Sede da Juventude Cansada - Thirst/Headquarter of the fatigued youth.
April 2020 (online) July 2020 (Lever, PT)

Sede da Juventude Cansada is a performative-reading event about an imaginary post-work reality. A preliminary reading of the script happens online (due to the current Covid-19 epidemic) and a live event will take place later in the year. The project will be documented in video and in a publication that includes the original script, feedbacks collected during the event, and an overview of the history of this project. This project concludes my research inquiry.
Sede da Juventude Cansada is the development of an intervention that took place in 2015, prompted by the encounter with a worn-out advertisement in Rua Duque de Saldanha (Porto, PT) that read “Sede do Grupo Juventude Cansada” (Thirst/Headquarter of the Group of the Fatigued Youth). The appeal of the text is based on the pun of the double-meaning of the word ‘sede’ in Portuguese, either as ‘thirst’ or ‘headquarter’. Sede da Juventude Cansada translates either as a thirst or as the headquarter of the group of the fatigued youth. The pun lies in the unresolved and paradoxical meaning of the sentence: if the thirst relates to drinking, or to a more metaphorical sense, to desire; if this place is home to an exhausted youth or the cravings of an exhausted youth. Youth is expected to be a site of vitality, not exhaustion. What causes such exhaustion and what is its nature?

I cleaned and repainted the original text – an action that was recorded on video and titled Restoration of the Fatigued Youth - in the attempt to return this ambiguous statement to the public space. This found text resonates with my PhD inquiry on many levels: the tension between work and leisure; the aspect of desire – thirst – as a driver of imagination; the importance of affinities and of sharing expressed here in the existence of the collective… Made in 2015, Restoration of the Fatigued Youth already reveals some of the key traits deployed in my research practice. It is an action that is attentive to the creative production of others; that manipulates creatively the material in order to reactivate or add potential to it, as a way to inscribe new affectations in the public space. With Thirst/Headquarter of the Fatigued Youth, I now aim to document the affective dimension that this found-text and my restoration may suggest.

The script of Thirst/Headquarter of the Fatigued Youth behaves as a play that tries to map the constellation of different ideas that my inquiry explores, and at the same time, tries to create a forum to collaboratively research and discuss those ideas. According to Gustav Freytag, a plot that follows a classical dramatic structure is developed in five steps: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action (return or fall), and catastrophe, denouement, resolution, or revelation. The script introduced the problems of a society based on the myth and dependence of continuous production, describes a situation of tension and climax with the structures of capitalism, in order to announce its shortcomings and thus the openness to an imaginary post-work reality.
The arch of the plot of Thirst/Headquarter of the Fatigued Youth borrows this structure in an unassuming way. Although the script could be enacted as a play theatre, Thirst/Headquarter of the Fatigued Youth is described and performed as a collective reading that is meant to be documented in the video format. My reluctance comes out of respect for proper dramatic writing, and at the same time, from a preference for deskilling. The use of non-professional agents within this project echoes how my projects tend to create situations for the passers-by to potentially walk into. Rather than rehearsing my own text, I seek to offer possibilities for others to rehearse their own insights, with all the accidents, unexpected chunkiness it involves, that I cannot foresee, and from which I can learn and research.

The idea for Thirst/Headquarter of the Fatigued Youth was prompt by the text of the advertisement at Rua Duque de Saldanha. The aim of the project is to ponder how desire is mobilized within the capitalistic mindset, and, by looking at multiple artistic and literary utopian tropes, to speculate about the possibility of a post-work reality. The main inspiration was “Class Struggle”, an (unrealized) political opera the artist Kurt Schwitters hoped to realise about the working class. Thirst/Headquarter of the Fatigued Youth brings reality to Schwitters’ intention, but focuses on the relationship of subjects with a post-work society instead of the working-class experience. Other references are incorporated in the script, whether cited or embedded within the dialogues between the characters. Some of these examples include “Worker’s Club” (Alexander Rodchenko's (a 1925 model for work leisure never implemented), "Having a Wonderful Time" (J.G. Ballard’s 1982 short story about the creation of unemployed colonies in southern Europe), "Unified Estonia" (a 2015 play that turns through the course of the narrative into an assembly to form a political party), and "Universal Declaration of the Rights of Robots" (a 2019 performative-reading by Daniel Santiago). Both the publication and the video will make these references visible to the reader/viewer, and in this way, make visible how the dramatic structure and research writing came together.
The script of Thirst/Headquarter of the Fatigued Youth describes a meeting/encounter between seven characters in dialogue, plus an audience, who respond to a call to discuss the ‘uselessness’ brought by the imaginary, future, new post-work reality. The aim of the meeting is to deal collectively with the new, complex, confusing affectations brought by the recent transition to such post-work reality (and potentially post-capitalist reality; a question the script explores as a central tension). The site where the action of the play takes place has the peculiar name “Sede da Juventude Cansada.” Later in the script it is explained how this is the site of a mysterious disappearance of the said ‘fatigued youth.’
My research practice often leans on collaborations with friends. This is both a pragmatic way of working and a way to balance the separateness brought by the mobility our professions demand. In Thirst/Headquarter of the Fatigued Youth, this choice is also an attempt to document how my generation thinks about the possibility of a post-capitalistic world. I feel that we have been discussing transitions between different socioeconomical paradigms all our lives and would want to discuss now why to work?
With the fall of the dictatorial regime of April 1974, the general access to elementary and higher-education became the ticket for social climbing. The terrain of affectivity in this period was complex and contradictory. Growing up in that context, my generation was raised under contrasting, and often incompatible, narratives. The mindset in each house was very different. Some were ruled by socialist dreams, others ruled by the religious devotion, and others by the belt. It was a difference that was felt, but hardly discussed. That was, and remains structurally being, the biggest consequence of fascist regency. As José Gil says, the entrance of liberal capitalism in post-dictatorship Portugal could be described as an encounter with a field of collective affective psychopathology, a generalized schizophrenia around the "fear of inscription." The openness of possibles contrasted with feelings of illegitimacy, senses of undeserving such sudden abundance of possibilities, of comfort, the aspiration of novel needs to have and to be. According to Gil, it is precisely this troubled affectivity that ties the tongue, that allowed economic elites a smooth transition from colonial fascism to the free market economy. Unlike other western countries who’ve met free market capitalism with socialist skepticism and the apprehension of organized labor, this new model of economy found instead an open door, a behaved subject. Suddenly, everything seemed possible, everything could be said, everything could be acquired. Capitalism and democracy acted as synonyms. The possibilities of consumption appeared as a panacea for the unequipped will to express a different future, from the passage "from zero to the maximum expression, but [where] there were no instruments for that expression.” Marina Garcés calls this replacement of freedom by the possibilities of consumption “prisons of the possible.”
My generation was fed with the ambition of the performance-oriented ideology that came with liberal market, but we came late into that narrative. Neoliberal policies quickly replaced socialist prospects. We found ourselves relearning how to live a new economic order, rushing to adapt to job fluidity and self-management; a new generation of “independent workers” (as it is called in Portugal). The reality of permanent jobs and the assistance of the welfare state never came. The pandemic extended beyond the cultural sector. We spoke about it, but how much could be said? And what could be added in those years of privatisation of the public sector, when foreign financial entities, instead of ourselves, decided how we should live our lives? We were told we lived above our possibilities. I’ve always thought we’ve lived despite the impossibilities.
Each of these social cycles came with much sentiments and discussion. We spoke to learn how to deal with these sentiments, both the hopeful and the dismaying; spoke to keep us together, talking not to let our political imaginaries snooze, talking in order to not let us be confined in the now. I now dream with other futures, futures that take advantage of collective management, technological advancement and an ethical discussion of what means to live. I want to discuss (not exclusively) with my generation about a possible future post-work, how we could see ourselves in that reality. What could we have learned from our different “cycles” that would prevent it to feed new opportunities of exclusion? What forces would resist this future? What new political imaginaries could be discovered by imagining how to resist them?
For the recorded unrehearsed performance each guest receives the script of Thirst/Headquarter of the Fatigued Youth, and a questionnaire concerning different aspects of this post-work reality. Guest are asked to bring these questionnaires to the event, because they will be activated during the performance. In this sense, the artistic practice acts not only as device to instigate, but also as a process of collective research. This strategy seeks to gather other visions, other reflections about this imaginary reality beyond what I alone am already proposing in the script. The guests responses will be copied and included in the publication, which will all their voices to the script and my research notes (the conceptual references and description of the project).