What is real? with award-winning Swiss artist at GIPCA’s Live Art

Acclaimed experimental theatre artist, Boris Nikitin headlines GIPCA’s Live Art Festival with two works – Imitation of Life and Woyzeck – and a series of workshops, part of a South African tour supported by Pro Helvetia.

Boris Nikitin is a Swiss theatre director, space designer, and curator with a French-Russian-Slovakian-Jewish background. His works are a mix between lecture performance and illusion theatre, exploring the boundaries between reality and theatre; jumping from the highly conceptual to great theatricality, playing with the boundaries between offensive dilettantism and acting virtuosity.

Nikitin considers fiction and reality in Imitation Of Life, conceptualised in collaboration with writers and performers Malte Scholz and Beatrice Fleischlin. Imitation of Life is a documentary style piece about fraud, manipulation and the power of affirmation. Two actors and a counterfeiter are the central figures in this play; imitators who are able to impersonate others. Imitation of Life is a theatrical balancing act between certainty and uncertainty about information. A profound piece which points to the origin of our suspicion that things might not be what they appear to be.

Woyzeck, also conceptualised with Malte Scholz, is a lecture piece combining elements of radio. It is founded on Georg Büchner’s famous play, Woyzeck, first published in 1879, about a military barber who stabs his common-law wife to death for her infidelity. Nikitin’s piece deals with themes of mental capacity and guilt on the one hand; and questions around authorship – who indeed wrote the original play, Woyzeck – on the other. The overarching questions that arise are: Is there a soul where one can allocate responsibility? Are you the author of your life or not? What is life, really? Described as “an evening changing between a strange lecture performance and an experimental radio show”, it features a live audio stream of the performance on the web.

Following from his groundbreaking performance work, Nikitin’s workshops take participants through a process that is innovative, highly considered and unique. As part of this maverick style, Nikitin draws uncommon wisdom from an unlikely text, How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie’s bestselling coaching guidebook book from the 1930’s, which considers the question: “What skills and forms of communication can I use in order to influence a situation (ie reality) so that it develops in a way that I want to?” It facilitates the goal of becoming an authentic, respected and convincing person. But what is reality if it is at first a question of persuasive power? Nikitin’s workshops consider the recreation of reality on stage.

Theatre is about acting a different character or playing a role. Performance is often about performing yourself or claiming to be yourself, and playing with the illusion of authenticity. Using dates, information and stories of one’s own biography (true or fake) a performative self-portrait is created, with the possibility of identity being in constant flux; changing from word to word, movement to movement. The workshops deal with being yourself on stage (or claiming it), working with reality, playing with reality, and questioning reality; with the rolemodel of a conman – the one who convinces and influences other people, who makes other people believe and trust him.

Boris Nikitin’s workshops will be presented on 28 and 29 November from 14h00 – 18h00 on UCT’s Hiddingh Campus are open to members of the public. The workshops are free, but booking is essential. For bookings, please contact the GIPCA office on fin-gipca@uct.ac.za or 021 480 7156.

Imitation of Life will be performed at UCT’s Little Theatre at 20h00 on Friday 30 November and Saturday 1 December; tickets for are R30 (adults) and R25 (students) and available through www.webtickets.co.za. The performance on 30 November forms part of the GIPCA Live Art Festival opening night. Woyzeck will be performed on Saturday 1 December at the Rehearsal Studio on Hiddingh Campus, also as part of the Live Art Festival.

A number of other stars of the live art world come out to play in the Festival spaces. Audiences can expect to be asked to ‘Make up your mind’ through interactions with the likes of Tossie van Tonder, Athi-Patra Ruga, Christian Nerf, Julia Raynham, Murray Kruger, and Michael MacGarry.

GIPCA’s Live Art Festival runs from Friday 30 November to Tuesday 4 December 2012 at various venues in Cape Town. Performances will only be staged once and, as with most live art, viewing room is very limited so members of the public are urged to book early. Tickets are day passes, which will allow audience members entrance to between 3 and 7 works, depending on the programme. In line with GIPCA’s policy to make such work widely accessible, tickets are inexpensive: R40 (students) and R70 (adults) per day. These may be purchased online from Webtickets.co.za. A full detailed programme is available from www.gipca.uct.ac.za. For more information, please contact the GIPCA office on fin-gipca@uct.ac.za or 021 480 7156.