It's an outrageous phrase as much as an imploration. In this “I Am,” one can hear the pride of a man asserting his existence as a subject, the fervor of one who demands to be recognised. Lemi Ponifasio has surrounded himself with a whole people, made up of the artists of his company, MAU, but also of people he met in Avignon and in every city he stopped in during his tour. Together, in the Cour d'honneur of the Palais des papes, they stand. Whether they come from the other side of the world or from Avigon's inner margins, they are here to proclaim their existence to the powers that be, to take part in a ceremony dedicated to the twenty million people who died during the First World War. They become unknown and nameless, remind us that war spares no one, nowhere. From the Pacific islands where the conflict is still remembered today, Lemi Ponifasio summons the mythical, screaming theatre of Heiner Müller and Antonin Artaud, the plastic visions of Colin McCahon, the strength of maori and samoan choirs, and imagines the words and grammar of a universal language. The language God uses to talk with the dead, but also the one the writers of today use to talk with the ghosts of the past, melancholy witnesses of a century that saw men fail and fall again and again.
MAU is a samoan word that means at once “to solemnly attest of the truth of something” and “revolution.” A name that doubles as a programme guiding Lemi Ponifasio's work, with its obsession with the link between subjectivity and social transformation, but also between intimacy and transcendence. At the border between the political and the mystical, his performances open rifts in our here and now and challenge the way we see the world. His work with light, voices, and bodies creates the necessary conditions of a state of abandon, a state of awakening that encourages encounters with the other. On every step of his long trips, the New Zealander takes the time to meet and interact with new people. He has worked with men and women from all over the world, from New York where he played at the Lincoln Center, to Berlin where he was during the Berliner Festpiele, from Edinburgh to Paris or Chile. Everywhere he goes, he stops long enough to feel the pulse of both cities and people, which then echoes in works that feel at once like out of time and deeply anchored in the present. Among his latest works are Stones in Her Mouth, which focused on women's capacities for resistance, Birds with Skymirrors, which echoed the disappearance of the islands of the Pacific, and Le Savali: Berlin, which brought the imperial city of Berlin and the communities that make it up face to face.
Renan Benyamina, April 2014
Conception, scenography, choreography and direction Lemi Ponifasio
Lighting Helen Todd
Sound composition Lemi Ponifasio and Marc Chesterman
Moteatea (traditional sung maori poetry) Ria Te Uira Paki
Costumes Kasia Pol
Production Susana Lei'ataua
Nina Arsenault, Rosie Te Rauawhea Belvie, Mere Boynton, Kasina Campbell, Gabriel Castillo, Muagututia Fu'a, David Irvine, Charles Koroneho, Susana Lei'ataua, Ria Te Uira Paki, Ioane Papalii, Peter Saena-Brown, Helmi Prasetyo (Teater Ruang), Teataki Tamango, Arikitau Tentau, Maereke Teteka, Bainrebu Tonganibeia, Rangipo Wallace-Ihakara
and the participation of
Nadjette Boughalem, Véronique Couderc, Omar Dahmane, Simon Guermeur, Léa Louard, Diletta Moscatelli, Gilles Paume, Halim Rahmouni, Violaine Vezolle-Perichon
Coproduction Festival d'Avignon, Ruhrtriennale, Edinburgh International Festival, Auckland Arts Festival, Creative New Zealand, Festival Santiago a Mil
With the collaboration of the studio les Z'Urbains and la Maison pour Tous of Champfleury
With the label « Centenaire » delivered by la Mission du centenaire de la Première Guerre mondiale