Performing Art, the Author / Audience Connection
As quoted in BUILDING, the collective’s first production, Jean-Marc Lévy-Leblond defined science as « the art of transforming the questions asked until an answer is found ». SUPERAMAS turn this around, postulating that art is defined as the science of transforming the answers given until a question arises. If what Guy Debord said is true - that life in those societies where modern conditions of production prevail seems like an enormous accumulation of spectacles – then the theatre (and the performing arts in general) are legitimized by the fact that it exposes the mechanisms and gears driving spectacle-mania in the consumer society.
According to certain notion of classical theatre (which is pertinent and acceptable in many respects) , artificiality is seen as a means necessary to create an illusion of reality. Disbelief in the realness of the illusion has to be actual condition for such reality to take shape. Why is modernity then so keen on unmasking illusion, especially in the theatrical context, where illusion is the actual conditio sine qua non? Precisely because the spectacle is not a clearly localized and ritualized event; in fact, it has turned into the structure of reality itself. Thus, the point is no longer to expose something real behind the illusion but the unrealness of what we call reality. In other words: instead of staging the accepted artificiality of classical theatre pieces which are to offer us an image of life as it really is, SUPERAMAS prefers to work with the generalized unrealness of an existence which has become a continuous spectacle.
For SUPERAMAS theatre has to shed light on the performative dimension of reality. This is the red thread linked the collective’s works and the recurrent criticism it is confronted with: by being content with reproducing the mechanisms of capitalism on stage, SUPERAMAS does not take the critical stance which art-workers are associated with as a matter of course. In fact, when the collective dismantles, deconstructs and analyzes the common games society plays so as to expose them to the before the audience’s very eyes, it avoids passing a dogmatic judgment. The stage is not the pulpit whence truth is preached to the believers, it is the place where a reality is « offered » for critical reflection by an intelligent audience. The ambition in the works of SUPERAMAS is to make the audience play an active role by bringing the spectators out of their shell, by appealing to their critical minds, by considering them to be an emancipated audience (with a reference to Jacques Rancière) and rather than the victims of an onslaught of images. This approach to performing arts puts the spectators in the center of artistic works, the place where the status of the author starts to become blurred.
Materials, Strategies and Languages
In their maieutic work, SUPERAMAS uses a variety of materials from the traditional categories of performing arts (theatre, music, and primarily dance) as well as visual arts (installations, videos), popular culture (television) and every-day life. It is a horizontal, non-hierarchical approach which turns the traditional notion of the imaginary on stage upside down by adding « reduced » elements which are not normally found there. And these elements are all the more presented by means of the same strategies as are used by consumer society to enhance them.
This is not about a tendency toward populism or voyeurism, it is about the goal of SUPERAMAS to prepare and present for all to see something like a histological section of society with all its vanities, derailments and hidden agendas. This goal is based on the conviction that the reproduction of mass entertainment on stage is more suited to the purpose of subversion than it is an expression of serious artistic tradition. The joy of wallowing in kitsch gives rise to critical attitudes: it may sound hollow but the jubilations in praise of hollowness lead to the formulation of political questions. With this in mind, strategies of seduction remain the best allies of criticism. If you stick to the spectacular and to jubilations in praise of the world, it is all the easier to expose the gears behind the scenes, to show the strings which everything dangles from. If you dismantle the mechanisms used to represent reality, without taking the fun out, without foregoing tongue-in-cheek humor, you will reach an artist’s political position which ensures that Walt Disney no longer holds the monopoly in entertainment.
A long experience
The works of SUPERAMAS do not express the ideas of one author or one individual, they are the outcome of a collective creative process based on decisions taken by a group. They give rise to a theatrical language which by necessity has to be trans-disciplinary in nature, one in which technical issues – pictures, sound, lighting, architectural design of spaces and editing – are added to the choreographic reflection proper. However, the latter remains the heart-piece of SUPERAMAS representation mode. Dance is often seen from a social perspective and employed in its festive shape and form (the video clip in BIG 1, the discothèque and Biodanza techniques in BIG 3, ballroom dancing at the private reception in EMPIRE, pole-dance in YOUDREAM), the theatrical language of the pieces is and remains choreographic as it focuses on rhythm, space and precision of movement. The BIG trilogy is a very good example of how SUPERAMAS uses dubbing. The piece splits audiovisual reality: the audio part (the performer’s voice) is pre-recorded, the visual part (the performer’s body) is seen perform live. The performers are thus part of a stringent schedule in which much more than just the movements of the lips, in fact every detail, even the most minute gesture in the action, is controlled by the voice off-stage and has to be in sync with it. Such audiovisual performativity turns the performers into persons who have to execute movements, i.e. dancers who have to follow a detailed gestural score on stage – a choreography.
SUPERAMAS diverts the kitsch and toc of popular culture to the levers of subversion, and digs the superficiality of prejudice to extract political issues. The BIG trilogy (2002, 2004, 2006) explores the bad cinema, the bad theater, the bad reality show, while EMPIRE (Arts & Politics), created in 2008, converges the Napoleonic wars, the cocktails of embassy and the big report, for the same question on globalization.
YOUDREAM, created in December 2010, is a protean project that comes in the form of a show, short films and an internet platform. Under cover of comedy, European prejudices are the starting point for a reflection on the power of images and those who make them.
THEATER, whose premiere took place in November 2012, as part of the "Maribor European Capital of Culture" programs, parallels the invention of perspective in painting in the 15th century and computer graphics of the 21st, in order to to make the link between representation and politics in the crossed history of East and West.
SUPERAMAX, created at the Tanzquartier in Vienna in October 2014, postulates the transformation of the artistic collective into creative start-ups, in order to better question - in the light of this mise en abyme - the springs and thrusts of the "new economy".
VIVE L'ARMEE! created in 2016 at the Maison de la Culture in Amiens, offers a cross-reflexion on the notions of "just war", "legitimate monopoly of violence", "propaganda" and "nationalism". Project conducted partly with high school students.
For his project CHEKHOV Fast & Furious, Superamas questions the "theatrical project". It is a question of re-qualifying the theater, its writing, its production, its consumption; bringing into the theater space people who do not know each other, who do not know each other, who are not specialists in order to do something together: to share a collective experience. It will be a question of putting the theater to the test of the meeting. The creation of CHEKHOV Fast & Furious will be held at the WIENER FESTWOCHEN on the 15th, 16th and 17th of June 2018 in Austria. Then the show will be presented on November 14th, 2018 during the Reykjavik Dance Festival, then at the Manège Scène Nationale de Maubeuge on November 28th, 2018 as part of the NEXT Festival and at the Maison de la Culture in Amiens from December 5th to 7th, 2018.
Superamas shows, on average, about fifty performances in Europe and North America. The pieces BIG 3 and EMPIRE (Art & Politics) were notably programmed at the Avignon In Festival, respectively in 2007 and 2008. The YOUDREAM show was selected by the ONDA and the Institut Français as part of the Focus Theater program. 2011.
After having been an associate artist from 2012 to 2015 at the Kunstencentrum Vooruit Ghent (Belgium), SUPERAMAS is currently in residence at the Maison de la Culture in Amiens (France). It is in this city and in Hauts-de-France that the collective has led for several years a program of training and cultural mediation actions, with the support of Amiens Métropole, the Region Hauts-de-France and DRAC Hauts-de-France. SUPERAMAS is also one of the companies actively supported by the European network of theater houses APAP (Advancing Performing Arts Project), funded by the European Commission (Culture program).
Superamas is supported by : Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles Hauts-de-France, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, France / Région Hauts-de-France, France / Amiens Métropole, France / Conseil Départemental de la Somme France / City of Vienna Austria / The Arts Division and the Culture Division of the Federal Chancellery of Austria / Institut Français / apap-Performing Europe 2020 - a project co-founded by Creative Europe Programme of the European Union