Dublin Theatre Festival 2018: Mining Stories
Soundbite DJ Set
“It’s always good to look at a story from different perspectives.” So claimed mining company Samarco in an effort to put a PR spin on their culpability in a dam burst in Minas Gerais in Brazil in 2015 which destroyed several villages. Advice artists Silke Huysmans and Hannes Dereere took to heart, setting out to learn more from the people involved. This soon morphed into a global conversation around what is often a hidden, global issue: the negative impact, and collective dependency, on mining as it is currently practiced. While there is no questioning the importance of addressing this issue, the manner in which “Mining Stories” sets about doing so is a mixed bag. Clever and often intriguing, “Mining Stories” can also be tough going on account of overplaying its hand.
On stage, with a series of coloured crosses scattered across the floor, resembling Luftwaffe markings on the side of German aircraft in World War II, Silke stands alone and in silence. These crosses marks where stands with wooden boards are later placed. On the back wall there are seven names, each with a board beneath them. On the floor a series of foot pedals are cued to play timed soundbites in various languages, with text in English projected onto one, or several, of the boards. DJ style, Silke mixes various combinations of soundbites and text into an extended remix of questions and narratives. Highlighting our complicity and our consent in how these mining events happen, on anarchy and protest, on Trump and fake news, on economics and politics. And on forgetting.
If Silke’s silence is justifiable up to a point, theatrically it comes to puncture its own power. Primarily because “Mining Stories” total dependency on soundbites, smartly presented, often suggests the very PR spin process it sets out to challenge. But with less success for relying too much, and too long, on a singular format. One which, collectively, doesn’t avoid simple narratives so much as oversimplify complex ones by reducing them to snippets. “Mining Stories” unquestionably has its heart in the right place, but performatively it becomes a one trick pony which, while initially intriguing, wears out its welcome. Like Silke herself, “Mining Stories” always looks as if it’s about to say something really interesting. And it does deliver the occasional gem.
“Mining Stories” by Silke Huysmans and Hannes Dereere ran at Project Arts Centre as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2018