Eleni Kamma examines how local and traditional European forms of parrhesiastic theater relate to and provide new insights into critical artistic practices today. Kamma’s understanding of parrhesiastic theater comprises events, actions, and performances staged by characters who speak their minds through scenes of excess and laughter. Parrhesiastic theater takes place in public view and incites the spectator’s agency to speak their mind.
Kamma’s research resonates in 'Casting Call' (2017–ongoing), a series of artistic attempts, events, and manifestations that address aspects of miscommunication between citizens of the European Union due to its many languages and regional rituals. Kamma employs performative strategies inspired by old, stereotypical characters from European popular culture, art, theater, and cinema, brought together in the format of a parade. Kamma developed the Parade through a collection of commissioned texts and props and invited professionals, extras, and respondents to speak their minds by using this collection in playful ways.
'Casting Call’ is conceived as an ongoing rehearsal, attempting to generate parrhesia and question its role in contemporary art through collaborative developments in a performative framework. Kamma calls this process a parrhesiastic theater parade. The parade operates between a cultural allegory of contemporary Europe and an invocation of an old, comedic parrhesiastic community. It is an invented genre of theatricality whereby events, actions, performances are staged by twenty-five distinct characters-types, ‘The Fool, The Animal, The Drunk, The Angry’ etc. They test the possibility of courageously voicing their opinions through scenes of excess and laughter. In doing so, they use texts and sketches commissioned by the artist on “disagreeable” concepts: Democracy, Prosperity, Solidarity, Europe, Languages, Migration, Pluralism.
Photos of the exhibition ‘Casting Call: The Collector of Proverbs, The Animal, The Fool, The Selfie-Junkie, The Innocent, The Child, The Drunk, The…’ installed at West Den Haag, 26 November 2021 – 30 January 2022. The exhibition presented a selection of work by Eleni Kamma produced within the framework of her PhD research project.
Photography by Gert Jan van Rooij