Welcome to Mount Average. In his new installative performance, theatre-maker Julian Hetzel takes us on a factory tour that confronts us with our own ideologies. The clash between the static past and the fluid present creates a productive friction in this industrial environment that creates a lot of dust.
Monuments are on the threshold between art and politics. For centuries, art has been used to enhance the glory of the nation, its great leader and the political ideology. The effigies of figures such as Lenin, Hitler, Mao, Stalin or Leopold II are part of the collective memory. They are a physical representation of a particular regime, a specific era, an ideology. Statues are there for eternity, immutable, in materials that effortlessly outlive a nation. Or, in some cases, even in materials that carry the trauma of what is represented. Like the copper used for a bust of Leopold II that came directly from Congolese mines.
Hetzel digs deep and through the collaboration with Kristien De Proost and Brussels-Congolese theatre-maker & rapper Pitcho Womba Konga, among others, the urgency of the link to post-colonial Belgium quickly became clear. (Though the show is certainly not just about Belgian colonial history.) Mount Average questions acquired rights, traditions, privileges and wealth, ideologies and totalitarian ideas, aspects that every (post-colonial) society carries with it. The trauma of the past was long hidden away, but we can no longer avoid it. In this performance Julian Hetzel uses the busts of historical figures, rulers, tyrants and dictators as source material to deconstruct that static past and then rework it, make it fluid. They are grinded into dust, and after adding fluids, they also literally take on a flexible form. Performers and audience eventually process the matter into something new. In this way, the past is not erased, but deconstructed and rearranged into a flexible new entity. The future will be fluid.
Julian Hetzel’s performances are attempts to unravel the world, while trying to provide strategies for transforming it. In his work, he presents speculative methods that teach us how to deal with both the traumas of the past and the challenges of the present. Hands on, this time.
Mount Average is a logical next step in Hetzel’s important body of work. The link between destruction and art is also clearly present in his previous performances, such as the automated sniper, in which a paintball gun was fired into a gallery from a war zone. In schuldfabrik, liposuction fat was turned into new soap, in all inclusive, war debris was turned into art. This time Julian Hetzel is grinding dictators into pulp to give them a meaningful new purpose. It’s all in our hands.