Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Dramaturgy Copy: Youness Atbane @ Edfringe 2017

The Second Copy: 2045 
Red Lecture Theatre, Summerhall, 4 - 27 August 2017 (not 11 or 12) | 10:15 (11:00) 

Youness Atbane’s The Second Copy: 2045 is a thought-provoking and humorous conceptual performance art piece looking at the dynamics of contemporary art and at our possible future. 

Placing itself in the future, the piece is able to take an objective look at contemporary art now and question the link between objects, documentary and fiction.

Walk us through your performance; what would you say it is mainly about?

The Second Copy” is a fictional, 45-minute, solo performance that puts the audience in a futuristic setting. At the beginning of the show, I announce to the audience that they’re about to be a part of a documentary from the year 2045. I use the format to deliver three different excerpts to the audience.
The journey mainly discusses contemporary art in Morocco and around the Middle East more generally. 

How did you become interested in making this performance?

It’s a work that’s mainly derived out of interactions that I had with audiences, particularly in the city of Casablanca. It’s based on the criticism that I’ve received. Since the Arab Spring, there’s a form of freedom of speech that’s very oriented. Today, audiences look to us artists as dangerous people to their local values. That really befell the entire prism of contemporary art. They critique us by saying that our work is mainly tailored for European audiences and that our performances are somewhat against our values as Moroccans.

I never thought of any of that as my objective; yet I still found it interesting. There’s a very real conservative bubble surrounding the art scene. I got the feeling that I needed to talk about it. In “The Second Copy”, I’m trying to talk about the role of artists in a society like ours and to define it, since I got the feeling that people were mixing up art with entertainment and TV. 

For many people, these are all the same: things that try to change the concrete image of our society today. The fictional elements allow me to imagine a chaotic future that’s similarly uncertain about the role of artists. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience? Do you think that Moroccans would react to it differently than the Edinburgh audience?

Well, it’s always different. My rule as an artist is always to not keep anything limited to one audience; my goal is to always open the topics in various directions. The beauty of art is that it opens up the avenue for discussion, thereby allowing people to start to understand each other’s cultural rules in the process. They then start putting themselves into the position of others. It’s very specific. 
I’m not interested in the idea that people need to somehow conform to my reality. I’m more interested in opening up the field for new ideas to emerge through exchanges and newfound understandings that I have by communicating with the audience. 

What role do you feel that art has in shaping people’s reality?

I think the main basis for art is putting a thought or emotion into proper form. It can be visual, text, material, or immaterial. From there, the thoughts conveyed could influence the receiver in various ways. Artists aren’t agents for change. Their role is all about bringing something unknown into something visible for everyone else. 

Now, however, you’re more and more dealing with what I like to call as the institution or the machine that’s responsible for shaping people’s perceptions through generally setting the cultural policy of a society. The institution is becoming more and more of a protagonist these days by deciding for artists where to go. Many artists are responding to that; and that’s where you really have a complex situation. 

That’s not the case in Morocco, because we don’t have any strong art institutions there. Artists still have a full say in the way in which they’d like to convey their messages. Compared to other places, I know I’m exaggerating here, but I feel that Arab artists have more of an urge to communicate. They understand that they don’t need to wait for the state or institution because of our very specific conditions. 
For me, when I’m going to Europe for performances, I feel that I’m participating in something that’s already there. When I’m working in Morocco, on the other hand, it feels like I’m contributing to the foundation of something. There’s a very big difference. It’s a huge pleasure.

What do you hope that the audience will experience in your performance at Edinburgh?

I’m really not sure of what experience they’ll have, but I’m very interested in finding out how they see the situation and to exchange ideas with them. I hope that I bring something new to them and that they do the same to me.

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