‘No, No – but, you see, planets are not just influences; they are also – not all of them, but some – inhabited worlds, like ours… In that case, we should do something about it. We should make contact with whoever is in it. We should try to make friends with him. Don´t you see, we could learn things from him.” *
For three nights only in September, the visual arts programme at Project presented The Alien by Matti Braun, a production that combined visual art and theatre disciplines in the staging of a version of the unrealised screenplay by Indian film director Satyajit Ray. This play formed part of a series of events which ran through August and September at Project that work with the idea of the cosmopolitan in India and includes a programme of film screenings and an exhibition by NS Harsha (India) and Heather Allen (Ireland).
The Alien was performed as a series of theatrical tableaux on the main stage at Project with choreographed dance sequences, music from an electric Kantele player and with costumes and set designed by the artist. A group of volunteers of different ages and backgrounds, including artists, staff members and children, will act the parts having worked closely together for a month to turn the script into a unique visual experience, characteristic of the Project. The story recounts how an extraterrestrial being crash-lands into a lotus pond in a small Bengali village where its space ship sinks beneath the lotus leaves. The action then follows the response of the villagers and in particular those of a young boy who befriends the alien – much like the child in Spielberg’s E.T.
Satyajit Ray was never able to realise The Alien as a film, even though he took the idea to Hollywood and came close to getting it produced with a cast that would have included Marlon Brando and Peter Sellers. Today, Matti Braun whose interest in the piece comes from his research into connections between India and the West reinterpreted the script, first as a gallery installation and here as a fully blown theatre piece. Braun’s work often functions as a counterpoint to mainstream history, producing a space in which objects, environments and images tell stories of cultural transaction. Individual personalities (such as Ray) feature strongly in this account, becoming the magnetic pole around which aggregate and eclectic phenomena converge. Similarly in Ray’s script for The Alien rural traditions, future technologies, modern science and science fiction come together in an unlikely fashion.
Matti Braun lives and works in Cologne. Solo exhibitions by the artist include Bunta Garbo at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, R..T. at the Showroom, London and S.R. at the Kunstverein Freiburg. Recent group exhibitions include Love me or leave me, at Kiasma, Helsinki, Rhinegold: Art from Cologne, at Tate Liverpool and Tracer, at Witte de With, Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam. Matti Braun is represented by BQ in Cologne and Esther Schipper in Berlin.
*Extract from ‘The Alien’ by Matti Braun.
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