What does it mean to be awake? When do I choose the day and refuse half-consciously breathing? When would I never close my eyes because of such a happy day? Can I be awake without knowing where I am?
This year, the performance organized by the Arts, Culture and Media students, embraced space in its unfamiliar way and authentically answered all the aforementioned questions. Space used to be, for most of us, accessible and boundless. The recent change in our relationship with our surroundings made us feel how unexpected the organicity of life is. We used to see the walls of our houses between strolls around the city and dinners, but never understood how it was to be enclosed by them. All these words are obviously hinting at how our life and modes of expressing our living experience have been impacted by the global pandemic.
Prior to this drastic change, the flood of signs that was challenging our drive towards anthropocentrism was not sufficiently suffocating. Expression, in all its embodiments, was redefined, emerging in new forms and asserting our capability to interact with our environment. All mediums that created human interaction converged into a screen, virtually transmitting feelings, thoughts and confusing experiences. In all this havoc, “Happy Days”, an online performance, was created, reflecting exactly how our natural condition is in an absolute symbiosis with its surrounding space. Moreover, it is an open invitation to contemplate how, by neglecting ourselves, we are also harming everything that surrounds us. Having all of these reflections for a start, made me eager to share my online experience with other readers, encouraging everyone to check it out and put some thought into their daily lives.
To begin with, the way in which the performance was organized was highly adapted to the current restrictions. ‘Happy Days’ was not a performance that happened during one single event as it is commonly expected with artistic representations. The audience had to sign up on an online form, so it would further receive, by post, a toolkit. In the toolkit, three different steps were given until one would reach the final performance. The first page reads: “Oh this is going to be another happy day!”. In a short text, each of the readers gets familiarised with the main character of the play, Winnie. For us to get acquainted with her, her Instagram account was provided. Every day, we would see her routine and glimpses of her thoughts, getting closer and closer, through her acts and introspections, to realizing how similar we are to her.
The second act, ‘Another heavenly day’ opened up a space for meditation. Through a series of stories recorded and uploaded on MixCloud, the sensibility in each of us was triggered. The radio play hinted at both Timothy Morton’s Dark Ecology and Samuel Beckett’s absurdism. Every day is a struggle to define our purpose and make sense of our feelings, but in this surreal experience, we often forget to be considerate of the nature in which we are situated. The Earth develops with us and calls out for our attention and full awareness. We need to be awake, to open our eyes and tune our insides with the outside. We, as well as our planet, are “working engines on which we put bandaids” instead of fixing what has been broken.
WE ARE WORKING ENGINES ON WHICH WE PUT BANDAIDS INSTEAD OF FIXING WHAT HAS BEEN BROKEN – Happy Days
The third act “What is one to do? All-day long. Day after day?’’, builds on these ideas and delves deeper into our perpetual numbness. This last stage was live-streamed on Facebook through the actual performance. Samuel Beckett’s play “Happy Days” was adapted, revealing how meaningless and underwhelming our daily routines become. Winnie, the main character, has been played by three different students, underlying the internal battles we are constantly fighting with our thoughts. By neglecting ourselves and always hoping for another “happy day”, we tend to oversee the possibilities that are waiting outside. The consequences are detrimental for both our well-being and enjoyment as well as for our environment. If we do not know how to push ourselves out of our beds and rejoice, there is little we can do for the bigger picture. If we are constantly sleeping, nothing is going to change.
This performance takes on several roles. It is a clear depiction of how life has been during the pandemics: a repetitive loop that seems inescapable, while besides its actuality, it also sees matters more generally. Even before, out of a sinister commodity, people tended to stay in their dread. It made them blind and it negatively impacted both themselves and all other realms that needed their awakening. ‘Happy Days’ is an alarm for all of us to start doing. It wants us to react, to break our routine, and leave behind our tendency to be passive and unresponsive. The space in which we are deserves our attention as all the forms it takes directly affects both collective and individual human experience.
Taking a step back from my interpretation of the play, to maybe lure in even more people, I asked Iulia Aionesi, one of the directors, to briefly answer the introductory questions. Her view is very much connected to the show’s approach and gives some hints to the perspective adopted throughout ‘Happy Days’.
Iulia Aionesi: “To be awake means to be aware. Or at least, this is what we tried to achieve through the adaptation of ‘Happy Days’, transposing all our ideas from the space of the physical, a space we thought we have a grasp on, to the space of the digital, a space of unimaginable, countless possibilities. Soon to realize that in actuality, we cannot hold onto anything, reconsidering, reshaping and renegotiating the boundaries of performance. To be aware is to be present, to breathe in and breathe out by consciously grounding yourself to the ever-shattering experiences of the unknown and underexplored. Only by accessing these fertile territories, the territories of the self, we are able to close our eyes and not be afraid of the richness of our thoughts, of our power to connect to other human and non-human beings, to create freely without feeling constrained, to grow collectively. To not be afraid of embracing our own capacities and incapacities, to not be afraid of unfamiliarity while at the same time to question familiarity, understanding and possibility to control. I can be awake without knowing where I am. I can move wherever, whenever, however. No matter where I am, I can let myself flow amidst torment. So go ahead, close your eyes, experience the storm of your thoughts and emotions, allow yourself to listen, to move your body and to connect to all your bodily tingles. You can have your eyes closed, when you’re awake.”
If all this made you curious and ready to venture in a self-discovering journey, a recording of the online performance can be found here.