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Failing the invisible theatre

Iulia Popovici

Istanbul Sapphire is a residential building in the heart of the city’s business area. A block of flats. It’s high – “the highest residential building in Turkey and in the whole Europe” (it has 54 floors), covered in glass, remarkably ugly and equally expensive. It’s a future gated community, where the owners will have exclusive access. Only potential buyers are allowed inside, to visit some of the common areas, the furnished model apartment on the 33rd floor and the terrace on the top of the building. So two artists – Anat Eisenberg and Mirko Winkel, both living and working mainly in Germany – decided that the audience to their newest project, Live and Strive, should assume the role of potential buyers in order to have access to Istanbul Sapphire – and a number of other upper class residential projects, as a matter of fact.

The real-estate agent doesn’t know who these seven (eight?) people are. We know the situation is not genuine, we know we are performing roles. It could be the ideal condition for a performance of invisible theatre (a form of socially-engaged theatre developed by the late Augusto Boal, meant to emulate reality in order to raise consciousness towards social inequities) except for the fact that the participants are not professional actors, there is no script and no consciousness involved. (But yes, there was a moral/ ethical issue: why misleading the otherwise honest real-estate agent? Just to expose the secret life of rich people?) Even if the potential of the theme is quite generous: living in a building like Istanbul Sapphire resembles to waking up, every day, in a jar (a 1.2 to 7.3 million dollars per apartment jar), with the perspective of never leaving it, going in your slippers 30 floors downstairs in order to spend your evening in front of a TV with other several bored nouveaux riches and socializing with the guy bringing you the food ordered from the restaurant some other 30 floors below. The newest technology and a pointless existence – in his movies, Jacques Tati described it better than anyone else.

If the text you’ve just read looks more like a society column in a more or less socialist-liberal newspaper, it’s because the Live and Strive experience of the author herself was least of all a performative one. But maybe ethical challenges are part of everybody’s personal dramaturgy of the self.

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