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First, one runs through the city. Next, one stops and creates. Alongside others, they do this repeatedly. The audience chooses to roam, indulge, be treated, or even bored whenever they choose to stop.

That’s the basic dramaturgical structure of O QUE FAZER DAQUI PARA TRÁS_versão expandida / WHAT TO DO FROM HERE_expanded version by João Fiadeiro.

I wrote earlier of the serendipitously awarded opportunity to participate in João’s work.

I stepped into Atelier REAL on the 17th of July, five days before the company was to vacate a space they occupied since 1990. Every morning for 4 days, between 10am to 2pm, I would make my way to the space, nondescript in the historic street of 55 Rua Poço dos Negros, which I had learned the previous week got its name likely because it was where Black slave bodies would be left on the street before being carted off for mass burial in “wells” (the more accepted narrative was it was where a water well for slaves was located). You will miss its entrance if you are not looking out for it.

Atelier Real is at once old, inviting, both empty but filled, much like any creative space used and trodden for years. I have no claim over this space, given I am so new to it, but as I got to know João and his work, and the spirit and energy of creation it incubated, there is a palpable warmth. The space just is.

O Que Fazer Yaqui Para Trás is the climax of “Des|ocupação Atelier Real” an exhaustively, impressive retrospective and reflection of the artists and works birthed from the space. With no intention to replicate the Atelier Real in another facility, the space and its inhabitants geared up to a week long frenzy, starting from July 15, 2019, ending with this final burst on July 22, 2019. Sure, in its last few days, nostalgia must exist, but there was no sense of mourning or trepidity, instead a frenzy of activity and purpose, much like a phoenix preparing for its final immolation.

I am a guest in this space. When I showed up on July 17 for the workshop, way too early, João, in a neither worried nor dismissive tone, welcomed me and said he probably should’ve thought about the fact that the workshop was going to be conducted in Portuguese. And in his opening address to the participants of the process, asked if someone would be kind enough to help interpret for me. Immediately, Pedro and Antonio volunteered. And through the process when there were days when exhaustion really took its toll on their translating facilities, others took over, even apologising for forgetting to translate.

For this kindness to a stranger, I am extremely ingratiated.

I pause here. To consider two paths of reflection I could take.

1) How this kindness and respect is the fundamental process of creativity. Destruction and judgement has its place in the process, but not as a default. How such spaces are rare.

2) Ignore that subjective slant, and concentrate on the theoretical research and implications of João’s Real Time Composition methodology and the work.

I don’t think I am able to do either adequately. And to be frank. I don’t have the desire either.

The process has given me a new way to see. A fundamental quantum of composition is position. A precise body in space is the beginning point, everything else is composition.

I see a lot of similarities in Paul Binnert’s Acting in Real Time approach. No justification or psycho-immersion is needed. The performer creates. That’s the only justification. Thus, the responsibility is shared with the performer, which is at once scary and extremely arresting.

During the performance run, there was a good 20 minutes I drew a blank. It was a familiar block. In that microcosm of running through the city, where we were to gather inspiration and plan a performance, I experienced everything I usually do during a creative process – inspiration, self-doubt, stuck, fuck it, just do lah. And twice I walked into a space with nothing except breath and exhaustion. You’ll be surprised when you just dive and commit.

And I learned what happens when an audience willing to commit to the experience of your work (not necessarily agree or applaud it) can do for the creator.

The idea of a physical space is a construct. Fundamentally, it is a container but also the construct of a performance space instills a sense of safety.

For instance, lost in translation (and lack of familiarity with the venues), I ended up doing two performance stops at an unintended space. It took this Singaporean performer three orbits before he finally dove in, while some others were streaking topless/bottomless down the street, abandoned to the creation. The artist is either crazy or inspired. Whatever was perceived, for those two moments, I carved out a space for creation, for myself alone.

How ludicrous it was for me to have grown accustomed to the idea that a performance space is cordoned by lights, walls and a focused space. How ludicrous it is that it requires a license and cordoning to protect the public. How ludicrous it is for creation to be licensed, regulated and confined.

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