Summer of Utopia: Rosa Casado and Mike Brookes

Today we continue our week-long series, Summer of Utopia, through the work of artists Rosa Casado and Mike Brookes. Spanish performance artist, Rosa Casado and British visual artist, Mike Brookes initiated a long-term collaboration in 2000 focusing on performative engagements in social spaces,  informed by seminal works addressing utopian ideals of social equality,  self-organization and ecological sustainability.

Paradise 2 - the incessant sound of a falling tree; Photo by Rafael Gavalle; Courtesy of Rosa Casado

In Paradise 2 – the incessant sound of a falling tree, Casado recites a text based on Jorge Furtado’s Ilha das Flores, a film examining humanity within capitalism. Reflecting on her ability to holiday in Mali having “profited” from work, Casado deftly draws diagrams of her voyage on the ground. Her gestures are interspersed with deliberate consuming of chocolate trees from a chocolate island, each eaten tree activating a sound that creates a loop. She narrates and draws out the voyage taken by Ibrahima Boyé, from Senegal where he was unable to make “sufficient profit” and travels to Spain for work. Though alike in intellect and core physical characteristics, Casado’s journey is one of a tourist, while Boyé’s is that of an immigrant. In an era where consumption and profits form progress, a sense heightened by the rhythmical percussion sound increasing in beats as the trees are eaten by the end of the 40-minute performance, how do we consider our desires and value of human dignity?

Some Things Happen All At Once; Photo by Mike Brookes; Courtesy of Rosa Casado

Similarly, Some things happen all at once comprises an installation typifying a community within a 45 minute durational set, represented through 150 ice trees, 60 ice houses and an ice church on the ground. A reading drawing on writings of architect, Buckminster Fuller and scientist, Philip Ball, muses on the extraordinary ways earth maintains the balance of energy exchange and humankind’s capacities to develop survival strategies. As the audience’s heat hastens the ice melting, attempts are made to sustain the village through a bicycle powering a cooling system. The balance between hot and cold senses, and solid and liquid visual properties display the inter-dependence of humans and nature. Against the possible fate of the earth as a heat reservoir, the interventions to foster sustainability provoke thought on the realities of human presence, action, and negligence.

One thing leads to another; Photo by Mike Brookes; Courtesy of Rosa Casado

Human interventions as a critical part of systems takes precedence in One thing leads to another, a durational piece involving the movement of 50 small toys forwards. Visitors become agents of change, articulating the game’s rules and deciding how the game progresses. This action varied across contexts. In June 2008 in Polverigi, it was developed through the streets of the town. In October 2009 in Singapore, participants developed a game which expounded personal meanings of progress in workshops, culminating in a public presentation where visitors played the games, opening discourse and making visible assumptions of social rules and progress.

Casado and Brookes do not pronounce an all-encompassing utopian vision and acknowledge decay and destruction as inevitable scientific processes. Yet, a palpable utopian quality at the core of their works rests in the belief in the human conscience which, when activated, enables meaningful action.

Casado trained in ballet, studied physics at the University of Madrid and theatre at Istituto d’Arte Scenica. Brookes is a Creative Wales Award Recipient 2007 and a Creative Research Fellow at the University of Wales, AberystwythParadise 2 will be presented on 26 September 2010 at Teatre Municipal de l’Escorxador, Lleida, Spain. A new work, Just a little bit of history repeating exploring how a place acquires meaning through time will feature at the b-side multimedia arts festival, Weymouth and Portland, Dorset, UK which runs from 17 to 26 September 2010 and at Festival BAD in Bilbao, Spain in October 2010.