On 5 and 6 November 2019, Pablo Pakula will bring his latest live art piece YES NO BLACK WHITE to Camden People’s Theatre as part of the ‘Handle with Care’ festival.

The audio-visual performance is designed a cognitive, moral, and sensory attack on the audience psyche seeking to interrogate the nature of offence. What offends us? How? And why? Ultimately asking, how should we respond?

A stock photo of a family in a field with the word 'Offensive' overlaid

YES NO BLACK WHITE is structured like a five-part sonata and features a thumping classical-electronic soundtrack by young British composer Anna Meredith, who this June received an MBE for her services to music. Meredith’s caffeinated, anxious and exultant music is full of brass fanfares, quivering strings, artillery-fire percussion, earth-quaking bass, and dizzyingly cascading synthesisers; injecting YES NO BLACK WHITE with intense urgency.

However, whilst YES NO BLACK WHITE is unrelenting in its forward drive, it is not rushing towards any final solutions or statements. Operating like a Rorschach ink-blot test, and with a passing nod to Cards Against Humanity, the performance allows each audience member to get to know their deepest offense-taking mechanisms. YES NO BLACK WHITE does not tell us what to think or feel, but it does test our buttons.

Pablo Pakula explains: “I have aimed to create a piece that gives every single person a highly personal and subjective experience, which continually asks every audience member to silently and privately position themselves, again and again. It is an invitation to confront our own biases, assumptions and principles. We need to study them, understand them, question them. I fundamentally believe that we can and must have open, human, productive dialogue. I hope that YES NO BLACK WHITE has a positive afterlife in the conversations and discussions people have afterwards.”

James Cross of Camden People’s Theatre notes YES NO BLACK WHITE is particularly exciting because it is the third time Pablo Pakula will be presenting his work at CPT. “Pablo creates bold, uncompromising and confrontational work which challenges and provokes audiences. YES NO BLACK WHITE is a perfect fit for ‘Handle with Care’ – our three week festival exploring trigger warnings, no platforming and the ‘Generation of the Snowflake’ - and we couldn’t be more excited to have Pablo back with us for a third time.”

As part of the process of making YES NO BLACK WHITE, Pablo Pakula is creating a special zine that contains his preparatory research, conceptual workings-out, and reflections. Acknowledging the process-led nature of the zine, Pakula is publishing the different drafts as a living document (accessible here: www.pablopakula.com/yes-no-black-white). A final version of the zine will be presented at the premiere of the performance on 5 November. “As with much of my work, there’s something playfully subversive about YES NO BLACK WHITE. There couldn’t have been a better date for the premiere than the Fifth of November! Remember, remember…”

YES NO BLACK WHITE is a continuation of Pakula’s ongoing practice-research on litanies and finding strategies to problematise meaning-making mechanisms. As well as a live artist, he is a permanent Teaching Fellow at the University of Birmingham’s Drama and Theatre Arts department.

YES NO BLACK WHITE is part of Camden People’s Theatre the three-week festival ‘Handle with Care’ which runs Tuesday 22 October – Saturday 9 November.

In years gone by, the old criticised the young for being reckless and rude. Nowadays, the young – so-called ‘Generation Snowflake – stand accused of being over-sensitive and lacking resilience. Too quick to take – and too scared to give – offence. (…) Are we more sensitive to ‘micro-aggressions’ – or just less willing to tolerate them? Where does healthy self-assertion end – and entitlement begin? 

Pablo Pakula is a live artist making work from the position of an outsider. His practice is process-led, socially-engaged and driven by queer politics. For Pablo, Queer is not an adjective, it must be a verb. He believes live art can really do something; that it can go beyond rational perception, generating shared experiences that are visceral, conceptual, and emotional.

Pablo has created work for a number of different contexts: live art festivals like Buzzcut (March 2015) and Tempting Failure (July 2018); at venues like Camden People’s Theatre (Sept. 2016/2017 and Nov. 2018); within gallery contexts like ]performancespace[ (Dec. 2014) or Turner Contemporary (May 2015/2016); as well as club nights like Deep Trash (Nov. 2014) and PUPPY (June 1019), or music festivals like Fanny’s Meadow (June 2016). 

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