Sede da Juventude Cansada - Thirst/Headquarter of the fatigued youth.
April 2020 (online) July 2020 - Casa da Imagem Contemporânea; (Gaia, PT)

Sede da Juventude Cansada (Thirst/Headquarter of the Fatigued Youth) is the development of the 2015 intervention Restauro da Juventude Cansada (Restoration of the Fatigued Youth).

Sede da Juventude Cansada was a performative-reading event that aimed to create a forum to collectively discuss the emergency of alternatives to productivism-based capitalism. Due to the episode of the Covid-19 pandemic (and the restrictions enforced by the Portuguese state), the original format of this event, designed as a public participatory event and a forum, was restructured in two moments: a public reading of the text online (April 2020) and a live reading of the text for the purposes of video documentation (July 2020).

Sede da Juventude Cansada uses the format of a theatre script (a text for 9 characters which, at a point in the text, open-up to a public discussion/forum). The writing of this script is a way for me to map the constellation of different ideas that my inquiry explores, and at the same time, an opportunity to collectively discuss research by opening those ideas/assumptions for debate. In that sense, I perceive this project as a moment of study that facilitates an encounter with political imagination.

Sede da Juventude Cansada introduces the problem 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. In an unassuming way, the text follows a classical dramatic structure, the five-step structure (as described by Gustav Freytag) of i) exposition, ii) rising action, iii) climax, falling action (return or fall), and iv) catastrophe, denouement, resolution, or v) revelation (Gustav Freytag. In Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Freytag).

Sede da Juventude Cansada is structured as a play which could be enacted. However, my interest is in the aspect of reading the text —therefore my preference for non-professional actors— as a collective and exposed moment. This follows my interest in how reading can constitute a divisive ‘technique of control’, in the sense suggested by Thompson and Harney when describing their study-reading camp Group Provision: how reading is normalized as a measurement of a good-work, how reading is a craft which manifests that the work of knowing was done, but more so, how that work, is an individuating work, something that is supposed to performed individually, isolated, and in a sense, to be outsourced (as most capitalistic forms of contemporary work) outside the places where reading-as-work (the classroom, for instance) should take place (Thompson & Stefano 2018) [Thompson, T. (2018) Harney, S. ‘Ground Provisions’. Afterall 45 Spring/summer 18: 120-125].
Here, I would like to stress a preference for de-skilling, without romanticizing, without forsaking the political significance of offering access to skill in contexts deprived or denied of such possibilities. Non-professional actors reading the script not only help to create a greater sense of horizontality with the passers-by that potentially attend the event, but are also meant to impede me from rehearsing my own text (to use the text as a trained version of my voice) and allowing other to rehearse their own insights, the clumsiness it involves, the expected jolts I would not be able to foresee, glitches that allow the text to meander to different meanings.

The concept at the core of Sede da Juventude Cansada was suggested by the advertisement found at Rua Duque de Saldanha (Porto). What possibilities of imagination does the ‘thirst of the fatigued youth’ open to? How is desire mobilized within the capitalistic mindset? How do we imagine —if we can imagine it— a post-work reality? The research for the writing of this text involved looking at different artistic and literary (utopian?) tropes as a way to speculate about (my suggested) possibilities of a post-work reality. My main inspiration was Class Struggle, the (unrealized) political opera about the working-class that artist Kurt Schwitters hoped to realise. Although engaging with the fate of the working-class in capitalism, Sede da Juventude Cansada attempts to make a more explicit reflection about the expectations of the subject-worker with a post-work society. If work is one of the default attributes of identity, how is the disappearance of work affecting how subjects perceive themselves? But not only perceived existentially, given that work is constituted as a technique for the exercise of power, how does this disappearance would affect how she perceives herself politically? While some references are inspirational, others were incorporated in the text, cited or embedded within the dialogues. Some of these are artist Alexander Rodchenko's Worker’s Club (the 1925 a model of social-architecture for the leisure of workers that has never been implemented), writer J.G. Ballard’s 1982 short-story Having a Wonderful Time (about the creation of unemployed colonies in southern Europe), Theatre NO99 play NO75 Unified Estonia (the 2010 play taking place during the course of 44 days as an enactment of political movement), or artist-journalist Daniel Santiago’s 2019 public performative-reading Universal Declaration of the Rights of Robots. These references are made explicit in the physical element (the brochure that is made available for the event, and the subsequent publication resulting from this project) as well as in the video that documents the performative-reading of the text.

The script Sede da Juventude Cansada describes the physical encounter of nine characters in response to a call to discuss the ‘uselessness’ brought by the imaginary, future, new post-work reality. The situation of meeting would, following the initial plan, mirror the attendance of the passers-by to the public calling for the event. The purpose of that encounter is described as an attempt to deal collectively with the new, the complex and confusing affectation brought by the passage to a supposed post-work reality (and potentially post-capitalist reality; a question the script explores as a central tension). The site where said encounter takes place has the peculiar name of “Sede da Juventude Cansada”, which is explained later in the text as site for an enigmatic occurrence: the disappearance of the ‘fatigued youth.’

According to the original plan, upon arrival, passers-by would receive a handout of the script Sede da Juventude Cansada along with a questionnaire (that would already made know with the call) concerning different aspects of this post-work reality. Those questions are meant to be activated at a certain point in the script, when the performative-reading turns into a forum, allowing a moment of collective speculation about the concerns raised throughout the script.
These questions have been prepared by intellectuals and artists that dedicated so much of their reflection to these concerns and who have generously contributed with a question for the purpose of this projects. Questions for this moment were offered by Karin Hansson, Dave Beech, Nina Power, Fernando José Pereira, Glenn Loughran, Oli Mould, Maria Cristina Franco Ferraz, Nuno Guedes e Nuno Ramalho. In exchange to their work, I would present them with one work from my series Uncovered Material. This was done out of an ethical principle; not only my work-ethics but also an affectionate way of operating, to rewards the creative work of others with my own creative work, a flow of creative exchanges in which all parties are rewarded for their investment. Here one could reflect about what is the reward given to the passers-by that partake the event and the forum? Sede da Juventude Cansada can be seen as a moment to interrupt social reproduction, and this occasion as a moment of retreat and to care collectively for the expression of personal anxieties and the possibilities of uncertainty. Because the event is free of charge (but not exempt of costs) and promotes —I would say, protects— publicness and the opportunity for political imagination, I feel in good terms with my operating ethics.

The open nature of the event Sede da Juventude Cansada would not allow me to foresee the profile of the audience. That did not apply to the readers of the script. Unlike other practices in the past, which reading roles are not assigned earlier, in Sede da Juventude Cansada I decided that the non-professional readers should be subjects of my generation. This decision reflected considerations of a sociological and affective nature. My generation grew-up on the threshold of shifting socioeconomical paradigms.
The fall of the dictatorial regime of April 1974 brought with along access to universal access to education. For most families, (higher) education became the golden ticket for social climbing and to access the new reality of capitalism offer. The period can be described as a battle of ideological narratives, of incompatible narratives, contributing for the constitution of a complex affective territory. Each house lived under its own ideological and affective rules; ruled by socialist dreams, others ruled by religious devotion, others by the glow of the free-market, others by the belt. This difference was felt mostly as a competition (to escape decades of material scarcity and consolidate stability), that kind of haste one feels without knowing the goal; a fully present sentiment of aggression that I can hardly remember being addressed. That was — and remains structurally present until today— the greatest legacy of fascist regency. I am not referring to the sense of competition introduced by the sudden shift to capitalism. No; I am addressing the lack of access to conceptualization, to the ownership of fiction, to the incapacity of those subjects to narrate the affective cultural aspect.
According to Portuguese philosopher José Gil, 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" (José Gil (2004) Portugal, Hoje: O Medo de Existir. Lisboa: Relógio d'Água). The openness of opportunities contrasted with feelings of illegitimacy, senses of undeserving the sudden abundance of possibilities, of comfort, the aspiration of novel needs to have and to be. The tongue is tied by this troubled affectivity; what allowed economic elites the 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, in post-fascist Portugal, this new model of economy was meted by an open door, a well-behaved subject. Short anecdote, in Portuguese to behave translates as ‘comportar’, with door. Suddenly, everything seems possible, everything can be said, everything can be acquired: capitalism and democracy acted as synonyms of each other. Yet, these possibilities of consumption, argues Gil, appeared as a panacea for that unequipped will to express a different future; as a mediator to deal with the passage "from zero to the maximum expression, but [where] there were no instruments for that expression” (Santos, R. (2011) 'José Gil Sobre o Medo de Existir'. In Indústrias Culturais: https://industrias-culturais.hypotheses.org/15230. Access 2019/07/07). It is this replacement of true freedom with the possibilities of consumption, that Catalan philosopher Marina Garcés describes as “prisons of the possible” (Garcés, Marina (2013) En las Prisiones de lo Possible. Barcelona: Ediciones Bellaterra).
Under the novel liberal-capitalism, my generation was fed with the ambition of the performance-oriented ideology of the liberal market, quickly erasing the socialist (utopian?) experiments that took place post-revolution all over the country. With the introduction of the neoliberal strategy, we’ve found ourselves relearning how to live a new economic order; relearning that competitiveness meant fluidity and self-management. My generation formed that new social group called in Portugal ‘independent workers’. The reality of permanent employment and the support of the welfare state never came. This condition stretched through the cultural sector and beyond.
Unlike earlier generation living the shift from dictatorship to democracy with their repressed-word-toolkit, my generation had a less repressed relationship with the articulation of will and imagination, and yet we were confronted with an oppressive realism: much can be said but not much can be done. What power remained in our use of words and in our political construction of reality; faced with the reality of state-as-enemy; with the subsequent decades of privatisation of the public sector; with the overriding of state sovereignty by foreign financial entities; when all those, instead of ourselves, decided how we should live our lives? We were told, as a nation, that we were living above our possibilities. And yet, I thought we live despite the impossibilities, wondering how to live beyond the possible, how to safeguard imagination, poetry, hope, the toolkit for new political formations? Each cycle offered us new sentiments to dealt with. We learn to collective detect the presence of ideological markers in our sensations, in our bodies and in our words; to refuse subservience and self-pity as traits of character; to distinguish hope as a verb from the religious doxa of salvation; to be joyful in spite of the impossible.
These are my reasons why Sede da Juventude Cansada would benefit from having subjects of my generation as readers of my script. Not only as to awake us to the possibility of another cycle of change, to use the event as a moment to collectively argue about how could we see ourselves in the post-work reality, but to also borrow them as to scrutinize my arguments, my presuppositions about such prospective. What have we learnt from past “cycles” that allow us to detect new opportunities of exclusion that such post-work reality could bring? What counter-forces can we imagine, not only in response, but ahead of them?

Due to the circumstance of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sede da Juventude Cansada could not follow the initial plan of an event taking place at Rua Duque de Saldanha (Porto, PT), and therefore, to return to the site that triggered this text (and my doctoral study). The first reading of the text took place online (April 2020) and was open to public attendance. The selection of readers of the text —acquaintances of mine— was based on my projection of some resemblance to the different characters of the text. Here, it is important to reflect, if only briefly about the role of directing, because this process involves more than just the scripting of the text and enabling conditions for a performative reading. The aspect of directing that interests me concerns duration. I am less interested in guaranteeing a sense of fidelity to my vision than I am in developing my practice as a technology of contact (and in this situation, as a process that is at use in order to sustain friendships over time). The online reading was followed by a collective discussion. That discussion did not benefit from the questions suggested by other authors, for they had not been collected yet.

Participants in the reading of Sede da Juventude Cansada were Filipa Araújo, Inês Azevedo, Juan Luis Toboso, Maria Sottomayor, Mariana Vitale, Nuno Guedes, Ricardo Castro, Rita Senra, Virgínia Pinho.

The second reading of the text took place at Casa da Imagem Contemporânea (Gaia, PT) (July 2020) and not as initially planned at Rua Duque de Saldanha (Porto, PT) due to the restrictions imposed by Portuguese authorities to the assembly of people (maximum 19). This led to a decision to still perform a reading, but without public participation. This would allow me to capture in video the interaction of bodies in space while reading from the text. But the discussion of questions prompt by the reading and by the suggested questions remain unexecuted, and therefore, a possibility.

Video documentation of the reading at Casa da Imagem Contemporânea directed by Patrícia Viana Almeida. Sound support by Max Fernandes.

Throughout this process I have been asked several times about whereas if I would object performing the text with actors in a theatre setting. The publication of the text will offer that possibility to anyone interested in such task. Having the possibility to witness to interpretation of my text, of making myself spectator, would be welcomed. I would abstain from directing it myself. My interest with the enactment of Sede da Juventude Cansada, and the reason why I have avoided locating it within the theatre context, is frankly concerned with the potential of reading. I am most and foremost —even if modestly— exploring the possibilities of listening. Most of us read. But most of us reads alone. Most of us dread to read together, out of practice of reading, out of practice of reading aloud, out of practice of togetherness. The experience of actor-reading, would stress the conceptual arch of the text. And while the insight of the author is important, the message of the text important, the stress in the skilful conveyance of the message seems to override important nuances. For instance, how each bad reader requires a closer listener; how a closer listening furthers a closer reading. Gaps, drag, gasps make the text bodily in ways that good vocal reach or proper diction will not. This attentive listening is the experience that I seek to awaken in the bodies partaking Sede da Juventude Cansada; an experiment that does not seek the hegemony of ‘good performance’, but thirsty to listen to the presence that is right there next to us.

The project Sede da Juventude Cansada was supported by Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, University of Gothenburg, Casa da Imagem Contemporânea and Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade do Porto.