Tag Archives: Gaia

Eva Diaz on the Gaia Global Circus #Latour #sts


Eva Diaz, ArtForum, October 1, 2014–  You can’t swing a dead cat these days without hitting a reference to the “Anthropocene,” the term for what some argue is a new geological age caused by humans fucking up the environment. Philosopher Bruno Latour’s play Gaïa Global Circus—which had its US premiere at the Kitchen last week (it first played in September 2012 as part of Documenta 13 in Kassel)—invokes the Anthropocene to tackle hairy issues about who bears responsibility for global climate change, and what can possibly be done about it. Like the Civilians’ play The Great Immensity that was at the Public Theater earlier this yearGaïa Global Circus finds the flimflam rhetoric of international climate change summits, in particular, a form of theater ripe for parody.

In the case of Latour’s work, the dissembling doublespeak of these events is converted into truly nonsensical babel. Adopting the convention of simultaneous translation in United Nations–style meetings, in one scene three actors render a speech being delivered in French into a cacophony of overlapping and therefore largely unintelligible Italian, English, and sign-language paraphrases. The signed hand gestures in particular undermine the portentousness of the male politician’s speech with vulgar caricature, the female signer (and isn’t it always women signing men’s speeches?) miming hand job and “I’m getting screwed” gestures, as if she was tuned into the repressive subtext of the speech’s bland ineffectiveness.

Sternly delivered warnings about imminent ecological catastrophe become like so much ham acting when such speeches defer any concrete action “pending further research” and insincerely affirm ultimately toothless “non-binding agreements.” By emphasizing the manner in which finding a political “balance” has stifled scientifically verified facts about ecological change, Latour pinpoints a central paradox that characterizes discussions about the Anthropocene. Though human exploitation of the environment has caused rising seas, melting ice caps, increased global temperatures, and a generalized sense of ecological insecurity, there are currently few remedies that could be implemented to decisive effect. The reality of climate change is in a way a kind of Lacanian real—the zone of the unspeakable and unrepresentable beyond human agency—that erupts into consciousness in spite of attempts to stifle it.

Latour’s use of the word “circus” in his title is literal: The play is composed of vignettes strung together under a big tent, in this case, a white fabric canopy held aloft by helium-filled balloons that the play’s actors manipulate by use of various weights. The stage is mostly dark and mostly empty throughout the play; other than a few props, the four actors must carry (pun intended) the entire production without the benefit of effective set design. The episodic structure of the production includes scenes that range from a reimagination of the divine commandment to Noah to build an ark—here stymied by a self-important bank officer refusing the prophet a loan—to a television debate in which a scientist’s attempt to communicate statistical information dissolves into sputtering stage fright when faced by the slick demagoguery of his opponent.

The lack of plot or character development gives Gaïa Global Circus an overlong feeling, as each new scenario requires exposition that saps the energy of the successful pieces. A violent scene early in the production, in which the actors fling hundreds of empty plastic water bottles around the stage, creates a powerful visual representation of the chaos unleashed by overproduction, abetted by the jarring sounds of stomped-upon plastic. The force of the scene is deflated when the actors abruptly stop “rioting” and begin to sweep up the mess, with no narrative context provided for the change. Because there is very little happening but for actors talking in French, the distracting placement of screens bearing English subtitles high above to the sides of the proscenium made it impossible to keep even a glance of the stage in sight while reading the dialogue. In spite of this, and the uninspired production design, the actors tried valiantly to hold the audience’s attention. Jade Collinet, who played the sign interpreter mentioned above, conveyed a captivating comedic energy throughout the production. In one seemingly tangential scene about a runaway teenager explaining the meaning of the Beatles song “She’s Leaving Home,” Collinet communicated some of the deep and almost laughable passion of adolescence, without a hint of the grandstanding that characterized some of the other actors’ approaches to the dozens identities they had to adopt and cast off.

Bruno Latour and Co to Tackle Climate Change in GAIA GLOBAL CIRCUS at The Kitchen Sept 24-25

Broadway World, August 25, 2014– The Kitchen and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism are pleased to present the U.S. premiere of Gaïa Global Circus, a one-of-a-kind theatrical experiment that explores society’s ambivalence toward mankind’s greatest threat: global warming.

The French philosopher, anthropologist and sociologist Bruno Latour conceived the project with Frédérique Aït-Touati and Chloé Latour. Pierre Daubigny wrote the play, the companies Compagnie AccenT and Soif Compagnie produced it, and Claire Astruc, Luigi Cerri, Jade Collinet and Matthieu Protin perform it.

Gaïa Global Circus premiered at dOCUMENTA 13 in September, 2012. The play is performed in English and is the centerpiece of a series of events, including a public lecture and Q&A with The New Yorker writer and professor Nicholas Lemann on September 22, presented by the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, with assistance from Alliance (Columbia University, École Polytechnique, Sciences Po, and Panthéon-Sorbonne University), the Center for Science and Society, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Maison Française at Columbia University.

Performances of Gaïa Global Circus will take place September 24 & 25 at 8pm at The Kitchen (512 West 19th Street, Manhattan). Tickets, $15 ($12 students, seniors), are available online at thekitchen.org or by phone at 212.255.5793 x11. Running time is 80 minutes with no intermission. Critics are welcome as of the first performance, which also serves as opening night.

In creating Gaïa Global Circus, Latour and his collaborators were inspired by a paradox: although we are confronted with global warming and the prospect of mankind’s end, we feel almost nothing. When scientific language is no longer capable of containing the full effect of climate change, how can we forge a new form of speech that allows us to grapple with our dilemma?

Although Latour spends most of his career lecturing, Gaïa Global Circus is not didactic. In fact, he concluded that scientific language is insufficient, and that only theater can help us understand our self-made predicament. Gaïa Global Circus puts forth a tapestry of scenes interweaving familiar and mythological characters-Gaïa, Noah and the ark, etc.-as they wrestle with this vast and inconceivable ecological question. The work is by turns poignant and humorous, combining Greek tragedy, philosophical wrestling, Jacques Lecoq-style theatrics and more.

The creative team includes Olivier Vallet of Compagnie les Rémouleurs (sets, machines), Elsa Blin (costumes), Olivier Vallet & Benoît Aubry (lighting), and Laurent Sellier (music).

The U.S. premiere of Gaïa Global Circus is co-presented by The Kitchen and the David and Helen Gurley BrownInstitute for Media Innovation at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, with assistance from Alliance (Columbia University, École Polytechnique, Sciences Po, and Panthéon-Sorbonne University).

Read More: Broadway World