Snail Eating Theatre
Claire Loussouarn (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Paper short abstract:
The Snail Eating Theatre is what the architect, a Fitzcarraldo of sorts, calls his building - Theatre Royal Marrakech - which is the subject of this experimental and poetic visual ethnography. It is a portrait of a colonial opera entrapped in ruins.
Paper long abstract:
Charles Boccara is like the title character in Werner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo, the architect of a mad plan of bringing opera to the colony. In an attempt to undercut Fitzcarraldo’s colonial romanticism, Snail Eating Theatre confronts the colonial phantasy that drives many opera buildings. At the Marrakech Biennale a 3-month performance was presented by Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll to a local audience in the ruined opera. The libretto played during that participatory performance was recorded during a collaboration with Moroccan al halqa performers in Djemma el Fna. The anti-opera was filmed to be presented later as part of a single channel film about the making of the colonial opera. 30 years ago, the Moroccan King and Mayor of Marrakech commissioned Theatre Royal Marrakech. It is still being built by the French Tunisian architect Charles Boccara, who says it is made for ‘the snail eaters’. Whether these are the French or the Moroccan local audience is ambiguous and it refers as much to the failure to find a local audience for the opera in Africa. As the camera roams the now ruined and haunted Theatre Royal Marrakech, the architect’s copy changes the European originals. The film uses the opera buildings as protagonists in the delirium that beset its commissioners. While the colonial copy is born from a fear that there is no local equivalent to that European form, it disturbs the authority of the original. This film looks at the infectiousness of European high culture that continues to produce mutant replicas of itself in the colonies.
Visualizing futures: audio-visual practices for a contemporary anthropology