In Me and My Stranger the belgium performer and theatre-maker Sarah Vanhee is exploring the notion of the stranger. Her lecture performance is strongly related to the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy and his novel L’intrus. In one hour Vanhee presents a collage of film excerpts, street interviews and recitations of different texts that are somehow connected with the phenomenon. She for instance refers to the German political theorist Hannah Arendt, shows parts of Pasolini’s film Teorema and parts of Claire Denis’ documentary about Jean-Luc Nancy called Vers Nancy. Vanhee also traces an ark to the current political situation in Belgium and appeals to the highly problematic issue of immigration. Moreover she includes scientific, microbiological descriptions in her lecture by talking about the human immune system being assaulted by something strange.
Me and my stranger belongs to that particular kind of performances that is called « lecture performances». During one hour, Sarah Vanhee is bringing to the stage her various thoughts on the very topic of strangerness which she refers as something that fascinates her. The whole lecture tries to link the very political understanding of what is usually refered to when talking about a stranger (politically speaking) and the very presence of strangerness in a biological, organic perspective. In that perspective, Sarah Vanhee uses various materials : she shows extracts of films dealing with the issue (Vers Nancy by Claire Denis, Theoreme by Pasolini), refers to vegetal developments (the mutual interdepedency of the orchaida and its lungus), reads scientific contributions about the immune system or shows the results of a street random video inquiry with people being asked two questions : what is a stranger?
„Everybody is a stranger, almost everywhere“. Based on this fact, Sarah Vanhee has put together a lecture-performance „Me and my stranger“, shown in the garajistanbul in the idans-Festival. The Belgian theatre-maker and performer has had good ideas of how to treat the topic in many different ways: She does not only show street-interviews with both people from Ghent, some from there originally, some from another country, and treats the political part of the question, but also brings the topic to a scientific level when talking about a strange organ or the virus being a stranger in our body. She uses documentary with Jean-Luc Nancy talking about foreigners as well as Pasolini´s film „Teorema“, exempliying the attraction of a stranger. She uses a letter by a soldier, writings by philosopher Hanna Arendt, photos of horrifying frontier-fences. And she makes us identify with her when talking about feeling like a stanger in a group of people you have the impression you don´t belong to. Nevertheless, the performance remains too well-educatedly done, Vanhee seems not very secure and arranging many parts without connecting them, not presenting feelings to experience and share, on the whole a mostly boring lecture giving you the impression that you have seen it all before.
Nóra Bükki Gálla
How far can you stretch your boundaries is the question Flemish performer Sarah Vanhee presents to us in her lecture about strangeness. We like to see it as a sociology or political issue but if we dig deeper, we find other aspects to complement the picture. Fragmented as it is, it still adds up to a kind of Dorian Gray portrait – you end up looking at yourself in the mirror with all your past mistakes and possible futures written on your face, block capitals.
Depending on our ethical taste and sensitivity for social nuances we can still live with this image; the bold ones can even try to justify our inability to deal with pressing issues of immigration, frustration based nationalism and a complete and total unwillingness to communicate with the Other. (Oh sure; if we did communicate, we could end up coming to an understanding, Heaven forbid a consensus. But let’s not get lost in the labyrinth of idiotic idealism.) Read more