Taking its lead from Augusto Boal’s ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’, on which the artist attended a workshop at Bogazici University with her co-host Aylin Vartanyan, Hale Tenger’s three day workshop ‘Double Roasted’ was open to any individual working in the art world. Focussing on the sometimes oppressive conditions its participants face in everyday life, its title expresses the double-bind of finding oneself working long hours for low pay.
The Brazilian theatre director and dramatist Augusto Boal grew up in a challenged neighbourhood. His willingness to interact with people from all walks of life in a genuine way paved the way for his new theatre technique, in which actors and non-actors interact in a discursive setting. ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ workshops incorporate collaborative games, techniques and drama forms in which participants work collaboratively to rehearse social transformation. Working to identify and diagnose conflicts, participants do not resolve disputes but are instead given the opportunity to discover unforeseen methods of responding to them. Framing social inequalities of class, race and gender as dynamics rooted in an absence of dialogue, they operate on the premise that theatrical improvisation is not the domain of the professional, but constitutes a tool for social emancipation.
‘There neither is, nor has ever been, an educational practice in zero space-time—neutral in the sense of being committed only to preponderantly abstract, intangible ideas.’
-‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed,’ 1968 by Paolo Freire
Each workshop started with ‘Demechanization Exercises.” ‘Ranging from impersonating a favourite cartoon character to Colombian Hypnosis, these warm-ups aim to draw the participants away from the realities of their lives, heightening their senses. ‘Double Roasted”s first day included a game in which a participants created havoc with paper before attempting to return it to its original state. Learning to embrace the shapes that emerged in the all but futile process; the participants named them with titles such as ‘Chaos’, ‘Peace’, ‘Fortune Cookie’, and ‘Sunken Ship’.
The second day was dedicated to ‘Image Theatre’, a form that explores the signals of power inherent within images and challenges its participants to communicate without words by sculpting objects and their own and other participants’ bodies into static physical images. In ‘Great Game of Power’ for example, each participant is asked to arrange three chairs, one table and a bottle in such a way that one of the chairs will be the most powerful, with each composition being assessed by the group. ‘Image Theatre’ naturally resonates with Tenger’s video installations, which capture serene and haunting tableaus such as balloons bobbing on the sea (‘Balloons on the Sea’, 2011) or the curtains of a bombed out building fluttering in the wind (‘Beirut’, 2005). Like these films which address topics from cultural integration to political conflict, some of the exercise’s themes were based on personal experiences while others focussed on challenges facing Istanbul’s artists more generally. Subject responded to a range of situations, from sexually harassment on the bus and police violence to subtle exclusion at a gallery cocktail evening.
On the workshop’s final day, participants expanded on topics covered previously through ‘Forum Theatre’, a format in which actors or audience members may stop a performance at any time to discuss or redirect the action. Topics enacted included compulsory military service for LGBTQI individuals and the harassment of women in an apartment building, the latter involving a pregnant woman who is antagonised by female neighbours and later their husbands. In his blog entry. Ahmet Rüstem, one of the workshop’s fifteen participants, recounts that his initial anxiety around the theatrical aptitude expected of him was quickly assuaged. He describes the exercises as employing individual’s unique backgrounds and interpretations in solving mental and physical tasks. Developing new relationships, ‘Double Roasted’s art industry participant’s also honed their capacities to recognise and negotiate the mechanisms of power they encounter every day.
Hale Tenger (b. 1960, Izmir) is an artist living and working in Istanbul. She received MAs in Fine Art from both Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam and Cardiff Metropolitan University and her BA in Computer Programming from Bogazici University, İstanbul. Selected solo exhibitions include Protocinema, Westbeth Building, New York, 2015; Galeri Nev, Istanbul, 2013; Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C., 2011; Green Art Gallery, Dubai, 2011. Recent group shows include Salt Galata, Istanbul; Edition Block, Berlin; Depo, Istanbul, 2015; Apartment Projects Berlin, Berlin; Istanbul Modern, Istanbul; Depo, Istanbul; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 2014; Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin; Arter in Istanbul, 2013; Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton in Paris, 2012; 1st Haifa Mediterranean Biennial, 2010; Van Abbemuseum, 2005; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, 1996.