Hayat Erdo─ƒan┬®Flavio Karrer

Jonas Staal


What do you learn pri­ma­ri­ly in theater?

In popu­lar lan­guage, thea­ter repres­ents mimicry. When someo­ne says that someo­ne is “making a thea­ter” or “being thea­tri­cal”, it rela­tes to exa­g­ge­ra­ti­on or even to fal­se­hood. But for me, thea­ter deno­tes the per­pe­tu­al per­for­mance we are all impli­ca­ted in. A way to under­stand the script of racial capi­ta­lism, the sta­ge of extrac­tion and con­sump­ti­on, the per­for­mance of the ruling clas­ses. Thea­ter is not unre­al, rather, it makes visi­ble the tools through which rea­li­ty is sta­ged and pro­vi­ded legi­ti­ma­cy. Eman­ci­pa­to­ry thea­ter then, rela­tes to rec­lai­ming the means of pro­duc­tion of script, sta­ge and per­for­mance, to ensu­re the con­struc­tion of ega­li­ta­ri­an rea­li­ties and a bio­s­phe­re for all.

How do you rela­te to plants, ani­mals and algorithms?

From a per­spec­ti­ve of eman­ci­pa­to­ry thea­ter, an important ques­ti­on is who can appe­ar, who is enti­t­led to reco­gni­ti­on and speech, when it comes to the actors that par­ta­ke in the con­struc­tion of a given rea­li­ty. In racial capi­ta­lism, most of us are off-script: so-cal­led cul­tu­ral Mar­xists, womxn, the working and pre­ca­rious clas­ses, Black peop­le and peop­le of color, the dis­ab­led, the Indi­ge­nous, LGBT­QI+ com­mu­nities, the undo­cu­men­ted and stateless. The script, sta­ge and per­for­mance of racial capi­ta­lism is mono­po­li­zed by ruling eli­te and a futureless future of eco­sys­tem col­lap­se. That counts the same for other-than-human actors. An eman­ci­pa­to­ry thea­ter con­structs rea­li­ty in which com­ra­deship extends to plants, ani­mals, and even to algo­rith­ms. But for an algo­rithm to beco­me a com­ra­de, we must rec­laim tech giants under com­mon owners­hip and gover­nan­ce. The means of pro­duc­tion of script, sta­ge and per­for­mance need to be fun­da­ment­al­ly trans­for­med. Part of our work as artists and cul­tu­ral workers, I think, is to shape the ima­gi­na­ry of that ega­li­ta­ri­an rea­li­ty. To crea­te a dif­fe­rent world, we need to ima­gi­ne it first.

Is a revo­lu­ti­on necessary?

All eman­ci­pa­to­ry forms of art and cul­tu­re emer­ged through revo­lu­ti­on and poli­ti­cal trans­for­ma­ti­on. To con­struct ega­li­ta­ri­an rea­li­ty – the bio­s­phe­re for all – it is not just necessa­ry, but inevitable.

In which idea you stay devo­ted to?

I am an artist and a pro­pa­gan­da rese­ar­cher. The histo­ry of the term pro­pa­gan­da is its­elf sub­ject to pro­pa­gan­da. Today, the domi­nant con­cep­ti­on is that pro­pa­gan­da emer­ged from dic­ta­tor­s­hip and repres­ents by defi­ni­ti­on mass mani­pu­la­ti­on and mis­in­for­ma­ti­on. But the­re is a long histo­ry of thin­king pro­pa­gan­da as an eman­ci­pa­to­ry prac­ti­ce, from socia­list revo­lu­ti­ons to anti-colo­ni­al strugg­le, Black libe­ra­ti­on, civil rights, femi­nist and eco­lo­gi­cal move­ments. This lineage repres­ents a collec­ti­ve pro­pa­ga­ti­on that refu­ses to legi­ti­mi­ze the opp­res­si­ve mecha­nisms of the world that exists, but aims to make a world of many worlds ins­tead. A pro­pa­ga­ti­on of pos­si­bi­li­ty, a pro­pa­ga­ti­on of beco­m­ing more if we are able to break with the manu­fac­tu­red con­sent of racial capi­ta­lism. I remain devo­ted to this noti­on of an eman­ci­pa­to­ry pro­pa­gan­da, of which eman­ci­pa­to­ry thea­ter is a part.

Jonas Staal is a visu­al artist who­se work deals with the rela­ti­on bet­ween art, pro­pa­gan­da, and demo­cra­cy. He is the foun­der of the artis­tic and poli­ti­cal orga­niz­a­ti­on New World Sum­mit (2012–ongoing). Tog­e­ther with Flo­ri­an Malza­cher he co-directs the trai­ning camp Trai­ning for the Future (2018-ongo­ing), and with human rights lawy­er Jan Fer­mon he initia­ted the collec­ti­ve action lawsu­it Collec­ti­vi­ze Face­book (2020-ongo­ing). With wri­ter and lawy­er Radha D’Souza he foun­ded the Court for Inter­ge­nera­tio­nal Cli­ma­te Cri­mes (2021-ongo­ing) and with Lau­re Pro­u­vost he is co-admi­nis­tra­tor of the Obscu­re Union.

Exhi­bi­ti­on-pro­jects inclu­de Art of the Stateless Sta­te (Moder­na Galeri­ja, Ljub­l­ja­na, 2015), After Euro­pe (Sta­te of Con­cept, Athens, 2016), The Scot­tish-Euro­pean Par­lia­ment (CCA, Glas­gow, 2018) and Muse­um as Par­lia­ment (with the Demo­cra­tic Self-Admi­nis­tra­ti­on of Roja­va, Van Abbe­mu­se­um, Eind­ho­ven, 2018-ongo­ing). His pro­jects have been exhi­bi­ted wide­ly at venues such as the Stede­li­jk Muse­um in Ams­ter­dam, M_HKA in Ant­werp, Moder­na Museet in Stock­holm and the Nam June Paik Art Cen­ter in Seo­ul, as well as the 7th Ber­lin Bien­na­le, the 31st São Pau­lo Bien­na­le and the 12th Tai­pei Biennale.

Publi­ca­ti­ons inclu­de Nos­so Lar, Bra­sí­lia (Jap Sam Books, 2014), Stateless Demo­cra­cy (With co-edi­tors Dilar Dirik and Renée In der Maur, BAK, 2015), Ste­ve Ban­non: A Pro­pa­gan­da Retro­spec­ti­ve (Het Nieu­we Insti­tuut, 2018) and Pro­pa­gan­da Art in the 21st Cen­tu­ry (The MIT Press, 2019). Staal com­ple­ted his PhD rese­arch on pro­pa­gan­da art at the PhDArts pro­gram of Lei­den Uni­ver­si­ty, the Netherlands.