When writing about this show I have to keep it clear in my mind that it is absolutely necessary to talk about the references. Because Booty Looting, the latest show of Wim Vandekeybus is about explicit references and it would be a pity not to mention them. I confess that I had probably missed some and perhaps my lecture of the show will not be complete.
Anyway, I will start by saying that there are 6 performers (2 actors and 4 dancers), a photographer and a musician who provides live music on stage. The storyline is simple: the reconstruction of Brigit Walter’s life, knowing that Brigit Walter is the name of the actress that is playing herself and all the performers keep their real name on stage.
The beginning is an ironical homage to Joseph Beuys’s performance I like America and America Likes Me where the actor Jerry Killick plays Joseph Beuys and the four dancers are the coyotes attacking him, while Danny Willems, the photographer, is taking as much pictures as possible exposing himself to the risk of being attacked. This is a first reference in order to make a very essentialised passage through performance history and Jerry aka Joseph Beuys is pushing the moment even further by proposing an even more dangerous game, allowing the four “coyotes” to tear up his clothes and eat him alive.
Well, we’re in a theater, actually there is no coyote on stage and the difference between the real performance (with all the word’s “real” connotations) and this fake remake is strongly related to the title. Booty Looting means stealing what has already been stolen and in a first phase; Vandekeybus steals Joseph Beuys’ art that Beuys himself had stolen from the reality. “You steal from me, I steal from you. Art is a bit like that”, says Vandekeybus in an interview.
Now it’s the moment for Brigit Walter to enter the stage being presented as an anthropologist interested in Joseph Beuys’ activity in order to give her opinion about the remake. But everything gets confusing, she drops dead and all of a sudden she comes back to life as a famous actress.
For those who know Vandekeybus for his dance perfomances, the right thing to say is that this show has a bit of everything, as you can see from the cast; the accent goes on the mixture of these elements (photography, dance, theater, music) and it’s difficult to label it. But, as Vandekeybus declared in the same interview, his major concern was the photography and its impact on stage. The connection between photography and the study that Roland Barthes wrote about it plays an important part for a better understanding of Vandekeybus intention. It’s said that people were afraid of being photographed because they thought their souls were being stolen. Photography has a lot to do with death because it immortalizes something that is gone/dead and Barthes talks also about a special function of photography, confirming that something happened, something real.
In this performance, there are pictures taken every minute and projected immediately on a big screen, the photographer gives us pieces/photos of Brigit Walter’s past. A past that is part true, part fiction. In this case, photography has a double power: of the past and of the present and it works in the same way as the theater does: showing something that perhaps it doesn’t exist but is present on stage. The frame of the photos confronts the frame that the spectators have from their seats, so the photographer is there for giving another vision, another reality or a made-up one (see the photo session for reconstructing Brigit Walter’s relationship with her sons having some fake views behind them).
Who is Brigit Walter? Jerry Killick is a post-dramatic story-teller, he gives fragmented details intentionally confusing the listener, the pictures could say a different story and the stage becomes a mess where everybody can be anyone/anything. Brigit Walter is an anthropologist, an actress, a bad mother, a desired woman. She is Romy Schneider playing in L’Infer of Henri Georges Clouzot, she becomes Medea killing her children by putting them on the photocopier and printing images of their tormented faces. There is no Brigit Walter, there is a performance playing tricks on memory.
by Petro Ionescu
Petro Ionescu is a playwriter, still an unknown one, and she sometimes even performs herself on stage. For the moment she studies in Brussels trying to better understand the performance writing.