You question modern warfare and the contemporary shapes of war. Where does this stem from? 

There is no such thing as "contemporary warfare". There is only war. And war has its own transformations, its own representations, which affect or follow the transformations and representations we have of our society and of ourselves. They also affect the way we make art. I am interested in military strategy because I find the representations of war and the way it informs our lives fascinating. The level of energy and the huge means put in place are totally absurd. The Western world holds a vision of war and the organisation of war and it passes it on to its people. We are informed by it, to an extent we can’t begin to imagine, and are already organised for it on a cultural level. This is reflected at every level: we talk about media war, economic war, social war - it is a ubiquitous term. It affects the way we organise the world, our hierarchy systems, our relationship to order and repression, the way we imagine democracy... We are experiencing a different kind of war, one that is entwined with the insidious state of fear we are being kept in.

This is a basic principle of military organisation and motivation: there is no room for slackening. There needs to be an enemy. Is the world we live in not going to be determined, in years to come, by the forms of warfare we will be implementing? We don’t know what shape war will take. Unbeknownst to us - because it isn’t affecting our bodies directly - I think we are witnessing a frightful war, an economic war that has the same repercussions as any other: suffering and the destruction of entire countries... It has simply taken on a different form. We can potentially fight it, but the effects are the same. I find it reckless to be blind to this reality.

War Sweet War is derived from a true story: a mother and a father kill their children before committing suicide. How did you link this news item to the question of war?

Our behavior is directly linked to our environment. And in our environment lies an extremely powerful component that is war. The pressure increases but we struggle to identify it, leading to this type of reaction. But this is taboo, it’s an unspoken thing. We don’t mention it because recognising it would be uncovering something perhaps even more violent: the fact that we are, to varying degrees, complicit in this.

Why did you decide to place war in the heart of the home, of the family unit?

Precisely because the evolution of warfare and the evolution of its representation has rendered everything porous. It has seeped everywhere: there are no longer units, no family units as such. Everything is imploding, there is no place to hide, no escape. It’s around us, like a somewhat disturbing friend. It generates fears that in turn generate representations that live in your home, by your side, with you. Behind "home sweet home", surely lies "wars sweet war". We lock ourselves in to feel safe, but we are not. We are in a permanent state of mobility, our homes are decorated with whatever we managed to salvage: we try to get by with relics but we live with the potentiality of an imminent departure. We are in transit.

Why did you decide to put on a performance with zombies? Zombies are a particular kind of ghost, one that is still incarnate.

The presence of zombies in a number of artistic and cultural forms today reflects the panic generated by our situation. A non-consumerist state of being cannot be tolerated within our consumerist society. Death is not accepted, it is something we don’t know how to handle or ritualise. We are utterly unable to deal with it, and don’t teach our children to face it. Therefore, there is no death: one simply vanishes from the consumer field. But at the same time, we live in fear, and we must represent this fear somehow! What’s interesting with zombies is that we are the monster in question. Zombies don’t come from the afterlife. We are the them - an everyman who becomes one. And to destroy a zombie, one has to rip its head off! Amazing, right? The head is the place where memories, thoughts, consciousness, guilt and the organisation of the world are located.

You mentioned that the history of theatre is linked to a history of the representation of war. Can you expand on this idea? 

This doesn’t apply to the entire history of theatre, but the theatre certainly didn’t ignore the issue. We can’t claim that war, in its representation, has had no impact on the representation of theatre, or on the very construction of theatres. For instance, do you know why there are comparable Italian theatres in medium-sized cities all over France? Why there is a beautiful Italian theatre in Belfort, in Cherbourg? This is because there was an old rule that made theatre outings compulsory amongst the military: once a week for officers, twice a month for NCOs and once a month for soldiers. This is a little-known fact.

The stage is split in two -  the same domestic space represented at different times. Does this scenographic approach relate to a desire to bring something back or to use codes of representation that have been influenced by war?

What is important is to systematically question the narrative and representation systems that pertain to the theatre, within the environment it is set in, while taking into account the organisational alteration of this ever-changing environment. It is clear that we can’t discuss the world, depict it, or question it, both critically and dialectally, by adapting fifty year-old representation and narrative systems! We can’t go about thinking that the Internet, which was originally a military invention, won’t impact the way the theatre or performances are organised. Simply because it is part of our environment and the theatre works with the environment it’s set in. If we manage to find an emotional materiality which creates a form of catharsis through these codes of representation, it will necessarily change the catharsis itself.

In War Sweet War, you tackle the invisible horror, the unspeakable pressure generated by war and, later, by the parents’ crime. Can you expand on the idea of ​​the unspeakable?

I think we’re talking less and less. This is yet another consequence of fear, another vicious consequence of this new representation of war: we don’t talk. Everything is internalised.

You’ve collaborated once more with a number of artists for this project. How did all these artists connect?

It is precisely our ability to cooperate and to help each other that makes us "strong", as people. Flying to the moon wasn’t achieved by a single man! It takes a community of men to get to the moon. To me, a show cannot be the story of a single man. It is essential to have talents unite.

Interview by Eugenie Pastor


January 19, 2011