Written by Ioana Diaconu

As a for­eigner in London I often find myself eager to explain my cul­ture, to show what it is about it that is so great and worth shar­ing. Of course we could argue that there is no such thing as a for­eigner in London, since it is the place of a hun­dred cul­tures and so on. Anyway, at home or not, I feel it a duty to share beau­ti­ful pro­jects of Romanians world­wide, and this is my first attempt (fol­lowed, I hope, by many more).

I knew about Ioana Paun as an artist in res­id­ency at the Romanian Cultural Institute in London, I heard bits and parts about her work in the past months, but I didn’t have a clear image of the pro­ject. Thus I left for Theatre Royal Stratford East expect­ing a theatre per­form­ance — won­der­ing whether the sub­titles to the show would be as express­ive in trans­la­tion, which I always found to be an issue with inter­na­tional plays.

What I did get from the next couple of hours was far from the lin­guistic debate. It was not whether the audi­ence got the little inside jokes, they actu­ally made them. And not only the jokes, but the action and inter­ac­tion. Even the rules, at some point.

Photograph by Dana Popa

Through this pro­ject, Ioana Paun sets out to explore the social nature of our being – how do we react when given cer­tain stim­uli, why do we con­form and why do we revolt? Through a hybrid of live art per­form­ance and social exper­i­ment, we are given the chance if not to answer these ques­tions, at least to be con­scious of our own beha­viour and instincts, to start to ques­tion our own atti­tudes when faced with these real­it­ies out­side of the arti­fi­cial envir­on­ment of the experiment.

Photograph by Inno Brezeanu

The pro­logue intro­duces the audi­ence to a dynamic stock mar­ket account, cul­min­at­ing with the human value on the mar­ket – “You are worth noth­ing in the mar­ket. Unless someone buys you. Unless someone sells you!” We are bru­tally intro­duced to reality.

Ten mem­bers of the audi­ence are ran­domly selec­ted to enter a fact­ory set­ting, in which they are to spend the rest of the exper­i­ment com­pletely immersed in this new uni­verse, as work­ers in a pro­duc­tion line in a fact­ory. The rest of the audi­ence can see and hear everything that is going on in the house, together with stat­ist­ics about the aver­age worker’ s drive, pro­ductiv­ity and downfall.

The sense of intru­sion from the out­side world gets even stronger when the new performers/​subjects real­ize that the Big Brother like Voice hand­ing them instruc­tions has run a back­ground check on them through their online pro­files. Although it is no news these days, being screened through social media by a com­plete stranger/​pro­spect­ive employer startled me when exper­i­enced first hand, espe­cially in an envir­on­ment where I came pre­pared to be the spec­tator, the voyeur of other people’s stories.

Although at first aware of the audi­ence and the vul­ner­ab­il­ity of play­ing one’s own per­son on a stage, the sub­ject –per­formers soon for­get about the out­side world, as they get more and more caught up in the tangle of rela­tion­ships that emerge on the scene – there are instant likes and dis­likes, lead­er­ship emerges, so does the frus­tra­tion of inequal­it­ies and unful­filling work. Ioana Paun has cre­ated a com­plete exper­i­ence, a set of feel­ings and thoughts that usu­ally develop on a lar­ger times­cale in a person’s life, mak­ing it so much more power­ful by con­dens­a­tion. As the lights grow dim­mer, the heat­ing more intense, the revolt climbs rap­idly to a state of dis­rup­tion. The work­ers refuse to work any­more. Partly aware of it as a spec­tacle, partly involved on a much more per­sonal level, the sub­jects of the exper­i­ment con­tra­dict the pro­logue – Yes you are worth more than what they buy you for. Yes, you are more than a trans­ac­tion, you do have ini­ti­at­ive and the power to dis­rupt a sys­tem. The play ends on this note on this one occa­sion, we do not know how other series reacted and this is why the pro­ject as a whole is worth following.

Photograph by Inno Brezeanu
Photographs by Dana Popa

One of the lines going through the audience’s head­phones as the play pro­gresses is worth men­tion­ing in this con­text – As a child, the human being ques­tions everything. As a teen­ager, he still ques­tions some points, revolt­ing against them. As an adult though, the aver­age worker com­plies with the instruc­tions he receives, for­get­ting to ques­tion the valid­ity of his own actions bey­ond the social and the eco­nom­ical frame pushed on him. (We did prove them wrong on this occasion.)

All in all, Muncitor is a strong state­ment for the socio-​political con­text of the day, an ini­ti­at­ive to engage the pub­lic in ques­tion­ing the terms imposed upon him, as well as his own reac­tions to these conditions.

For more info about Ioana, have a look here.

About author:
Art Pit Guest
Art Pit Guest profile is dedicated for all our new writers, artists and people. Each of them gets his personal profile after he successfully has submitted 3 articles or projects to us. If we accept it, one gains individual profile with bio, picture and badges. However, we promote even new people who just joined our community, adding them to this c... Read further >
This entry was posted in Performing Arts
Your Comments Go Here Read it - Spill it
If you dear