imMEDIAte: Snarling, lovable dogs of art and subversion


Age rated: Under-18Alan Parker and Gavin Krastin

Alan Parker and Gavin Krastin enter the Critter kitchen. They are tired, wired from their show, On Seeing Red and Other Fantasies, which ended a few minutes ago.

Nothing is sacred, everything is sacred?
A bit of both, says Alan.
Are you pissed? (He downed a bottle of wine as part of the performance)
A little. I’m a bit tired, lots of adrenalin.
What did we say to each other afterwards?
We moaned about people not leaving the venue. Two gay guys wouldnt go. They needed to pee.
Whats your problem with gay guys.
Your fuck manifesto:
We do everything we say fuck to. We are hypocritical. It’s not a personal piece. We are not saying this art is better than any other. It’s an expression of being pissed off.
We are both pissed off. My mom died a year ago, and Gavin’s grandfather committed suicide and Gavin has issues with rage. He has calmed down a bit.
Rage is a lovely emotion. It’s fucking ridiculous. You feel awkward afterwards, ashamed and embarassed, but it’s also healthy to be angry. It’s cathartic for me. But we are not trying to make it cathartic to the audience, even when I say fuck catharsis I am having a cathartic moment.
How much is the plastic dolphin?
R200 a pop across five shows.
How many sanitary pads do you use up?
We use 60 Always Ultra pads a show (350). You should have seen the looks we got in Macro.
Outer realm:
We are very aware that we play on the outer realm of freedom of expression.
That fuck manifesto:
The content is South African. Its a mixtrue of the Dada manifesto in 1916, which was an anti-art movement.
Some is from the No Manifesto in 1960 by choreographer Yvonn Rainer, where they described everything about dance and then told it to go fuck itself.
“The luminous cascade of offensive and loving thoughts” is from a Dada manifesto and we added in the SA contexts.
Our fuck manifesto was inspired by the onslaught of gratutuous violence or activism (mainly in social media), ‘Look at Kardashians’, ‘Bring back our girls’, ‘Fuck Balete’. You are assaulted with these messages on a daily basis.
Audience response: do you care?
It’s that awkward thing of you can’t feel too upset about people not liking it when you are consciously trying to unsettle them.
We are not trying to craft an experience. We lay it out there and some people are moved by it and some people hate it.
We had a negative response from the last gig (Dance Umbrella, a review) and we made a decision to not let comments affect us while the show is running. If we are not invested in the work, the work falls apart. We have to trust it and each other.
Do you love each other?
Yes for two years. We do get tender (in the show) then it uravels.
Gavin: I don’t find it cathartic. I find it fucking hard work. It’s painful. Yes I train. I do pilates, yoga, contact improvisation and a lot of weight sharing excercises.
Alan: I am a dance teacher. I dance a lot.
The blood and rough theatre:
Gavin: I have no skin on my shoulders from being dragged (by Alan) and my arms are a bit sore from the needles for the blood bag. We take the blood just before the audience come in. You are allowed to lose 500ml. We lose 50mls a night. It comes out slowly. The bags are vacuum-pack designed to suction it out fast so we introduce some air to draw it out slower.
It’s a moment of the real in the fantasy, a tearing yourself inside and outside. We live in such an age of phobia versus tolerance and acceptance.
It’s putting that DNA out there: I am a white gay man, even though people are petrified of blood.
It speaks of the vampiric culture we live in, as an artist you give your all. You bleed all the time.
It’s bit of a play on black face white face, so this is red, rusty-iron face.
(It’s quite a thing in Hollywood to have a vampire facial of a face mask made of your blood.)
I had to check my blood, and I am not HIV-positive. Checking yourself is part of the SA way. I consulted doctors and by the time it gets to the audience, it has no nutrition.
Do you fear public backlash?
Yes, it’s a consequence, same as your job.
You can’t put it out there and not deal with it.
Gavin: I have been at it (performance art) for five years. I am still getting the armour on, the skin is thickening.
I grew up in Cape Town as a weird kid, but now there’s all this cyber bulling.
Bad things they say about your work?
Untalented! Uneducated., Can’t believe they teach at UCT!
Both have masters degrees in choreography, both from Rhodes.
We were drawn to Rhodes. I wanted a romantic university experience, a fairy tale. Where everything is close. At UCT I have to take a whole day off to go to the admin building.
You guys are very rof gay artists.
We all have the dark side of the moon in us, that shadow in us. It’s an opportunity to let it out. Philosophers talk of theausweg, the outflow, what doesn’t fit into the system you are born into, doesn’t fit the codes, all this silt and debris, all of this has to be pushed aside.
It’s not cathartic. It’s enjoyable to let that go loose, to lose it. It’s still a constructed space.
We have gone through six jumping castles at R800 each. They pop. We filmed our trailer in the abandoned buildilng next to our studio which turned out to be the local drug den. So one (jumping castle) got covered in human faeces and punctured with heroin needles. One guy came up to borrow our lighter and then whipped out a tik lollie! That was the first time I had ever seen that! (Gavin).
It was quite a cheap set, about R8 000.
Newspapers gave us so much material, land claims, xenophobia. Baleke Mbete was my inspiration, that whole parliament show on TV was inspiring, all about who can speak and who can carry the flame. All the rules and regulations. It all speaks to theatre. It’s all about space, time, transformation and the boundaries, and crossing them, within that space.
We talk about this a lot when we travel. SAs are not rule-abiding, Gavin almost got a fine walking across the street in Cananda. There’s something lovely about South Africans not being law abiding, a beauty about the dystpopia. But hectic shit goes down in this country and people are super resilient and then there’s the opposite of just accepting and patience. South Africans are hugely patient, ‘Things will get better’ and they are very loyal. There are nice contradictions.
International performance art
Only in SA are we billed as performance art, elsewhere we are billed as theatre-makers. I understand where audiences are at, imagine watching our piece as a piece of theatre!
African performance art:
We are African performance artists. We are accused of not being African enough for international festival programmes. I’m born here, pay taxes here, everything I know is here. And we need to understand that African culture has so many layers and strands and there is a spot for us in the sun. So despite not being black Africans, we feel African.
Getting hurt
It’s not the most important thing. It’s cause and effect. You don’t set out to say we are going to make a shocking or abusive work. You stay true to the concepts. We don’t try and hurt each other, even though both of us do get hurt. We are trying to experience anger and then what happens, happens. It’s really important that we trust and love each other.
More on Dada:
Alan, in a dressing gown the morning after, smoking in Juanita and Leo’s alley, coffee in hand: “Dada was called an artistic tantrum. It lasted for a few years until 1916. It was angry with romanticism in art while humans were being slaughtered in a mindless war. It was angry with the bourgeoisie and the artistocracy.”

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