THE MAPPING OF US

Escrito por Francesco Chiaro para Persinsala.

Maps are never innocent nor neutral, seeing as how they represent not a mere reflection of power but power itself. Indeed, as any other social construction, maps too are an extremely biased “objective representation” of our perceived reality, forcing upon a territory the arbitrary and functional resolution of conflicts yet to be solved, if at all faced. The duo Azkona-Toloza knows this all too well, as they kick things off by “mapping out” the area of their enquiry-based approach regarding the struggle of Mapuche communities in occupied Puelmapu lands. Indeed, while standing on a bare stage filled with what would later become yet another representation of reality, the artists introduce their scrupulous ethnographic research by making use of a huge map projected on the backdrop of Juliana Acevedo and MiPrimerDrop’ set, to which information are quaintly added in a pleasant albeit overly didactic manner.

Reminiscent of the aesthetics and dramatic structure of Barcelona-based Agrupación Señor Serrano’s play The Mountain (another example of documentary theatre’s potentialities), Tierras del Sud does not shy away from an interdisciplinary approach that makes full use of digital media on stage, thus creating a concoction of pictures, videos and written fragments that steps into the breach of a fleeting actorial presence. Indeed, the cogent narration set up by Azkona-Toloza stands out mostly for its “artificial” nature in which both performers gladly take a step back, letting the overwhelming story of Argentine’s shameful neo-colonialist atrocities steal the show. By making use of appalling historical documents, symphonic Mapudungún words and reported interviews, then, the duo slowly worms its way through the bloodcurdling “discovery”, conquest and subjugation of Patagonia’s lands by the West in an effort to remove the self-absolving patina of white innocence that was skilfully and extensively laid upon the barbarities carried out in the name of so-called progress, all the while bringing to the fore the actual process that led to the invention of a European country on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Part of a wider trilogy initiated in 2014 called PacíficoTierras del Sud takes the opportunity to teach its audience a shedload about the region all the while provoking it to some serious reflections about the relationship of Eurocentric History and Culture with current inequalities worldwide, thus adding to the already existent but never too big corpus of post-colonial works circulating in the Old Continent -a great merit in and of itself.

Nevertheless, as it often happens when European artists take the side of a victim of the European heritage of bordering practices, Azkona and Toloza too find themselves treading unsteadily on the tightrope of cultural appropriation, perpetuating a centuries-long tradition of “developed-world” intellectuals presenting their representation of life elsewhere to “developed-world” audiences. As a matter of fact, while we sceptically look on as the bodies on stage re-enact and replace the bodies of Mapuche prisoners immortalized in the human zoos of Western necropolitics, or as we listen to the voices of the performers that listlessly report the testimony of remarkably brave human beings who practice their autonomy proudly and peacefully in spite of police brutalities and even death, we cannot help but wonder if, given the relative ease of contemporary communications and transportation, it is not about time that the actual voices of people from other cultures talking about themselves be included more frequently in the dialogue of Western theatre.