P.O.R.N. (Portrait of Restless Narcissism) [Cancelled]
Two maverick freethinkers present Theatre 2.0 for a mature audience, where the intoxicating dark corners of the Net become fascinating, unsettling eye candy.
A window appears on a screen, a Web landscape, a peek into shadowy nightlife. The digital avatars of Christian Lapointe and Nadia Ross hook up, live. Their words soon become bargaining chips. Webcamming, chatting, browsing, sexting. Theatre 2.0 for an adult audience where the intoxicating dark corners of the Net become eye candy for the spectator, fascinating yet unsettling.
Digital networks and interfaces proliferate in the modern world, the click-click-clicks announcing our insatiable lusts and desires, turning inter-personal relations into human transactions. With each connection, each signal sent, the siren song of Web pornography gains ground. In P.O.R.N., two maverick freethinkers of the theatre set this machine of desire into motion, seeking a way out. What hope of consolation is there for our individual solitudes? A plunge into the hidden realities of the age of Narcissus, and the calamitous promise of his reflection.
Produced by Carte blanche + STO Union
Conceived, written, directed and performed by Christian Lapointe + Nadia Ross
Videography Lionel Arnould
Set Design Geneviève Lizotte
Lighting Design Steve Lucas
Assistant Director and Stage Manager Emanuelle Kirouac-Sanche
Technical Director on Tour and Sound Gabriel Filiatreault
Technical Director Mickaël Tétrault-Ménard
Production and Technical Assistant Robert Scott
Photography and Video David Irvine
Production Manager Emilie Martel
Producer and Tour Manager Shauna Kadyschuk
Carte blanche Administrative Coordinator Isabelle Tougne
Technical Director (Phase 1 Development) Matéo Thébaudeau
Translated by Christine Fournier
Co-Produced by Festival TransAmériques + Theater der Welt 2020 (Düsseldorf) + HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin) + BIT Teatergarasjen (Bergen)
Developed with support of National Arts Centre’s National Creation Fund (Ottawa) + Ville de Québec
Presented in association with Centre du Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui
Written by Myriam Perraton-Lambert
Translated by Neil Kroetsch
Premiered at Theater der Welt, Düsseldorf, on May 18, 2020
Christian Lapointe (Quebec City) Carte blanche
The artistic director of Carte blanche Christian Lapointe has been making artistic and pedagogical mischief for the past two decades in works that combine research and action, reflection and creation.
His dramatic reworkings of modern and contemporary plays (Maeterlinck, Handke, Crimp, Duras) have made him a force to reckon with in Quebec theatre. His Théâtre de la disparition cycle, including C.H.S (FTA, 2008), and his unforgettable 70-hour marathon performance in Tout Artaud?! (FTA, 2015), reveal his taste for art that is an extreme workout for both voice and body. With Constituons! (FTA, 2019), Lapointe mobilized citizens, scholars and experts in an ambitious communal project to create a Quebec constitution.
Lapointe and Ross met at the awards ceremony for the 2016 Siminovitch Prize, for which both were finalists, a moment imbued with the promise of creative collusion. That complicity led to P.O.R.N. (Portrait of Restless Narcissism), whose first stage of creation was presented at La Chapelle Scènes Contemporaines in March 2018. The script and elliptical dialogue were constructed from material found on the Net, and the piece received the Critics’ Award in Quebec City in 2018.
Nadia Ross (Wakefield) STO Union
The founder and artistic director of STO Union, Nadia Ross has continuously explored the thresholds of the theatre event.
Progressive and protean, she seeks to renew the collaborative forms of the inter-artistic scene by working with diverse communities, art forms and new technologies. Her performance installations/public experiences have featured intimate portraits of figures and communities, like Recent Experiences (FTA, 2001) with the artist Jacob Wren, 7 Important Things (FTA, 2008) with the counter-culture figure George Acheson and What Happened to the Seeker? (FTA, 2015), the fruit of a collaboration involving the STO Union team and the village of Wakefield, Quebec. Ross is the 2016 recipient of the prestigious Siminovitch Prize in Theatre.
You describe your encounter as an immediate artistic coup de foudre, the point of departure for your collaboration. How did you go from a simple desire to meet and create something together, to a piece about narcissism and pornography?
Nadia Ross: An electrifying artistic connection is a lot like those thunderbolts of instant sexual attraction. It is a dynamic energy that can’t be fully realized or permanently fulfilled. One month after meeting we were in the basement of de-commissioned primary school in Farrellton, a village on the Gatineau River. From the outset, our goal was simply to create something based on that friction between us.
Christian Lapointe: The desire to expose our encounter was a pornographic desire. There is in fact a tenacious narcissism in the presumption that our encounter might interest an audience.
Today pornography is a major industry that has invaded all spheres of human society.
If you’re seeking a human relationship, then porn is not really what you’re looking for. Watching porn online can provide momentary relief but it is a substitute, and for that reason it creates frustration that only grows because it can never fulfill that initial yearning.
N.R. Pornography can convince you that you can enjoy a very rare experience, regardless of who you are. Like capitalism, its continued growth depends on that allure. When you really look at the issue, however, it offers a very banal, yet nonetheless toxic, experience.
C.L. Pornography is now an online industry that capitalism can no longer do without. A car is sold the same way an inflatable doll is. Our economy regards humans as empty shells. The only thing capitalism needs of you is that you become a user or consumer.
Our piece tries to demonstrate how pornography is an extension of everything else, how the mechanisms of capitalism borrow from the mechanisms of porn and the virtual world.
How would you describe your onstage intimacy as expressed through digital avatars and using cyberspace as a platform for dialogue?
N.R. The story is banal. Two people meet and try to hook up but it doesn’t work out.
Our onstage relationship is a mirror of what links us to pornography and capitalism. It’s dangerous because it’s blasé.
My role is to take what I want from the other, and his role is to give to the point of cutting yourself off from the other. That relation exposes the isolation and despair that comes from unfulfilled desire. We use the Internet as a medium for obtaining information that we then manipulate and rearrange. That is how the piece is constructed, and it helps create the live aspect of the performance.
C.L. Our exchanges are transactions, not dialogue. The purpose of each phrase is to extract something from the other person. We portray transactional human trade, a negotiation, to demonstrate the transactional nature of human relations. That relation is modelled on the circular logic of porn: frustration – masturbation – relief.
Porn culture is harnessed to our society of spectacle, from selfies to the individual as human capital. By turning porn into a show, are we not capitalizing on something that we already consume? Is that not an inherent contradiction?
N.R. Yes, we are a bit like Narcissus who, alone and absorbed by his own reflection, ends up falling into the water. We are seeking a way out of those depths of despair without making any claim, however, to having solved the problem. We are trying to restore the emotions that pornography has blunted and made numb.
A relation without pain and suffering does not exist. To be able to feel, to reconnect with your own body, is the first step back up toward the surface.
C.L. P.O.R.N. (Portrait of Restless Narcissism) is not an antidote to pornography. It is pornography, but with the distance of representation. We are trying to make the audience aware of a reality that desensitizes. Directing it outward toward the viewer also raises the question of responsibility.
We are responsible, as artists and citizens, for the images we send out into the world and for the images that we consume, for they do not come from our own bodies. This piece questions those limits warped by porn.
“The question asked is relevant: in a culture of the image and the appearance, in the era of the multiple hook up and the search for the immediate pleasure, can the theater and art resist the temptation of the pornographic?”
“A powerful interrogation on the side effects of the ‘pornographisation’ of the world.”
JEU Revue de théâtre, 26-02-2018