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The Days of the Commune

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20140722025935-00320140722
© Courtesy of Participant Inc.
The Days of the Commune

253 East Houston Street
10002 New York
NY
US
July 20th, 2014 - August 17th, 2014

QUICK FACTS
WEBSITE:  
http://www.participantinc.org
NEIGHBORHOOD:  
bronx
EMAIL:  
lia@participantinc.org
PHONE:  
212-254-4334
OPEN HOURS:  
Wed-Sun 12-7
TAGS:  
video-art

DESCRIPTION

From July 20 to August 17, 2014, PARTICIPANT INC is proud to present Zoe Beloff,
The Days of the Commune, an installation based on Beloff’s restaging of Bertolt
Brecht’s eponymous play. In the spring of 2012, Beloff brought together a group of
actors, activists, and artists to perform the play in solidarity with Occupy Wall
Street (OWS). Thinking about OWS as a radical theater of the people, the group
conceptualized the project as a “work in progress,” in the sense that all social
movements are a work in progress. Rather than stage the play in a theater, The Days
of the Commune was performed, scene by scene, in public spaces around New York City,
from Zuccotti Park to an East Village community garden.


The Paris Commune of 1871 was the first great Occupation in modern history. Written
in 1948, Brecht’s play both dramatizes its short-lived success, and asks questions
about the struggle for workers’ freedom against overwhelming odds. In the process of
restaging the production over a period of three months, March through May (the months
that the Commune actually existed), Beloff located significant parallels between that
socialist revolution and the Occupy Wall Street movement (which celebrates its third
anniversary on September 17). For example, both stood for living wages, housing and
free education for all. The culmination of Beloff’s performance, video, and
installation project, The Days of the Commune is a scripted environment that includes
a video documenting the performances, props, costumes, posters, and drawings, as well
as weekly screenings.

Interested in Eduard Manet’s drawings of “bloody week” – the brutal massacre of
revolutionaries that ended the Commune – Beloff used documentary drawing as a way to
begin engaging the OWS movement. More than just a protest movement, OWS enacted anegalitarian, alternative economy reflecting a Marxist value system championed by
Brecht, whose “epic” theater invites us think about the events on stage in relation
to what is happening in our lives. In this spirit, Beloff conceptualized The Days of
the Commune not as historical reenactment, but a proposal for a commune yet to come.

Soliciting amateur and professional actors for the play’s fifty speaking parts
through the Occupy Performance Guild listserv, postings in downtown theaters, and
enlisting her CUNY peers, Beloff assembled a rotating cast of performers. Wearing
historical costumes paired with contemporary clothes, the actors’ intentionally
unrehearsed and ad hoc performances undermined the play’s theatrical illusions in
ways not dissimilar to Brecht’s “distancing” tactics, producing an analogous, desired
effect.

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