from Why Theatre – Assembly of the Absent in NTGent

On other than humans agency | Maria Lucia Cruz Correia

How could we re-think a living forest, a mountain, a river, seas as being legal subjects equal to humans?
My question is: Is a river searching for equality, agency or something else?
Or is this perhaps our anthropocentric perspective of what a river would need?

This quest has become a silent political quest for me.
An attempt of trying to demystify object subject ontology
where non humans are treated as a passive object, a resource without voice and rights.

Who can advocate for a river?
Who can represent the racist violence of using the silence of the objects in the rational imaginary?
Where beings are reduced, colonised by humans and categorised as “other than humans”
We should argue for an environmental, public naturalisation of race.
Accepting the forms of life beyond human,
the construct of categories subject and object, racism and the new relations to non humans.

But are we fit to the quest? To speak on behalf of victims of our own tragedy?
Forcefully by our capitalistic and consumeristic position
which we should all be held accountable for.
Without exceptions.

What can I share here today on behalf of non humans:
With all my respect, and gratitude,

rivers don’t want to be in theatre,
oceans don’t want to be in theatre,
mountains don’t want to be in theatre.

Nature prefers to remain silent. Or loud in its own way.
If a river does not want to be inside a theatre,
are we able to take the responsibility and speak on behalf of those silent ones?

And how can we share their screams of rebellion?

How does one find an adequate voice?
And what would that adequate voice be saying on behalf of those silent complaints?
Whether referring to a river, a non human, an animal or a plant,

I hereby call for a state of autonomy and agency,
a will to be: To persist and live.

Without anthropocentric appropriation of voicing one another.

Because this is a concern and a crisis of agency —
A crisis of colonial thinking which we have been doing for centuries

And how can we decolonise our own nature?
The part in you with which you witness a river,
the untranslatable testimony we could say!

Will you make art to show the river as witness or will you design tools to clean the pollution of it waters?
Will you make art to translate a river’s voice and go on tour with your piece, or will you decrease your artistic production and synchronise your rhythm with the slow flow of a river?
Will you make art about violent colonial extractivism wars or will you leave this room to register and witness the social, cultural and cosmological violence on the ground?
Will you design interfaces or write scripts that will facilitate interactions between humans and non humans or will you experience those interactions by discovering your animistic self?

It is not easy to dehumanise our selves.
It is not easy not to make an object from others’ knowledge as subjects.
Reconstituted worlds from the ruins of extractivism, extinctionism and anthropocentrism.
A world with many worlds and modernity.
It requires a political ontology, a demystification of what kinship is and how we care and can act differently.

“Why Theatre?”
Because there is an audience, where we can share a scientific, an emotive, and activist imagination.
Because we can ask to rethink our relationship with nature
Because we can speculate.
And theatre is a propositional space for that
Where we can begin to rethink other than humans differently.

Where we can find the nature in us, in you.
By imagining other more than human constellations within this space.
By registering earthly memory traces and designing forensics to show those evidences of brutal violence.
By using the theatre to present the cinematic capacity of an oil spill organised by the aesthetics of slow violence, toxicity and pollution.
By stimulating your senses and the sounds of the imaginary, of a river in you.

Why theatre?
Because we are able to transform, because we are able to share that transformation and be here together
and move on to another type of relation with what is around us.
Because nature is you.

Maria Lucia Cruz Correia’s cross-sectoral and hybrid practice speaks to her deep engagement with the ecological crises and climate emergency. She reacts to the environmental conflicts of our times by bringing audiences and communities into participatory laboratories that connect the artistic with the voices of scientists, activists and lawyers in long term investigation processes.