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'I would rather feel compassion than know the meaning of it'. This statement by Thomas Aquinas is radically new, specially within a society eager to discover the meaning of everything and not foccused in what would lead to the actual meaning: feeling it.

Alain Platel says it is important to show suffering in order to intensify the commiseration and compassion. Compassion is a tainted word often associated with condescension. Usually taken in its negative form, as a passive feeling which does not lead directly to a change, compassion entails a more operative role in change if we realise that we all 'have one thing in common, namely that we are mortal, with everything that implies in terms of sickness and loss'. If we realise that nobody is better off than us in this, then this can affect the way we think and act.

Com-passion, with passion, will become the same as loving thy neighbour.

Love others as you love yourself is more the essence of a morality than a religion, it entails a form of leaving among others. In Christ's Passion, on which Bach's Mathew Passion is based, we learn 'an essential fact of human existence, that we are here to die'. The emphasis is on suffering, physical suffering and suffering through the other. It is about the individual's ultimate sacrifice: himself.

Pitié!, the new production of
les ballets C de B, by director Alain Platel and composer Fabrizio Cassel (who created VSPRS, 2006) is based on Bach's Mathew Passion. Not simply adapting Bach's sublime music, Cassol creates a new story, beyond Mathew the Evangelist's tale and the poetic version of Bach's librettist, a story foccused on the mother's pain (a non-existent part in the original Mathew Passion), while the central figure, Christ, is divided in two twin souls with a common destiny (Jesus and Mary Magdalene). The desmultiplication into three central figures not only have biblical resonances but it actually entails a counter-biblical understanding of its characters, namely the role of Mary Magdalene and Jesus as twin souls, one not excluding the other, as one male/female soul in the cross, Christ.

The dancers themselves become this trinity, becoming in their own time, their own personal jesus, their own personal Christ. And then the question becomes real and tangible through compassion: 'What do you feel inside?

The 'bastard' dance that Platel has developed seeks exactly this, the physical translation of over-intense emotions in the transcendence of the individual. The contemporary 'shiver and shake dance' is here combined with grand écarts, in a hybridised form of dance that seems an 'inexhaustible source of inspiration: passing on movement material until it becomes distorted and changed so that it no longer expresses the particular identity of one thing or the other.' Movements get distorted, transformed and irrecognizable through the reinterpretation of different bodies doing identical movements, never being the same again. They become private, not following the structure of public movements, but actually materializing the deep structure of the soul inside the body, screaming for the other. A form of turning the world inside out, of finding the other within ourselves.

Regarding the religious feeling as a very private matter (an extreme intimacy know as communion), the performance traces this moments of absolute intimacy, when we show more openly the need of the other, of the flesh of the other body, our own flesh.
Intimacy is intensified in the unfolding of the Passion, not following a narrative structured development, but being constrained by the experience of an emotional crescendo through the body. Skin and flesh become more and more present in the unfolding of the emotions, revealing the incredible need to feel 'the other'. It is about the passion, in all its sexuality, reproduction and viscerality, as the mother when speaking of their children, says 'flesh of my flesh'.

From the initial moment when we see they sat in a row, and one of them starts shivering and shaking, the movements grow exponentially up to the point where reverberations of his own disconcertant body irradiates into the others bodies, to the point when they seem to be willing to tear each others skin into pieces and feed themselves from it, trying to transcend the limits of their own physical body, we are taken in the extreme delapidating voyage of humans trying to ignite their own light. Skin and flesh become omnipresent without recurring to total exposure or nudity, and in doing so, they strengthen the feeling thay are trying to convey, as when they show us their backs and present us the image of defecation as the ultimate private moment, in an analogy to Christ embracing the Cross and relinquishing his body.

When the mother holds the son devoid of life in her arms, we are not looking at the 'mother murderess' (that without condemnation, reflects the deepest conviction of Alain Platel), we are testimoning the real mother that did not step in and take her child's place, suffering through the other that already suffered. This redoubling of suffering is the actual Pitié! The actual image that we take from this experience, is that change does not come from the understanding of the mening of compassion, real change comes from the actuality of the feeling of compassion: I love thy neighbour!

[ images video: Pitié!, les ballets C de la B, directed by Alain Platel, music by Fabrizio Cassol based on Mathew Passion by J.S. Bach, peformed by Aka Moon ]

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The Projects Review Website 2009 is now online, with an overview of the student projects per units/department and the schools research clusters and year round activities. The website developed by despark (with AA Digital Platforms who has also conducted a revamp of the school's website) presents an interactive grid of squared images that revolve hyperlinking to sub-grids with the students projects per unit or department.

Here are some screenshots of my project pages, in the moment when passing from one page to the next, both pages make an appearence while disappearing, colapsing in one single dynamical image, different realities and distinct scales, strange textual and visual formations, generating an array of unthinkable possibilities.

[ images: website screenshots of AA Projects Review 2009/PhD/Emanuel Jose Rocha Ferreira de Sousa ]

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Projects Review 2009 opens tomorrow, Friday 3 July, offering an overview of the AA's 600+ full-time students projects displaying from drawings, modeels, installations, photographs, to large 1:1 working prototypes, intractive media, including the AA summer pavillion in Bedford Square.

The PhD programme exhibition, curated by Kirk Wooller and myself, Emanuel de Sousa, unites all of these modes of representation and presentation, through a full-scale installation in the reception area. Comprising a blown-up tiled catalogue of the PhDs completed and approved until now at the AA, the entrance wall sees itself profanated by a real-time graffiti intervention that tags all ongoing research (and other things) in the institution, challenging the established knowledge.
Projects Review 2009 runs from Friday 3 July to Saturday 25 July 2009.

[ images: PhD Projects Review 2009 exhibition area, AA Reception. Photos by Emanuel de Sousa. Please find more photos here ]

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Emanuel de Sousa, arq