Away with the masterpieces

Superamas creates ‘BIG 2nd episode (show/business)’ at Dans@tack festival in Kortrijk

De Morgen 24 Jun 2004English

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Contextual note
This is the author's version of a review which was first published in Dutch in the Flemish daily De Morgen. Translated by Elke van Campenhout with the financial support of Buda vzw.

To call BIG 2nd episode (show/business) from the French-Austrian Superamas a masterpiece, is somewhat paradoxical, precisely because it screams on the top of its lungs: “Meisterwerke? Schluss Damit!”. As collective, Superamas does not believe in authorship and originality, they prefer ‘research’ and ‘production’. In BIG 2 they transport elements out of popular culture to the theatre, to the ‘high’ arts. There they lay the basis for a thorough analysis and an inventive game with the desires and the resistance of the art lover. Even the critical utopism with which the latter likes to identify himself, is buried along with the domestic moral. This may sound cynical, but it is not a case of post-ideological madness, rather a lucid view upon western culture. Above that, all this is shaped into a soap: virtuoso entertainment that seduces the spectator to laugh or cry, and confronts him at once with towering, completely unmanageable irony.

The starting point is a simple scenario: two freshly shaven guys in Hawaï shirts bump into an air hostess in a cosmetics shop and get into a dialogue about after shave and lingerie. That scene is repeated several times with small additions and shifting accents, which allows to look behind and under the image. Also repetition itself becomes meaningful. The whole performance is constructed with quotations, and the voices of the three characters are dubbed. That tells us quite a lot about our basic condition: we have internalised the age of technical reproduction completely. The moment you think you get a glimpse of a woman’s mind, this moving scene turns into movie-made adolescent girlish misery. The men as well test their abilities to imitate, with a firm french kiss remindful of the Madonna and Britney stunt. Superamas surfs joyfully through a prescribed culture, until it appears as a completely empty gesture.

Thanks to its technical perfection, BIG 2 can indeed compete with showbizz, while it deals at the same time with the meaning of the all too beautiful object. Every detail is subject to the same economy of desire and triggers a sultry confusion. Superamas in that way also tinkers with hierarchies: actress Elisa Bunereau is also a stewardess in real life, and thus appears as a readymade. As a commentator the pope of cinema Jean-Luc Godard is brought into the picture, only talking about cars and women. The moral of the story is suavely soaped by the accumulation of scenes, bodies, video images, sound and light.

What becomes visible in all this, is the whole production process. Once a critical strategy, even this principle is liable to commodification: nowadays, ‘the making of’ is as popular as the video clip itself. By the way, how does Superamas position itself in that slick universe where there are no longer any hidden truths to be found? As a brand, an entertainment industry, because in accordance with the title, Superamas do indeed think big. It’s exactly in that capacity that they meet John Fosse, general director of Rolls Royce, who swallows 5000 dismissals in the aviation industry with a single gulp of whisky. Political indifference and personal pleasure after that clot into a scenario that could end as easily with a violent attack as with a refreshing blow job. All other options belong to the pathetic domain of charity – and this is a quote as well.

BIG 2 is a layered and complex piece of work, transparent in its construction, but it leaves you with a lot of questions. Unmanageable by the themes of desire and the irony, that provoke a strong conscience of limits, but at the same time seem to exclude a view upon the future. After all we are part of the game, we can’t step outside, and furtively we actually enjoy it. In that way Superamas brutally catches you in your fantasies and challenges your critical power. Masterpiece or not, BIG 2 can not be left unseen, precisely because it is far from harmless.