“European democracy is, and always has been, a racist construct based on power and privilege,” the event’s program book tells us. With an agenda that takes aim at much of Western culture, the current edition could well be titled “Fear and Loathing in Europe.”
Fear of the other and fear for the fate of a multicultural Europe are central to “After Recent Days. A Late Night,” a collage of text and music that the director Christopher Marthaler has fashioned into an urgent appeal.
Staged in the Auditorium Maximum, the circular main lecture hall of the Ruhr University, in the city of Bochum, the production fuses incendiary political speeches with the works of Jewish composers who were banned, exiled and murdered by the Nazis. Eleven actors and six musicians perform from one half of the vast auditorium, with its tiered seating, while the audience watches from across the hall.
The place and time are a world parliament in 2145, marking 200 years since the liberation of Europe’s concentration camps. In this vision of the future, the European Union has fallen apart and the German Empire has been restored, but its leading politicians have hybrid German-Chinese names. None of the background is laid out neatly, but the delegates’ speeches hint at renewed attacks against Jews, Muslims and Roma. “European racism,” we learn, has been added to Unesco’s Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
More, about a different performance:
The script is largely aphoristic, with the performers intoning such nuggets of wisdom as “The archivist always becomes the oppressor”; “Art is unable to shock. Only the world can do that”; “The image is as guilty as the creator”; and “Wretchedness is the basis of all art.”
And then there are the scenes of pornographic shock, including one where the director’s 25-year-old daughter, Romy Louise Lauwers, playing a somewhat younger version of herself, films the inside of her vagina with her Israeli boyfriend’s spy camera. She shows her father a film still and proudly calls it “the image that contains all images.”
A little while afterward, Ms. Lauwers and her mother (Needcompany’s co-founder, Grace Ellen Barkey) film themselves tying a string around the penis of the boyfriend, Elik Niv. As the daughter films Mr. Niv’s naked body in close-up, another character renders the judgment “Bruegel with a touch of Jewish.”
Mr. Lauwers wants us to think of him as “woke,” and the program book claims that the show examines the director’s “own legitimacy as a white, privileged artist in an intercultural context.”
If a social anthropologist from Mars examined this society, she would surely conclude that progressivism is the quasi-religious expression of a death wish.