Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Bestiares as Theology?

Duda Paiva is a perfect example of how blurred lines are far more acceptable in performance than in pop videos. Paiva was trained as a dancer (in Brazil), arrived in the Netherlands, discovered an aptitude for puppetry and mixed it all together into art that is choreography, puppetry and something beyond the two. A series of shows have developed his distinctive style, which encourages a dialogue between puppet and dancer: like a good post-modern artist, Paiva reveals the way he creates through the way he performs. And while his website boasts that he has represented the Netherlands in many festivals, it is fortunate that manipulate has a wide yet clear remit: Bestiares is unlikely to fit into a simple category.

Bestaires plugs into two competing ideas about the nature of gods and puppets: one I nicked from Grant Morrison's Invisibles, the other from Jurkowski's survey of European puppetry. Bestaires offers an evening's entertainment hosted by the god Cupid - in puppet form - and brings the gods of the classical pantheon back on stage. It's not just that, as a former classicist, I am always pleased to be reminded of things I know a little about. I think there is no better place for divinities than in a performance.

Following Morrison, Bestiares is a sharp reminder of the fiction of theology. While Morrison's post-modern mash-up of paganism, conspiracy theory and action adventure can be difficult to follow, there are repeated hints that the various gods and demons that appear are little more than masks or puppets. When one Invisible is introduced to magick (sic), the question of 'who is wearing the mask of the gods?' suggests that these gods are puppets and the strings are being pulled by people. A dancer and a puppet of cupid would be the perfect visual representation of this...

Interestingly, Alan Moore, Morrison's great rival for magus of the UK/best British comic book writer, has a similar theory. He spent some worshipping a snake god because - and here's the catch - he knew that its original incarnation was as a puppet in a Roman con-man's religious rip-off. The reminder, for Moore, that this was not an animate being, was crucial as a balance against his various encounters with what appeared to be supernatural beings. 

Jurkowski goes the opposite way: noting that the medieval church was a bit touchy about the matter of puppets, he postulates that they held a religious potency - that they represented the divine. While the idea of a puppet as an icon might clash with more familiar religious art, the mystery of the puppeteers art lends the uncanny to their performance. 

Bestaires is the start of manipulate: and what better way to begin than with a ritual that is, in both of these senses, fundamentally spiritual?

1 comment :

  1. Isn't there also a point to be made about the anthropomorphic nature of the Greek/Roman gods? As quite a few puppetry-based companies - namely Boris and Sergey AND Theatre Temoin with their show The Fantasist - have proven, puppets don't have to have faces/human features in order to be effective.