ERSATZ by Julien Mellano
Not for a long time have I witnessed something so seemingly simple but deeply effective. Captivating and imaginative in style and form; harrowing in its content. This is Ersatz.
Alone, Future Man sits behind his bright white desk, robotically executing his tasks. He presses some buttons and a package arrives. His flickering blinking eyes are the only show of reaction. Carefully he opens it to find a small plain ‘cracker’ which he eats. Food delivered at the touch of a button.
He opens a heavy book and we see the iconic Evolution of Man image. He draws an an outline on the page, and turning it over he then extracts this exact shape from within the book. The shape fits neatly into the mysterious construction he begins to build. Cut and paste.
But this is now.
There’s no clear narrative to Ersatz but the scrambled pieces of the story slowly come together, falling into place like the shards of materials Future Man joins together to create access to his virtual worlds. We begin to understand… Once humans had to forage and seek sustenance; we’re now so removed from how to fulfil the requirements for basic life. If we didn’t have supermarkets? He has the world’s knowledge at his fingertips but he selects only the part that fits neatly into his construction. We’re fools. But if we didn’t have the world wide web?
He is future man but he is a mirror to us. Plug in, disengage, stay in that unreal ‘there’ for hours and hours on end. Unplug. Look for the next distraction.
The man side-scrolls and swipes through the virtual realities on offer. I liked the cat. I believe he did too for a moment. A brief, if unreal, reaching for connection with something alive.
When I thanked a production member as I left, she said to tell others and in her foreign English added “there are four more representations of the work”. Representations. Her meaning was ‘performances’, yet in that word is carried another layer to Ersatz. The performer exists. The screens and book and materials exist there. But like his VR world, what we have engaged in is a false reality, a representation, a creation. Lingering now is the tortured line from an old Infected Mushroom song, “none of this is real”.
No buts about it. Ersatz is excellent. Surprising, frightening, and memorable.
Ersatz is on today 29 June at 11.00 & 18.00, & twice tomorrow. All the details here.
Conceived, directed and performed by: Julien Mellano
Company: AÏE AÏE AÏE, COLLECTIVE OF ARTISTS
External perspective: Etienne Manceau
Lighting and stage management: Sebastien Thomas
Sound advice: Gildas Gaboriau
Music: Olivier Mellano, Mauricio Kagel
Production: Collectif AÏE AÏE AÏE