- Biodrama. Proyecto Archivos. Seis documentales escénicos by Vivi Tellas
When in 2003 the Argentine theatre director Vivi Tellas invited me to write about a seemingly minor documentary piece she had crafted in her studio in Buenos Aires, I could not have imagined that the intimate and precarious piece featuring the director’s own mother and aunt would become such a crucial landmark on the local performing arts scene. More than sixteen years later, Mi mamá y mi tía stands as the inaugural piece of Proyecto Archivos, a performative series that specialists Pamela Brownell and Paola Hernández define as one of the most influential since the turn of the century (11).
In Biodrama. Proyecto Archivos. Seis documentales escénicos, Brownell and Hernández gather together the first six performances composing the project: Mi mamá y mi tía (2003), Tres filósofos con bigotes (2004), Cozarinksy y su médico (2005), Escuela de conducción (2006), Mujeres guía (2008), and Disc Jockey (2008). The initiative was not, however, as simple as it might sound. As Tellas was never particularly interested in the written dimension of her work, in most cases these minimalist productions were not full-fledged dramatic pieces, but rough texts to be used as a guide in the performance space. Brownell and Hernández hence worked together with Tellas to reach the final version of the collection. As the authors themselves note in their Introduction, this editorial endeavour became an archival work in its own right (33).
The result is quite fascinating: an organic and playful archival volume with multiple entries in which the aftermath of the six documentaries-en-scène also resonates in selected essays, written by renowned scholars including Brenda Werth, Beatriz Trastoy, Jean Graham-Jones, Julie Ann Ward, María Fernanda Pinta, Federico Baeza, Graciela Montaldo, and Javier Guerrero. The collection also features an interview, conducted in 2007 by the writer Alan Pauls, which is published for the first time in its entirety in Spanish. There, Tellas reveals her endless will to find theatricality outside theatre, her conviction that each person constitutes their own archive (273), and also her account on the “Umbral mínimo de la ficción,” what she calls that threshold zone in which “la realidad misma parece ponerse a hacer teatro” (274).
What makes this carefully edited volume particularly timely is its revival of Tellas’ passion for archives, when she had in fact dropped the term, embracing instead the notion of Biodrama to define her broad, long-term project. [End Page 152] Thus, the volume succeeds in recovering Tellas as a curatorial pioneer in the local field. The volume, however, does not recognize the emergence of Biodrama in its specific context as a response to the critical aftermath of the 2001 crisis, in which Tellas anticipated the “uses [of] theatre to explore the possibilities of rebuilding a sense of community” (See article by Philippa Page in LATR, vol. 50, no. 2, 2017). In any case, the inspiration of this volume will appeal not only to theatre experts, but also to those who share a transnational passion for personal (and political) lives on and beyond the stage, when vulnerability and failure become the main protagonists.