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At home with the Apocalypse

Date Released: Wed, 4 July 2012 16:00 +0200

The National Arts Festival has taken a leap into new territory in 2012. In a welcomed recognition of the value of the trans-disciplinary work being created between artists, actors, musicians and other creative disciplines, performance art now has a place on the Main Programme for the first time.

In its vanguard is an interdisciplinary project entitled Discharge, which brings together Rat Western, senior lecturer in Digital Arts with the Rhodes Fine Arts Department , Alan Parker of the First Physical Theatre Company and Gavin Krastin, recipient of the Standard Bank Encore Award, given for adventurous conceptualisation, choreography, research and design, at Festival 2011. 

As a conceptual project, Discharge rigorously interrogates the connections between dance, performance and visual and digital art.

The theme of Discharge is one of displacement and confusion.  Here you will find yourself drawn into the metaphor of the displaced body, exploring the mythology of our demise and the cult of the survivor. The audience is transported to the Grahamstown military base, where a hangar serves as the bunker into which each person is processed as a survivor of an unspecified apocalyptic event.

It is the after-effects of this event which we are there to witness and, as survivors, the audience becomes an integral part of the production. This is not a show where you’ll find yourself sitting on a chair in a warm theatre.

Krastin puts it this way: “The apocalypse is us.” Which of humanity’s errors caused the final fatal mistake is not necessary to know; what is important is the series of collisions and remainders which take place among those left after the end has come and gone.

In trans-disciplinary work, the collaborative element is essential. In the early stages of conceptualising this project, an open call to local artists and creative was made, resulting in a number of works which engage with the Discharge theme but remain art pieces in their own rights.

In addition, props and scenery were constructed using only the recyclable materials which would be available to the straggling remnants of the human race. 

While Western, Parker and Krastin are the three guiding forces behind the production, everyone involved in it, including those who come to see it, has been left a certain amount of agency, creating an ever-changing dynamic between the cast, the audience and indeed the town, as parts of the performance will be ‘discharged’ into the streets of Grahamstown in a series of site-specific satellite performances.

Western says: “We are trying to change the sense of the town with formative, visual and performative aspects.” Discharge will explore the interface between performer and spectator, between drama, art, imagination and the seeking of one’s place in the world.