Casting Call: Episode 1, 2019. Film still. The Joker and The Child
An artistic research project by Eleni Kamma
Would it be possible for local and traditional European forms of parrhesiastic theater—by which I mean events, actions, and performances staged by characters who courageously speak their minds through scenes of excess and laughter, that take place in public view and incite the spectator’s agency to speak their own minds—to relate to and/or provide new insights for critical artistic practices today? If so, how? What is the place and role of caricature today?
Casting Call (2016–ongoing) is a series of related attempts, events and manifestations. It playfully explores conditions for politics being possible in the public space today, through collaborative developments in an artistic, performative framework. I call this process a parrhesiastic theater parade. The parade develops halfway between a cultural allegory of contemporary Europe and an invocation of a community of old parrhesiastic laughers. It is an invented genre of theatricality whereby events, actions, performances are staged by twenty-five distinct characters-types, such as The Fool, The Animal, The Drunk, The Angry, The Collector of Proverbs etc. These characters-types test the possibility of courageously voicing their opinions through scenes of excess and laughter. In doing so, they use commissioned texts and sketches on community-related concepts that create disagreement: Democracy, Prosperity, Solidarity, Europe, Languages, Migration, Pluralism. I borrowed these from BELvue Museum, which uses them to reflect on Belgium and Belgian society.
The scenes take place publicly and effect the bystanders’ agency to speak their own minds. Speaking in the name of who? Who is the proper comedian? The title’s ‘casting call’ works both as a reference to the preparation for a film or theatre production and as an invitation to inclusivity. Casting laughter, like casting a vote, amounts to an act of, process and a call for, participation.
Casting Call is an ongoing project and already had the following public moments:
Casting Call: How does a European politician save a refugee from drowning?, solo exhibition at ACPA exhibition space in Leiden (2020)
Persona Everyware, group exhibition at Le Lait, Albi (France, 2020)
Artist talk at Nieuwe Vide, Haarlem (2019)
Re-M-Ommegang, a performance at Museum M, Leuven, part of Playground Festival (2018)
Punch Line (Language), a performance at 'How do we establish, sustain and nourish a vital research culture in the arts?', artistic research conference-festival of the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (2018)
The Selfie-Junkie, The Fool, The Animal, The Glossary, The Angry, The Collector Of Proverbs, and so on, a solo exhibition at Académie royale des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles, Brussels (2018)
Casting Call is supported by Mondriaan Fund, VAF Filmlab (development), Beursschouwburg, nadine/Wandering Arts Biennial, M-Museum Leuven, Provincie Limburg (The Netherlands), VGC (Flemish Community Commission) and Grensverleggers/deBuren
Eleni Kamma, The Disguised, 2018
Eleni Kamma, Casting Call. Clip #1, The Angry, 2018, HD video, single channel, colour, sound. Image: Boris van Hoof
Eleni Kamma, Casting Call. Clip #9, The Glossary of Parrhesiastic Words, 2018, HD video, single channel, colour, sound. Image: Boris van Hoof. Performers Sahra Huby and Jessica Van Rüschen.