December 1st, 2005

PRD Anti-Heroes (a Theater Project by Cao Fei) premiered again at Mutifunctional Hall, Guangdong Museum of Art at 3: 30 pm, 11th. Dec. 2005.

Who Are The Real Heroes?

Hou Hanru

Cao Fei's theatre piece tells a story of the Pearl River Delta, a kind of history of the region. It reminds us of what Mao Tze-Tong said: "People, only the people, are the real driving force of the creation of history". The question is, however, when can the history of the people – those live in real life – can become a real History? In other words, who are the real heros who have created History?

I guess this is, at least potentially or unconsciously, the very motivation of Cao Fei's project. It's neither an "objective description" of reality neither any kind of "artistic elevation". It's simply an alternative narrative of the real. In the meantime, it's also a process of the creation of a parallel world that is at once inseparable from but independent of the world of real life.

It's a typical collage, in terms of time, space, personalities and stories. It perfectly echoes the spirit of the "post-planning" world in which we are all surviving and, occasionally, enjoying. A world in which houses are built before any urban planning is made. And all plannings are conceived as urgent corrections of critical and even incurable crisis. The making of the theatre piece generates a particular mode of production, based on improvisation and collective intelligence. It's by no means an experimental theatre of the intellectual elite. It's simply an assembly of the imaginations and expressions of a generation who are excited by an incomprehensible era…

It proves that alternative histories are the real history. How can history has only one, namely official, version?

Long life alternative histories.

Paris. 10. 2005


Cao Fei

PRD Anti-Heroes (PRD: Pearl River Delta) is a multi-media performance for the stage comprised of a series of interconnected scenes aimed at weaving together the unofficial history of local people, by using documentary style interviews, anecdotes, local legends culled on the internet, widely publicized press reports of goings-on in the Delta’s hot spots, and other first-person accounts of life in this sub-tropical urban sprawl.We have tried to construct a new and unique collage of the reality of the Pearl River Delta’s present-day geopolitics as well as its ancient history, so that we can study the situation of a society moving at a speed beyond local planners’ control and to depict development that moves in an alternative sequence and order. The reality of this rapid drive to urbanization permeates most aspects of every day life in the Pearl River Delta, and we try to reflect these on-going negotiations and compromises: The push and pull of conflicting interests between society’s haves and have-nots; the concern of resident manufacturers vs. those of the employees who have lost their jobs; the perspective of local people faced with an influx of floating populations from other regions in China. We have had all of these scenes in mind in producing this performance. Our vision is one of a unique place where a patchwork of interests has fueled an abnormally rapid social growth.

If we say that “Heroes” are part of the “History” that is well known to all of us, then “Anti-Heroes” lie in that part of history that remains unknown and anonymous. Such “Heroes” are not necessarily all good citizens. Just as all “Anti-Heroes” are not necessarily bad persons. In the traditional opera performances of the Pearl River Delta, the anti-hero plays an ubiquitous role. Most productions include one anti-hero or another, as an all too familiar member of the cast in local productions. These anti-heroes are both ancient and modern; some are like knight-errands while others appear in more down-and-out roles as drifters or disbanded soldiers. An anti-hero can take on a variety of roles and professions including that of coolie, beggar, gambler, hawker, garbage collector, tobacco seller, vendor of pirated CD’s, shoe polisher, or repairer of pots and pans, mainly doing all of the undocumented jobs outside the reach of local government administration. These people who do not have a social system of their own to rely on, and who tend to be outside the mainstream’s line of vision, are rapidly spreading to all of society’s nooks and crannies, living a subterranean life that is both separate from and at the same time interdependent on the outside world. And as such, they unconsciously revive various longstanding interpersonal relationships and traditional social caste values, and their obstinate penetration into society is part of the reality that comprises the Pearl River Delta’s unprecedented vitality.

PRD Anti-Heroes is not strictly speaking a play for the theater. It is more akin to a local Cantonese theatrical performance or an additional program included as adjunct to a night of traditional festival productions. On our stage, we aim at truthfully and magically revealing local legends that have spun out of control. We try to depict a place that is well known and at the same time completely overloaded. We rely on a theatrical troupe that is a self-governed haven for a non-stop influx of new characters, and we work as a team with an alternative system of law and order that must be constantly reinvented. In short, our production team attempts to recreate and to rely on the most vital elements that make up the Pearl River Delta itself.

Guangzhou, 11, 2005

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Edited by Meg Maggio


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