Interview with Jorge Reis about the show OBSCURUS

We talked with curator and creator Jorge Reis about OBSCURUS, his first creation in performing arts. This show is a multidisciplinary work with new audio-visual technologies, dance and choreography. The beta version will premiere on April 23 at Lisboa Incomum.

Rodrigo Fonseca – The OBSCURUS project is multidisciplinary. What is the intersection of artistic fields in this project?

Jorge Reis – This project is a contemporary dance work that combines some dramatic aspects of Physical Theatre. The spoken word is also explored here in its relationship with sound. The audio-visual aspects of sound, light and video are by the new media artist Rodrigo Gomes.

RF – Do the references of Physical Theatre include Grotowski, for instance?

JR – Those references come from the closest experiences of the creator and director João Garcia Miguel, with whom I have already worked. The references of this play come from literary works and web research. In this show, the whole team is co-creators, there is no hierarchy. Each one suggests and composes things.

RF – What is the social and economic context of the main character Jude Ora?

JR – The context of Jude Ora is related to the novel Jude, The Obscure by Thomas Hardy. This work is very interesting, because Hardy writes in a troubled historical moment. His work is a criticism of the conservative values of the time. The character he created was much criticised, for example, for having more than one family. This novel deals with the social and political context in which we are born and how decisive this is in achieving our goals. The character Jude Ora is inspired by Jude from this novel. Jude is a person obsessed with being a university professor, even forgetting that he has a family. He could never truly love anyone because of his drive to achieve his goal. He eventually passed away without becoming a university professor. Jude Ora presents a duality. His English name can be either feminine or masculine. The name Ora comes from Albanian mythology. In short, it is related to the fate of human beings as soon as they are born, that is, Ora is a kind of spirit. Making the comparison with Star Wars, we are born on the light side or the dark side. The Ora of Albanian mythology is also found in Greek mythology. There are three women at the same time, and one is evil. This side is associated with the character’s dark side. This aspect is a side of transformation, metamorphosis into an animal. I was interested in the animalistic and violent features of Ora, his frustration and at the same time her creative power.

RF – What are the subjectivities conceived by “a non-binary person who rejects solitude and is incapable of love”?

JR – They have to do with the social and political context of a non-binary person. Jude Ora often feels completely alone. The way he came up with to deal with the situation was to create something. Creation plays a big part in this play. I imagine it’s the part of the show that the audience will most identify with, because it’s beautiful, feminine, light and energetic. However, she ends up not identifying with anything he creates: it was wasted energy. Out of frustration, he becomes evil. She does not accept the frustration of not loving what she creates. She becomes violent and vanishes.

RF – How was this project’s creative process? Had you worked with this team of creators before? Was it the first time?

JR – It’s the first time we’ve worked together, but I already knew Rodrigo’s work. It’s the first time I’ve done a performing arts show. Although I had already worked with João Garcia Miguel, my role had more to do with communication and mixing it than with the visual arts. I follow many artists, that’s my role as a curator. I had been following Rodrigo’s efforts for some time and I thought it would make sense to invite him to this work. I met Minori because she is in Torres Vedras doing the intensive performing arts course at Performact. I did two auditions, the first time was basically when I presented her with the play script. In the second audition I had the support of Gonçalo Lobato, professor at Performact. I found it very easy to conclude that it would be Minori, due to her cultural background and her body work, a very versatile dancer who does contemporary dance, through Hip Hop to traditional Japanese dance. We did extensive research on ritual dances, from which several ideas for the choreography emerged. Minori had a very active participation in the choreography’s development. With Rodrigo, we mixed ritual music with electronic sounds, jungle. We tried to develop textures, repetitive sounds and forces. The geometric notions of the circle and the square were also in the creative process, in the sound and dance parts. The circles have to do with life and the feminine. In the last act, the choreography takes place only in squares. It evolves through the qualities of the animal, the violent, the ritual and the natural elements.

RF – Is this project conceptually related to the work you have been developing as a curator, or is it something totally outside your guidelines?

JR – The question is interesting. I never thought about it. As a curator, I always relate the social context with the artists’ work, as well as the relation of art with technology. In this show, I work a lot on both issues. For example, I use technology to refer to ancestral, divine and social issues. Here, the social critique has Thomas Hardy’s novel as its main reference. In fact, conceptually, the way I do both works relate to each other a lot.

RF – Is the OBSCURUS project a reminder of how cis people coexist with non-binary people, or is that critical part not so present?

JR – I don’t want to shut anything out. When I curate, it’s the same. There are several readings. The play doesn’t focus on a very specific theme, but it has to do with that. I let the audience make their judgments and interpretations.

RF – What are the next performance dates for this show?

JR – Before I mention the dates, I want to say that this play has two different formats. There is a beta version and a stage version. The beta version premieres on April 23 at Lisboa Incomum. The stage version will premiere on May 14 at Centro de Artes e Criatividade in Torres Vedras. Then, the stage version will be at Fórum Cultural de Cerveira on May 28 and 29.

Rodrigo Fonseca (1995, Sintra). He studied at António Arroio, has a degree in History of Art and a master in Performing Arts from FCSH/UNL. He was co-founder of the publishing house CusCus Discus and of the festival Dia Aberto às Artes. Besides Umbigo magazine, he writes music criticism for Rimas e Batidas. He is a sound technician specialized in concerts and shows and resident artist at the cultural association DARC.

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