Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More Guardian of the Veil Pics and Reviews

I dug up some more information about Barney's Guardian of the Veil performance at the Manchester International Festival. The Telegraph reports that Il Tempo Del Postino, the group of 14 performances (including Barney's) curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno, will be repeated at the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, Feb 14-16 2008.

The Telegraph continues:

"Guardian of the Veil seems to be about nothing less than the psycho-sexual origins of Islamic fundamentalism. As the curtain rises, four pall-bearers dressed in paramilitary fatigues place the corpse of a woman wearing a sequinned, Western-style cocktail dress on the roof of a crashed car. Barney then enters wearing a Masonic leather apron and a headdress containing a live dog to represent the Egyptian god of the dead, Anubis. He then symbolically "embalms" the woman and the values she represents, by opening the car bonnet, and removing parts of the motor which he deposits in Egyptian funerary urns at the front of the stage.

As balaclava-wearing terrorists roam the stage playing a haunting score composed by Barney's collaborator Jonathan Bepler, a series of symbolic actions take place: a naked woman who stands motionless throughout the performance and whom we see only from the rear is ritually "veiled" in black plastic of the sort used to make bin bags; a female contortionist, naked apart from a veil over her face, stiletto heels, and claw-like nail extensions bends over backwards in such a way that all we see of her are her legs and vagina, then urinates spectacularly and copiously over the stage; a ritually garlanded bull is escorted on stage in too-close-for-comfort proximity to the still-exposed vagina, then urged to mount the crashed car, which, as we saw, Barney uses as a symbol of the female body. At the stomach-turning finale, the naked woman we see from behind defecates on stage.

Shocking as some of this is, nothing that goes on in Barney's dream-like, surrealistic performance is gratuitous. He is meditating on the psychic catastrophe that is Islamism, whereby men who possess power over women express their fear and disgust at the sight of the female body by forcing their daughters and wives to cover themselves completely. Drawing on Freud's writings, he shows that women who are made powerless express their rage in the only way they can - by using their own bodies to urinate and defecate.

The corpse we saw at the beginning is that of a Westernised Muslim woman, embalmed and replaced by women made faceless by men who deny their existence as real people. This breakdown of human interaction is completed when the men then cover their own faces in balaclavas, losing any sense of themselves as individuals and allowing them to be subsumed in their sick ideology. Barney seems to be saying that the horrors we see nightly on news bulletins from the Middle East have their origins in sexual dysfunction.

The cause of Islamists' hatred of the West has nothing to do with Israel or Iraq but with fear of the other. They hate everyone who isn't like them, beginning with their own mothers, sisters and wives. And orchestrating this perversion of human nature is the god of death."

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