Exotica is the name of a ‘performative experiment’ which started off as a theatrical event, a performance with elements of postdramatic theater and dance theater, but in the process of making started displaying a potential of degeneration (or surpassing) of above mentioned elements or genres.
In the lack of desire or possibility to define the form of performance, here a few sentences about the content: Exotica celebrates the delirium of the escape into the unknown, the unspeakable. It finds the origin of this escape in its fascination by the other, by refusing the assimilation, possession, the interpretation of the other. Thus it encounters the expected crises of inter-relations, colonization of the other and the division of performative power. It attempts to affirm the crisis and uses it as an affective fuel.
At the same time, aware of the connotations the term ‘exotic’ brings up, it refuses the position of making judgement or expressing moral attitudes, it refuses to replace te oniric with the rational and explain its every decision. It refuses to be one-dimensionally critical.
In order to endure this amount of refusal, it feeds on its own fragility and uncompromising exposure of the performer. All this with the help of the poetry of Blaise Cendrars and the study of communication among African giraffes.
Towards Java, October 1904.
Write a book about exoticism. With as few quotes as possible.
Argument: the parallel between withdrawing into the past (historicism) and withdrawing into space (exoticism).
Study the relationship between the senses and exoticism: sight, sky.
Above all smell.
Taste and touch.
Sight. Painters of exoticism.
The feeling of exoticism: surprise. Its fast foaming.
Exoticism is very readily ‘tropical’. Coconut and a stormy sky.
here is not much polar exoticism.
— Victor Segalen, Essai sur l’exotisme
choreography and performance: Pavle Heidler, Bruno Isaković, Darko Japelj i Silvia Marchig
dramaturgical support: Nataša Govedić
light design and technical support: Saša Fistrić
duration: 50 minuta
premiere: 01.12.2013., Pogon Jedinstvo
In the 1950s a music genre called exotica came into existence, evoking imaginary exotic paradises and the indigenous people of conventionalized appearance and culture that go with it. In 1951 with the album ‘Ritual of the Savage’ Les Baxter defined the main vocabulary of exotica through a combination of film music, Latin pop, jazz and compositions by Maurice Ravel, Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy. In other terms, music that sounds like film music, only without the film, evoking an escape to magical foreign lands, outside the frame of ethnographic and cultural belonging.Daydreaming is pointless, asocial, regressive, inactive. It does not do anything and art is expected to be ‘culturally productive’, not just offer comfort. Exotica does not do, it lulls. This is why Exotica poses a taboo for western rationality: it is not only an enemy to cultural sensitivity, political common sense and good taste, it is also an enemy to common sense as such, which places it into a forbidden zone. It possesses a specific logic of reception: it demands being intentionally credulous and consenting to spectacle. In the late 1960s exotica pop disappears, but its temporal-spatial illogicality survives, shaping music, visual arts and social theories of utopian subcultures. The principles of exotica are also present in escapist works of the 19th century, e.g. in novels by Karl May, paintings by Jean-Léon Gérôme or operas by Meyerbeer. Exotica is a spectacle of reality. It is not reality, nor pure fantasy, but an uncomfortable combination of both. It points out to the spectator and the listener their need for authenticity. Questions of authenticity are also a strong motive in the biography of a distinguished artist of exotica, the singer Yma Sumac (real name Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chávarri del Castillo). A born Peruvian, known for her extraordinary singing abilities, with a voice range of four octaves and a biography full of contradictions and fantastical interpretations: from such claims that she was a direct descendant of the Incas to the one that she was a Broadway homemaker Amy Camus, her name an anagram. It is these issues that our piece revolves around: issues of authenticity and escapism, boundaries of good taste, consenting to irony, camp aesthetics, twisting social norms and looking for cracks that make us see the point again. By asking ourselves about the nature of the theatre event and the performance as a form of escapism, a space to look for authenticity and satisfy the need to escape from reality we bring out the political of the piece. Do we have the right to daydream today? Who can take that right away from us? Is daydreaming subversive in today’s society? Also close to the topic is Susan Sontag’s essay: ‘Against interpretation’ and the quote by Oscar Wilde that introduces it: ‘It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.’ To define the word ‘exotica’ we made use of the essay by Phil Ford: ‘Taboo: Time and Belief in Exotica’.