Open confrontation with life and death

Argentinian artist Marina Otero pieces together her life through an eclectic song- and-dance medley.
Argentinian artist Marina Otero pieces together her life through an eclectic song- and-dance medley.PHOTO: ANDRES MANRIQUE



Marina Otero

Drama Centre Black Box Theatre/ Last Saturday

The stage is littered with the personal effects of Argentinian artist Marina Otero - sepia photographs, a poofy white skirt and a gramophone, among others.

She opens her one-woman show that is part of The O.P.E.N., the pre-festival programme of the Singapore International Festival of Arts, by casually telling the audience: "Welcome to my public bonfire".

Using these bits of flotsam, she proceeds to reconstruct her life in the past three decades over the next hour or so with an absurd and eclectic medley of dance, song, monologue and mixed-media art.

But as she digs deep into her chequered past, the linear narrative buckles under the weight of her investigation and turns twisted beyond recognition.

Try as she might, she cannot fully recover her own history; she grasps at wisps of memory, which form an unintelligible jumble.

This is represented visually by snatches of her life, which she recorded on videotape, and photographs of disembodied people in the nude.

From what the audience can piece together, she was a troubled child who was treated for low-level epilepsy. In 2007, she almost killed herself, but survived.

For years, she has been infatuated with Andrea, a fictitious prostitute character in a novel written by Pablo Ramos.

She also had a series of lovers and she insists on calling everyone of them Pablo. Most memorable is "Death-drive Pablo", who constantly haunts her life and seems to be a projection of her proclivity towards darkness and death.

The seemingly senseless performance is maddening to watch at times, but she plunges headlong into it with such fearsome intensity that it keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.

At one point, she rambles off her infirmities on a loudhailer before stripping down to nothing and throwing herself repeatedly on the floor as if performing an exorcism.

Does this signify the demise of Otero the artist? Or is she just playing the role of Andrea again?

No one knows for sure, perhaps not even herself.

She sows that seed of doubt from the get-go when she seats herself in the audience to deliver her first monologue.

Yes, she is performing as an artist in a show, but she is also performing her life the way members of the audience subconsciously perform their lives for others and themselves.

As she declares: "Life is not a show, and this is my documentary."

Perhaps this is why the show has so many touches of the meta aspect.

At various points, she unfurls a white skirt she is wearing and uses it as a projector to screen a video of herself, records herself singing a rock number and plucks out bemused audience members for a wefie.

This is the daring, creative utterance of an artist who confronts the liminal space between performance and reality, life and death, as well as art and the self.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2016, with the headline 'Open confrontation with life and death'. Print Edition | Subscribe