My Barbarian (2012 Visual Arts) consists of artists Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon, and Alexandro Segade. By using performance, My Barbarian dramatizes past and present problems and imagines ways of being together. Their Creative Capital project Post-Living Ante-Action Theater (PoLAAT) is a public performance and video installation, generated in close collaboration with local participants using techniques developed by My Barbarian as part of an ongoing project. Workshops and cultural research with participating artists have resulted in a visual, musical, theatrical and politically critical public demonstration. Their project culminates with an exhibition and residency now on display at The New Museum through January 8, titled “The Audience is Always Right.”
Hillary Bonhomme: Can you describe how My Barbarian developed PoLAAT, the exchange of ideas between the collectives work and the product of the workshops, and how that helped develop this exhibition at the New Museum?
My Barbarian: My Barbarian’s Post-Living Ante-Action Theater, or PoLAAT, is the collective’s performance pedagogy, built of five techniques: Estrangement, Indistinction, Suspension of Beliefs, Mandate to Participate and Inspirational Critique. The PoLAAT is a response to, among other things, Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed, Fassbinder’s Anti-Theater, the Living Theater of Juian Beck and Judith Malina, and other theatrical models that attempted to create social change; it is a means of addressing histories, often buried or overlooked, of critical and revolutionary theater from the 1960s and after, while situating its own enactment in (and against) the seemingly anti-revolutionary contemporary moment. The PoLAAT occupies the space between memory and rehearsal, joke and laugh, commentary and critique; it is the theater that happens after an experience is lived, but before action is taken. It is a rehearsal. The title of the exhibition, which is shared by a recently published PoLAAT manual and how-to book, takes on a critical irony in this dangerous moment of political theater: “The Audience is Always Right.” Except, of course, when they are wrong.