Accepted paper:

We love spontaneity and script

Authors:

Alex Flynn (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper investigates the interstices of artistic practice and cultural policy in the MST of Brazil. It examines the tensions between spontaneity and script, which call into question the potentiality of art to transform society.

Paper long abstract:

This paper centres its analysis on the Landless Workers' Movement (MST) of Brazil and instances of the movement's grassroots theatre. Mística, as this practice is named, is the theatrical ritual through which the movement enervates itself, its members, bonds of family, and bonds of companionship. To produce desired transformative social effects, spontaneity is central; serendipity and a sense of the 'creative' are the dynamic heart of mística's cultural capital. However, as the movement has expanded, and mística has become a recognized technology practiced by the movement's culture sector, criticisms have begun to emerge from members regarding its vibrancy. The MST has a longstanding engagement with cultural politics, but has lately been unable to transfer enthusiasm for its programmes of artistic expression to wider Brazilian urban society. This lack of projection into the city is key, as the MST is now perceived to be losing momentum, important in the respect that the city is naturally the largest market for MST produce. This paper suggests that the role of the Brazilian broadsheet press is crucial in this regard, and that journalists have become tired of iterative, stale, and overly rehearsed expressions of sem terra identity expressed through supposedly radical spaces of theatricality. Members of the movement equally speak of a lack of visceral energy that the culture sector's activities used to possess, which prompts this paper's closing remarks on the tensions between spontaneity and script, which call into question the potentiality of art to transform society.

panel G50
'All the world's a stage': the social and political potentialities of theatre and performance