I made in a land in 2003 as my first professional work. Just coming out of school I was filled with ideas around Minimal Art but also about conceptual art and ideas that find their most strict realization in an “historical” gesture of the artist. Another important source of thoughts was landscape art and especially the work of the XIXth century romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. With all those ideas in head I elaborated the concept of in a land. I cannot really recall how I got the idea to work with 40 people from the street. They were mainly there in order to execute a concept. They were serving the idea. The project departed from the rather naive idea of making a landscape of people in a theatre on one hand. On the other hand it came out of the urge to create a situation where the difference between people on stage and people watching them would disappear. Two groups would stand in front of each other, exchanging a gaze.
Sarah Vanhee and I arrived thus 5 years later in Dirceu, an outskirts of Teresina the capital of the far remote state of Piaui in the poorest region of Brazil, the North East. The theatre that invited us for this project was a place to present performances. But it was much more. It was the place where the people of Dirceu would gather at night. It was the place where young and old could get workshops and classes in theatre, hip hop, Capoeira, painting, yoga… It was the center of the community. I knew that everything would be different here. I knew that I was 5 years older of experience in working in the theatre and I knew that I was in place that had very little to do with Amsterdam. So 150 people arrived to the audition and we asked to “perform” the very simple actions of in a land. It became clear for me that this wouldn’t work. I could see myself five years before and I could see how dogmatic conceptual I used to be. I knew that it had to be different. I knew that I had to loosen the old concept and concentrate on those people. It had to be about them. It had to portray them and through them their land. In a land had to be a piece for them by them. And that was exactly the potential of the primary idea.
We chose 40 people out of the 150. The youngest turned out to be 7 and the oldest 70 (see group picture). And within three weeks we worked intensively on a choreography where they would enter, choose a place where to stand on stage and just look at the audience. Some people would stand alone. Some people would stand in groups. When some would enter some others would leave. Those simple compositional principles were creating small stories on stage and those stories were dissolving to let place for others. The piece never became formalistic. It always navigated between strict chorographical principles of bodies in space and the stories that those bodies put together were telling. A little girl enters on the far left of the stage. She stays alone there for a while. Then arrives a middle-aged man with a rather sinister face on the far right. They are just standing there but the link and the associations you make as an audience are clear. A few moments after an old lady enters and through her presence, adds information to the story unfolding on stage.
So what is the value of making a performance like in a land in Brazil? There is no thematic about in a land. It is a portrait of people. One after the other, they enter on stage. They are just there, looking at us. And we are looking at them. This shared gaze is what in a land is about. In in a land the person on stage is me, the spectator and I am the person on stage. The stage gets filled with people. Those people are not different than the spectators. They wear their casual clothes. They come from the same world. It could be me. So when they fill the stage it is a true mirror of us, the spectators. To apply this in the context of a poor area of an isolated city in the North East of Brazil is a political gesture. Everybody felt this during the making of the performance and during shows. Eventually it became clear that it was somehow changing the way people would look at themselves. At least it gave potential to it.
In a Land (2003)
a Theater Gasthuis production made possible with the support of Amsterdam Fonds voor de Kunsten.
concept/direction david weber-krebs
assistance hester van hasselt
sound arnoud noordegraaf
technique attila nemeth
production josta obbink
advice meindert koelink
training/auditions nicole beutler, ivana müller
In a land (2008)
a centro de criaçao do dirceu production made possible by FAPK.
concept/direction david weber-krebs
assistance sarah vanhee
assistance/translations fabio crazy da silva
text arianne piraja
technique ricardo sousa
production regina veloso, klayton amorim
performance ana karolinne, marianna pacheco, cleyde silva, ines cristina, paulo borges, yoilla meyre, graça oliveira, cézar augusto vieira, thércio rocha, dimas leandro, ferdinand sliveira filho, vitor sampaio, carlos henrique lira, ghilseppo yang, anchieta cardoso, fernanda de oliveira, ana jùlia bispo, izabelle frota, jésus carvalho, fran da luz, evaldo marinho, alexandrina, joniston david, bruno sena, jarleni silva, regina veneranda, iohanna karoline, brenda virna, josé vitor, yasmin castro, claudianne oliveira, micacelle de oliveira, adelaide de souza silva, silvana santos, jorge neto, cleyson silva, angelino pinto.