We Can't Live Without Our Lives

Feature by Emma Ainley-Walker | 05 May 2015
  • Arika Episode 7

Arika is a Japanese word which can, amongst other things, be translated to mean: ‘a place where maybe you might find the thing you desire.’ This ethos brings conversation and participation to the forefront of these experimental programmers' Episodes — the term they use to describe their three day events, which are not entirely performance, or, indeed, entirely any one artform. The themes of each Episode spring from those of the previous programme, creating a trickle down effect that can lead Arika from ballroom to aesthetic identity to this series, which poses the question “Could the ways we attend to each other’s joys and pains help us to generate different futures together? Could we give humanness a different future by re-imagining what bodies and minds can be?”

Taking place at the Tramway theatre between the 15 and 19 April, Episode 7, We Can’t Live Without Our Lives, explores the infrastructures of care and empathy through a series of multi platform events. With a strong focus on 'sexy logistics' – making sure companies, performers and audiences are comfortable in the space and free to move around – Arika cater as much as they can to the needs of those involved. Each event provides live captioning and BSL interpretation. 

Thursday, Friday and Saturday sees, or rather hears, the TLRS ‘morning show’, hosted by Laurence Rassel and Terre Thaemlitz and broadcast live from Tramway via Resonance FM, talking feminist theory and interviewing guests from the Episode. The broadcasts provide a way in to Arika for those who can’t attend, or a moment of respite to those listening in the Tramway cafe bar. Applying the tropes of morning radio, with big personalities and silly sound effects, jars confusingly with the important discussions of feminist theory. This jarring sensation raises questions about how easy it is to tune in to something trivial, and the important things that could be missed beneath that.

Arika's Episodes are iterative, with each evolving out of questions raised during the last. One of the ways the programmers bring this into focus is through conversations with participants and audiences, facilitated by their team. Providing context for São Paolo's Ueinzz Theatre Company through conversation on Friday night proves difficult solely for the speed at which a single translator has to keep up with a multiplicity of voices. The conversation moves from politics and love to the running of the company itself. It is clear that conversation is a huge part of Ueinzz as they disagree and debate with each other even as they explain their practice. Their performance, No Ready Made Men, on the Sunday afternoon is complex, not only because it is not translated entirely into English. At times the performance resembles devising exercises, but in the way that Ueinzz are continually exploring their practice, using theatre to explore themselves and to open up wider questions. The programme tells the narrative. They explore language, playing with the dichotomy in this performance between English and Portuguese, but there are still gaps for the audience to fill in.

Also raising questions for the audience are New York artists Park MacArthur and Constantina Zavitsanos with their film and performance It’s Sorta Like a Big Hug, exploring in detail the care that they need and the care that is provided for Park on a daily basis to manage her disability. They ask the audience to think of these acts as scores and directly to attempt the ‘score for crossing an open field’ — the process of crossing someone’s legs on their behalf. It is equal parts awkward and engaging for the audience as they choose to either take on or sit back from this task, sparking discussion all around the room. This brings the questions of care at the heart of Arika to the forefront, more directly than other performances and conversations may do. It forces audiences to consider their bodies and the spaces they occupy.

If Episodes are iterative, it will be interesting to see which questions lead forward into Episode 8 and how the questions raised here are answered, if that is even possible. These questions, the discussion, are perhaps the most important thing that Arika create.