Active Viewing May 15, 2009

by KateR

Please try this experiment with me: attend Orgy of Tolerance at On the Boards. Observe, react, process in sleep and in waking. Pull yourself together the following morning, sit down to read some news, clutching your coffee for comfort and support. Possessed by some demon, decide you might as well read the online article the Atlantic has recently posted on SpongeBob SquarePants. Hold on tight as interesting and horrifying associations speed through your mind.

To the point: I strongly recommend seeing this show. It is brilliantly constructed, brilliantly performed. Jan Fabre places an immense amount of trust in his performers and they are worthy of it. I'm fighting the impulse to make all sorts of disclaimers to accompany my recommendation. I'm only going to give in a little by saying that I knew I would have my work cut out for me in explaining why I liked this performance so much. In fact, I'm not really able to fully explain it yet but look forward to having conversations to help me hash that out. Gut reaction was (and remains) all in favor. I've been positively amazed by performances in the past and later surprised to hear that people I respect hated it. In the case of Orgy of Tolerance, I won't be surprised.

As with any experience viewing art, one is more likely to gain the most from the experience if one ditches one's preconceived ideas and instant-judgement-trigger at the door. I'm not mentioning this to be pedantic, I'm saying this because it was difficult for me to do - especially when faced with a performance that hammers stereotypes and cliches at the audience nonstop. There will be plenty of time to process it all later; actively watch it while you watch it.

The only major criticism of the work I can think of is that there's too much thrown at the audience too fast, akin to an insubstantial, unsatisfying sexual experience. I'm aware that this ties in perfectly with the theme, but damn it I wanted to indulge myself by spending more time in some of the visuals and Jan Fabre wouldn't let me. The last dance section was gloriously indulgent: much obliged for the release.

I can think of many criticisms in regards to our culture and society, in terms of excess, in terms of mindless accepted patterns, in terms of crippling composite social responsibility and blame. As is evident, so can Jan Fabre.

- Kate Ratcliffe