it would be an-other world: an “other” world.
ART.13 is a fairytale, calling forth new paths forward, as yet to be imagined….
Phia Ménard, 25th Janvier 2023