The droll onstage exchange between Thai classical dancer Pichet Klunchen and French choreographer Jérôme Bel Sunday night at PSU's Lincoln Hall not only showcases contrasting artistic traditions, it inadvertently gives TBA a raison d'etre
. Klunchen spends the first half of the show answering Bel's questions about Thai classical dance, demonstrating different steps and explaining their significance. The second half is devoted to Klunchen's questions about Bel's art. Bel begins by demonstrating his work, which he says is deliberately easy, so that the audience feels a kind of equality with the performers. “But if they can do it, why they pay?” Klunchen asks. So Bel explains the nature of contemporary art: In France, he says, there are three groups of people involved in the process—the artist, who must represent the most current reality; the government, which funds the art without knowing what it will entail (because of its highly immediate nature) and the audience, which arrives without knowing either, for the same reason. If viewers don't like the result, sometimes they ask for their money back. “After the show?” Klunchen asks. “Sometimes during,” Bel admits. But he adds that if they want their money back, they came with certain expectations which one should not have with contemporary art. When you go to Swan Lake at the Paris Opera, you get a lake, you get swans, he says: with contemporary art, maybe no swans—maybe just a duck. Bel's style, Plunchen asks, do audiences understand it? “More or less,” Bel says. “Maybe that's why I keep doing it.” “Good luck,” says Klunchen, shaking his head.
Read more diaries from the 2008 TBA Festival here.