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Sunday, November 30, 2008


Desplazados on stage in Defenestration

We have presented our final performance of "Defenestration", and the group is now off to their next projects. This image is from the show, a moment when, as one friend put it, "a number of people arguing about stupidities stop arguing, and let the harsh reality of Colombia walk through their midst, transforming their perspectives".

I'm not sure if I had seen it like that, but that's what's nice about audiences: they tell you what you are doing, because you can't be sure of it yourself.

In this picture the Canadian performers are standing upstage, seeing a group of displaced people enter slowly, and one of them, a woman named Christina, enacts a moment from her forced eviction from her former home.

We were particularly gratified that Christina could perform with us at all: within days of our arrival in Colombia, she had been accused, along with a number of students, of being a terrorist. In Colombia such an accusation - basically any suspicion - is enough to prompt a legal arrest. There was no evidence to support the arrest, but here the authorities have the power to arrest first and find evidence later. Fortunately for Christina, a good lawyer supported her situation, and after a week and a half, her status was downgraded to house arrest (with permission to also attend the theatre) At this point the company of artists we have been working with went to her house, and with the backup of a Mariachi band, serenaded her.

Fortunately, by the time we presented our work, she had been freed.

Thursday, November 27, 2008



J vs camera, originally uploaded by plastictaxi.

A quick shot of a young man I met last Sunday at a big BBQ - style get together we had with about 120 displaced people, with the help of a group called Corandicol. I was shooting the event, which included a number of installations in which kids re-created their journey from their homes, through forced displacement (a phrase which glosses over a variety of practices, mostly violent, in which families are pushed off the land they occupy through force - some killed outright, some "disappeared", some simply threatened), to their arrival in Bogota.

Jostyn stood behind me for about half an hour before I relented, at which point he became the cameraman, and I his assistant.


"defenestration" sneak peek

defenestra sneak peek, originally uploaded by plastictaxi.

We are at the end of three weeks of work in Bogota with director Patricia Ariza. This shot is of one of the quieter moments of the piece that has come together in that time.

For me, it has been an uphill labour to get the setup I needed for the video component that has been my main focus. 15 minutes before our first presentation yesterday and I was finally hooking up a video monitor - I didn't know what the show would look like until we did it before an audience. Add to that the mundane fact that all of us were feeling pretty greasy because a water main had burst in the neighbourhood and we had been without water for 2 days.

The beautiful thing about Bogota is that you can see the impact of theatre on the people around you. It carries weight. It speaks to their concerns - because they all have deep and immediate concerns. And in the beauty of this community is the sad fact that they are made stronger because they have to live in a country that faces so much adversity. I read the newspaper and wonder what theatre could matter to people here. Then I see how much strength a displaced person takes from seeing - or better yet, participating in - a piece that speaks even indirectly to what they face. It really is a question of engaging in a process that analyses a society's challenges intelligently, and feeds, even a little, the human need for hope.

Monday, November 17, 2008


The mountains above Bogota

Vicki's casita, originally uploaded by plastictaxi.

Bea and I spent a day at her sister's place, a little house in the country just over the watershed from Colombia's capital, Bogota.

It's been a week, and we both needed a chance to do nothing. Every time I go to this place I feel like a little kid - mostly because the thin air (at 3250 m above sea level) makes me feel small and wimpy, but also because I get seriously molested by loving dogs, and it's been awhile since I've had that in my life. When a well-muscled boxer wants to show affection, your face is going to get wet. In a good way.

The other news in Colombia: four days of rain have caused flooding on the larger rivers, and a mudslide in the mountain city of Medellin. A financial scandal involving a pyramid scheme has shocked ... well probably no one, but a very big scheme has apparently collapsed. The President has accused a number of students at the national University of being left-wing terrorists - these students have subsequently received death threats. His announcement came mere days after a prominent General has resigned over a military scandal involving the massacre of several thousand innocents to meet what amounts to a quota for dead guerillas.

In La Candelaria, the old part of town, we are working with a group of artists to learn their methodologies for the creation of theatre. more on that on Aluna Theatre's website: www.alunatheatre.ca

Fabulous parties and shifting schedules. A city experiencing growth and decline. Beautiful, unprocessed food made by hand and no restaurants open in our area on a holiday evening. In a place full of contradiction, everything we do seems that little bit more intense.

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