Before their upcoming installation, STAND spoke to the BANBHA Theatre company about how all art is political.
What is BANBHA?
BANBHA is a theatre company founded in 2015 by Cara Brophy-Browne and Tara Louise Morrison. Susie Birmingham is the company’s composer and sound designer.
As a company we aim to create politically motivated theatre which relies heavily on a collaborative ensemble driven process. By beginning every project with extensive theoretical and practical research and maintaining comprehensive archives throughout the process, BANBHA hopes to blur the lines between activism and art, politics and performance, and theory and theatre.
What role do you think the arts play in social activism?
BANBHA are primarily theatre makers. We deal with performance and believe differentiation between art and social activism does not exist. Every march, protest, or canvass, is a performance, every time an actor questions the status quo from a position on stage it is a piece of activism. The art we make hopes to blur the supposed line between art and activism until it can no longer be drawn.
With the recent removal of Maser’s artwork on the Project Arts Centre, what do you think that says about the relationship between politics and art?
We believe that all art is political, whether there is a recognisable icon or not. The power of the message remains in the glimpsed bottom of the Repeal heart and represents the power of art to interrogate what is not seen as much as what is seen. The space outside The Project has been politicised, like so many people in Ireland recently have, no amount of paint can depoliticise that space.
What is your recent installation about?
Our installation, THE RE//PRESENTATION ROOMS, is broadly a presentation of an archive of audio and video material BANBHA gathered last year while working with a group of queer refugees in Athens. While we knew the stories we heard last year in Greece needed to be shared, we struggled with finding an ethical a way to present them.
We asked ourselves how we could share these stories, told through a disparate collection of interviews and videos in such a way that would not impose any new narratives and would not force our own interpretations upon them. Bearing this in mind we decided that the most ethical and political way for that meaning to be made was by the individual audience member. As an audience member walks through the installation, each one may have a different experience with each taking meaning in their own way.
As a frame for this, each one of the rooms should pose questions for the spectator; do gender binaries have a relationship with geographical borders? What is the connection between a European media institution and a Syrian asylum interview? And importantly, where and how do sexuality and political meet?
Why is it important to showcase this work?
Ireland accepts only 3 percent of asylum applicants, migrants get attacked and abused on the streets of Europe daily, and queer Muslims internationally struggle to find a space of safety and solidarity. You have to hope these problems come from a place of ignorance, not evil, and as artists showcasing this work we hope to be one small part of a collective effort the lesson that ignorance.
Photo courtesy of BANBHA.