2018 marks twenty years of artistic collaboration between the founders of PME-ART. To celebrate the occasion, co-artistic director Jacob Wren has proposed to publish a book entitled Authenticity is a Feeling: My Life in PME-ART. A compelling hybrid of history, memoir and performance theory, the book will be a highly subjective, chronological retelling and questioning of much of what has happened in and around our practice over the past twenty years. Sometimes Jacob also jokes that what he's writing is in fact "a novel about PME-ART." It begins when Jacob meets Sylvie Lachance and Richard Ducharme in 1996, and traces a line through collaboratively created performances such as En français comme en anglais, it’s easy to criticize (1998-2002), Families Are Formed Through Copulation (2005-2006), HOSPITALITY 3: Individualism Was A Mistake (2008-2012) and The DJ Who Gave Too Much Information (2011-). It is a book that aims to change the rules for how interdisciplinary performance can be written about.
But books about performance never feel quite right, or at least never feel like enough on their own. Addressing performance requires performance. Therefore, we are also creating an accompanying work entitled A User’s Guide to Authenticity is a Feeling. It will begin with reading excerpts from the book and showing photographs of the works in question, and then gradually move towards an ever more personal and artistically vulnerable perspective on what the past twenty years have meant. It is a PME-ART artist talk turned inside out, an artist talk that tells more about artistic struggles and challenges than about any worldly success, raising complex questions as to what exactly it means to be making performance today. It is PME-ART in dialog with this strange book that Jacob has offered up, and more importantly with our life spent making collaborative creations. In the process, it casts a new behind-the-scenes light on just why we do it, why we continue to believe so stubbornly in the fragile but essential act of “being yourself in a performance situation,” and how we continue to hope against hope that our destabilizing tangle of art and politics might still, in some small way, change the world.
The performance will also document the reactions all of PME-ART’s past and current collaborators had to the book. What they agreed with and what they found unfair will also become part of the piece, demonstrating how our shared artistic history creates collaborative dynamics that are complex, fascinating and all too human. Finally, in an ongoing manner, the performance will be altered for each city we visit. In each city there will be a section of the performance that speaks directly to all the times PME-ART has presented there in the past, to the specific relationship between our work and that venue and city.
A User’s Guide to Authenticity is a Feeling is our most personal, direct and honest work to date. It gets to the very heart of what PME-ART means and, in doing so, opens up new artistic possibilities for the future. It speaks to how sometimes the only way to move forward is by first looking back, and how the unique ephemerality of performance creates a sense of time and memory that is perhaps one of its greatest qualities.