Monday, November 30, 2009

Theatre of the Oppressed for Privates Enterprises: Impossibilities (English)

Our starting point is that Theatre of the Oppressed is of the oppressed and must be done by the oppressed and for the oppressed. And cannot be done to serve, benefit or support the system that oppresses, exploits, controls and manipulates, providing for few people at the cost of many more.

Theatre of the Oppressed must be practiced to humanize humanity; to make possible the revolt of the oppressed not her/his adaptation; to appropriate the means of cultural production instead of imprisonment of consumerism; to reveal the structure of conflict instead of pacifying ignorance; to stimulate the action that demands change instead of waiting for a favor; to help to open people’s eyes instead of blinding them with camouflaged solutions.

Theatre of the Oppressed must serve for solidarity, ethical and international action against misery, injustice, oppression, discrimination, depravation and privatization of natural, social and cultural resources, geographical closing and of labor exploitation. A solidarity, ethical and international action for social justice, redistribution of rent, equal opportunities, respect to diversity, freedom of circulation, sustainability and equity on access to natural, social and cultural resources, and for the solidarity and happiness of all.

The method created by Augusto Boal is based on the Aesthetic of the Oppressed, which focuses on the combat against the aesthetic invasion to our brains, to the domain of ideas and perceptions and authoritarian imposition of pre-established conceptions of what is the beauty, the certainty or the desirable. It fights against the strategies perpetrated by the oppressive system that uses aesthetic ways – sound, image and word – to influence and convince the oppressed that they are incapable of creating, participating and, specially, deciding by themselves. The Aesthetics of the Oppressed stimulates creative and critical production of knowledge and culture within full exercise of freedom.

Therefore, to be practiced appropriately Theatre of the Oppressed needs that the participants enjoy freedom of choice: to participate, to choose the topics of their interest and to define goals and strategies of action, within the limits of their means. The group needs to appropriate the means of production to express its wishes and necessities to transform its oppressive reality, being aware of the challenges and risks the group might need to face when making it public.

Theatre of the Oppressed has irreconcilable bases with the concentration of wealth in a minority, as with the exploitation of the hard-working class, uncritical education, the forcing frames of pre-established rules and with the maintenance of the status quo. TO is a Martial Art of combat against the principles that support the system of exploitation.

The dissemination, maintenance and development of the ideology, on which this oppressive system is based, remain in charge of several social institutions, public and private. Such as education, teaching and research, inspection, maintenance of the order and protection of private property, communication, health, segregation, between many others.

Very often, as Theatre of the Oppressed practitioners, we act in these institutions with the conviction we are fighting for the transformation of reality. But in fact, we are at the service of the maintenance of the established order. We can have our vision obfuscated and our perception damaged by illusory advancements that camouflage the practical consequences that ratify the legitimacy of the questioned institution.

In a prison, for example, TO can only fulfill its objectives when the prisoners and guards are free to discuss any subject inside the workshop. Obviously this possibility to express themselves freely depends on the Curinga’s skills, experience and predisposition in boarding certain topics; in case this represents ethical matters, which in prisons environment are relatively frequent. It is necessary that there is freedom of speech to develop the aesthetic process, as well as the artistic product that comes out of the process, even if the result can not be shared with an audience, due to internal or external limitations to the group. The aesthetic process must stand for an experience of freedom and appropriation of the ways of production.

The prison is an institution at the service of the oppressive system, a strategic institution. If the Curinga is not aware of the institution’s internal and external contradictions, s/he is at risk of regarding her/his work as entertainment rather than a real space for criticism or questioning, turned into elucidatory educational theater based on the rules in force and facilitating adaptation. Inside the penitentiary system one can only move forward in the real sense of the Theater of the Oppressed when one manages to work in the absentee of the system’s contradictions, where there is a gap for unusual things, the unexpected thing and, up to certain extent, transformation.

The same thing could be said about the TO work at schools, which in order to be appropriated, it needs participation not to be compulsory and the project does not aim to adapt the students into the pedagogic status quo of the institution. It is fundamental that there is the possibility of questioning the relations of power so that the work is not limited, domesticated or turned into educational theater. TO is not about teaching what is considered "certain" by a political, economical, social, cultural or intellectual elite. TO is about questioning reality, doubting about certainty, stimulating reflections and building alternatives.

Many TO practitioners carry out actions in psychiatric hospitals, another social sector historically oppressive, strategically maintaining the order through the exclusion of the different ones. In this environment is even more difficult to protect the participants’ freedom and, at the same time, to respect their thematic choices, as well as conquering spaces that guarantee the playful character of the work without becoming pure occupational entertainment.

In spite of being institutions that serve to the maintenance of the oppressive system, they offer spaces of contradiction, in which working with TO can create breaches of dialog and ways of transformation. Meantime, the lack of critical vision of the wider context in which the work is inserted can easily get the practitioner into the institutional trap, incorporating it and turning it into one more strategy of adaptation and maintenance of the structures of power in force.

Relationships in private enterprises are measured by economical dependence, influenced strongly by the daily struggle of workers to survive and for the explicit and main interest of maintenance and enlargement of the profit. From businessmen’s perspective, would it be possible to develop an action as TO, reconciling TO ethical bases with the capitalist contractor’s interests?

In such case: who request and contracts work? Which is the motivation of this employment? Who defines the goals and objectives of work? Who defines the subject to be approached? Which audience will be benefited? Benefited audience or targeted audience? Which will it be the actual participation of this audience in the productive process? Which will it be the freedom of participation of the audience? Which will it be the audience’s real possibility to refuse to participate, even if it is not objectively obliged? Which level of labor constraint influences the decision made by audience? Which level of institutional control does the audience perceive on its actions and places? Does the placing of the audience represent its reflections and necessities or does it try to correspond the contractor’s expectations and its consequent maintenance of the post of work?

Capitalist’s motivation is the profit, it swims more understandable. When a capitalist is preoccupied by the health and the enlargement of the level of worker’s schooling, by male chauvinism reduction, by the prejudice and tensions in the working environment, by organic production or the reduction of the global heating; the capitalist is focused in the growth of profit through the increase of the productivity of healthy, quite polite and happy workers or of the enlargement of the market. Attracting conscious consumers and disposed to pay more for socially responsible and ecologically sustainable productions.

Theatre of the Oppressed motivation is the transformation of oppressive realities, from the perspectives of who feel oppressed by them.

Theatre of the Oppressed task is to reveal the structure of the conflict and make easier the analysis from the particular case towards the social, economical and cultural system in which the particular case is inserted.

In this way Theatre of the Oppressed promotes the understanding of the causes and consequences of such phenomenon, which at a first sight it seemed particular and specific, and stimulates a collective search of alternative solutions.

From this perspective or acting space of Theater of the Oppressed in a private enterprise would be the approach to the inherent contradictions related to capital and work. But which capitalist in her/his healthy mind would invest financial resources in such headache?

To do shows to create awareness for the need of preventing labor accidents, the importance of respectful relations in work environment, the appropriate use of tools and resources, between other well-meaning subjects, it is really praiseworthy. To call that Theater of the Oppressed in that case is absurd. In this case, to use techniques like Educational-theater, Theater-enterprise, Theater-education or to create some type of Theater-commodity is more appropriate, fair and ethical.

Throughout the 23 years of existence, the Centre of Theater of the Oppressed, under Augusto Boal’s direction, received financial support, through public edicts, of Petrobras – the state-owned enterprise of Oil; of Caixa Cultural and Cultural Centre of Brazilian Bank – cultural faces of two state-owned banks; and of the BNDES – national bank of economical and social development; that are the biggest investors in Brazilian culture. In none of these cases, the resources were used to act inside these enterprises with their respective officials. The projects developed with this financial support served for the formation of Multipliers inside civil society organizations and for the development of committed groups to communitarian emancipation.

On the hand, Centre of Theater of the Oppressed team has already developed projects with Petrobras Engineers' Association questioning the directors’ proposal of privatization, during the government of Fernando Enrique Cardoso. Besides several actions with bank employees trade unions in Rio do Janiero and in Minas Gerais were developed too.

Like Augusto Boal said clearly on page 253 in his last book, Aesthetics of the Oppressed, launched in September of 2009, in Brazil, on the search of partnerships:

" ...we work with peasants, never for landowners. With workers, never for their bosses. With oppressed, never for oppressors.... Some dishonest groups use amputated pieces of the Method for, obedient, to help oppressors: treason. "

For capitalists-patrons, if they exist, who have a desire to invest in Theater of the Oppressed, we have many projects committed to communitarian development to recommend to them, where the oppressed are the ones who decide what, for whom and how to do.

Although financial support is vital, financing can not taking out the revolutionary essence of our work, which seeks to emancipate and not to domesticate.

Translation: Carolina Echeverria

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