Monday, September 13, 2010

Trigger Festival 2010: The Honesty Of Cruelty.

On June 9th, 2010, I was invited to a Performance-Party at Raging Spoon, an alternative venue in Toronto. This party was part of the Trigger Festival, an independent art festival focused on alternative ways of living and doing art.

Even though Toronto has a very large alternative community, it is hard for anyone from that community to get a place in this city, a city which dreams of being part of the success of the American way of life (Canadian-style). So, an event like the Trigger Festival was almost unknown to most Torontonians, with almost no publicity anywhere and without any special place in those "what-to-do" magazines. Even then, that night Raging Spoon was almost full of people (around 100, maybe more) looking for some crazy and different performance acts, and they were not disappointed.

Some 10 performance acts were scheduled for that night and two of them deserve my special mention because they were surprising and shocking from my point of view. I wasn't prepared to see anything interesting (I was going to a party), so I didn't bring my cameras and I only could take video and photographs with my iphone, I apologize for the bad quality of the images.

Transvestite, AIDS and a bottle of wine.

First, it was a foreign homosexual man, a transvestite who lives in Toronto, exposing his impotence and his suffering with his AIDS treatment, through a very shocking performance. (See video "first performance")
Here, the act with the actions as I can remember them.


- appears dressed like a woman with a big handbag, with a juice extractor, a bottle of wine , beets and medical pills.
- cuts and prepares some slices of beet for a juice, and puts the pills on the floor.
- extracts the juice while singing,
- opens a bottle of wine.
- takes off his underwear and lies down with his back on the floor.
- introduces the mouth of the bottle into his anus and empties the contents of the bottle while singing.
- shows, in silence, the empty bottle and drinks the last drops.
- puts the glass with beet juice on the floor and, seating close to it, fills the glass with the liquid coming out from his anus.
- shows to the spectators the glasses filled with beet juice and wine from his anus.
- drinks the liquid and swallows the pills.
- cleans perfectly, using his clothes, all the area of the performing space.

A queer girl beaten

Second, a lesbian girl, from Québec, expressing her impotence before the world, the sexism and the incomprehension of society, repeating scenes of her real life when she was humiliated and beaten, inviting the public to shout and to cry if they shared her hate. (See video "second performance")
It is a little more difficult to remember exactly the order of actions but I will try to do it:


- gives spectators a paper (see the photos) with a sentence in English and French inviting to shout or cry if we fell like it.
- listens to (as we do as well) several voice recordings with some men talking about her, about her appearance, her sexuality and in all cases humiliating her, as if everything were fuel for an emotional explosion.
- after several minutes of listening to the recordings she explodes into crying and shouting.
- Another girl enters and holds the first girl's arms while she's shouting loudly, it seems she is  being beaten by some people. Some spectators shout with her.
- falls on the floor, in silence.
- takes two banners with sentences in English and French: "I refuse to be a Victim" and "Thanks to the Queer community"

So, after that evening, I've being thinking a lot about what I saw there.

If we are as honest as those performers were, then those acts would change our perspective of watching spectacles.

Those were no spectacles for themselves, but they were theatrical acts, performing acts, half reality and half staging. Their performers gave a lesson of honesty, yes, but those weren't direct speeches during a real scene of crisis, those acts were also "theatre" and "performance"; we have to remember that they thought what to do on stage and what to show and say to the others; those performing acts walked on the line, on the border, of psychodrama and of personal theatre, they were in part an isolated hysterical impulse of an antisocial human being, and the summon of the creative saint-actor of "le Théâtre de la Cruauté". 

Yes, it was shocking and strange, not professional and not well staged, but unique. You won't see much of this in other parts... It was something terribly "unique".

Then some questions arise: What would happen if they were prepared actors, if they were great acrobats or very well prepared clowns? What would happen if they were educated singers? What kind of spectacle would we see? For sure something unbearable, because art and life together are Zeus' fulminating lightning.

If that combination doesn't happen, there is still the simple performance act they presented, and I think: I would rather see these honest performing acts than dozens of Off Broadways productions or those Toronto American-like plays on King street theatres, but tell me, please, who then will pay for it? who will pay for the honesty of "la cruauté" we saw that evening? Nobody will do it; well, yes, the performer himself, as it was.

It has to be an isolated act, behind the professional life, an alternative act, in a subterranean world, an underground act.

Certainly, it has to be a provocative act but outside the official and codified world of "art".

I love good theatre, good technique, the amazing way technical tradition is shown on Beijing Opera stage or Noh Theatre dramas, the way realist players can manage a character in a Tennessee Williams' play, but I'm also attracted by honesty, by cruelty, by that we can call a "trigger".

There is, undoubtedly, a dichotomy (not a contradiction) in my idea of art appreciation and creativity, but I enjoy that, it is like fuel in my creative life.

There is also a desire... and I won't say what this desire is.

Here, a slideshow of photographs of the whole event; you will recognize the acts I've been talking about.

First Performance


  1. oh my god... coum transimission 70/80's... all is so old and boring...

    1. I think they are as young and actual as the problems they are exposing there. If you have fresher and novel ideas (or works) it will be nicer to show them (and expose them) than judging the work of others in that way.
      Be Happy.


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