Beyond the veil: baseCollective aims to draw a line between fact and fiction in Adishakti’s latest festival

Adishakti poses pertinent questions and aims to challenge perceptions of truth through their latest collaboration with the base-Collective

Karan Pillai Published :  06th March 2020 03:04 PM   |   Published :   |  06th March 2020 03:04 PM
Susanne Valerie Granzer

Susanne Valerie Granzer

In an era of deep fakes and unabashed manipulation of information, the ‘truth’ has never been as vulnerable as it is today. Which is why the baseCollective’s cross-disciplinary research festival, called Truth & Lies in Times of Fake News, couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. Featuring an exhaustive line-up of theatre performances, talks, exhibitions and art installations that touch upon the theme in their own unique way, this event is the debut edition of the festival and is the latest in a long line of interesting and promising projects showcased at Adishakti for the past few years. That said, this is not the baseCollective’s first Adishakti project; they did complete another three-month residency at the venue last year, which culminated in a retrospective production called Love Matters. Ahead of the upcoming festival, we caught up with Arno Böhler who shared an insightful take on the purpose of the festival and what the audience can take away from the two-day programme. Excerpts from the interview: 

What’s the primary inspiration behind adopting this subject for the festival?
For a long time in human history, the truth was considered unquestionably a virtue. It was a value that everybody should respect and strive toward. In the 19th century, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche started to question precisely this prejudgment: “Why truth?” “Why should we not prefer to mask ourselves?” “Would life still be worthy to live, if we would lose the option to disguise ourselves?” “And the arts?” “Are the arts not about fiction and about transcending facts?” “Is creativity 
possible at all without masking facts, yourself, others?”  But how can we distinguish between creating fiction artistically and the faking of facts that takes place in post-truth times? It is the need of this discrimination between fiction and facts that motivated us to dedicate our three months residential programme on arts-based-philosophy here at Adishakti on this.

Arno Böhler  (in white)

What’s the core message that you want to share through this festival? How effective do you expect it to be in fulfilling its purpose?
We are a collective of philosophers and artistes. Researches from India and Europe, who came together to reflect a subject that seems significant, not only for us but also for our post-truth times. The distinction between facts, fiction and fakes is such an issue, that matters to us all. We are all overloaded with conflictual information on almost every issue, that shows up. We do not experience reliable, stable interpretations anymore. Which is not just a loss, but also the freedom of ‘free speech’ and liberal societies.

How can one decide, in the middle of today’s information age, whether the interpretation of an event is true, or at least legitimate? Whether it is erroneous, or just a fake — that is to say, information that is deliberately disseminated to reverse the handed-down meaning of a fact. In our readings, we also discussed the motivations behind fake facts. Probably a fact will be displaced, unconsciously or deliberately, because it counters someone’s interests; or due to ideological reasons; or one fakes a fact deliberately to weaken a force, one has identified the other as their enemy. The question of ideology started to matter a lot, and how one can distinguish it from the processes of ‘truth-telling’.

The other issue we were interested in was the relation of the art to facts? Because the arts obviously do not only mirror facts, they rather create counter-facts, Heterotopia (Foucault), in which untimely alternatives to the status quo of our societies pop up. Artistic practices — by calling an untimely future into being — do actually not fake facts, they transcend facts. They might work with facts but in a fictional manner. 

It is this distinction between faking facts and calling an untimely future into being that became a core issue for our festival and the relation of arts to ‘truth-telling’. To make this distinction visible, by sharing, reflecting, thematising it conceptually and artistically in a thoughtful and sensible manner, is 
the effect we are intending to produce through the course of our festival.

Susanne in an earlier performance

On what basis did you set about curating the performances? 
The festival has been curated as a gathering of artists and scholars who have attended the baseCollective residency programmes here in Tamil Nadu in the last four years. All researchers who are performing at the festival have been called in to develop a research field at this year’s festival, in which questions posed about the theme become vibrant. The audience, entering our research-field at the festival, is called to become researchers themselves. They are expected to enter a reflective mode of being, ready to confront themselves with the questions at stake in the festival, so that these questions start to matter to us all — the performers and the audience. Finally, the audience itself is meant to 
become a thoughtful member of our baseCollective research field.

Lastly, which are the performances that you are most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to all the performances. The festival opens with Future-Box (February 29, 2.30 pm), a lecture-performance, in which four of our members will articulate major concerns for our festival. Namely the distinction between facts, fakes and promises (fiction) and ideology, which displace unpleasant facts in order to adopt reality in accordance to their own (political) interests. The Future Box is a performative lecture, in which electro-musician Nina Bauer, two actresses Susanne Valerie Granzer & Ruchita, along with me, will strive towards a cosmopolitan future, in which world-citizenship has replaced the fact that citizenship today is a matter of nationalities.

February 29 to March 1. At Adishakti.