Copycat Academy

A weeklong masterclass with an absent master

Second edition

June 21st – 28th, 2015

Gabriel von Max

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The Copycat Academy
Commissioned and produced by the Luminato Festival and presented by BMO.


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Copycat Academy 2014

A weeklong master class with an absent master

Second edition

A project by Hannah Hurtzig

Date: June 21st - 28th, 2015
The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen St. W.), Toronto, Canada

Each year, Copycat Academy models its curriculum after the work and the biography of a different artist, without his or her consent. The 2014 pilot “hijacked” one of the most influential artist collectives of the late 20th century, the Toronto-based General Idea. The absent master in 2015 will be David Cronenberg and the script for this year’s program is based on his first fiction book Consumed: A Novel (Scribner, 2014).

The relationship between the absent master and the Copycat Academy could be described as one of parasitic inhabitation: participants lodge on the “body” of an oeuvre, in order to experimentally extract an instruction manual for copying processes. In other words, replicating themselves in the host means that they can observe new meanings emerge through bastardization or mutation. However, with Cronenberg, copying is an infectious process, and a dangerous one at that, for it transforms both the identity of the original as well as the status of the copy.

The program/curriculum
On each day of this weeklong experience, participants in the The Copycat Academy will examine a different facet of the program and its underlying thought process. The practical and theoretical investigations, studio visits, physical exercises and discussions will be led by a group of international artists, teachers and facilitators including Marcus Boon, Pedro de Niemeyer Cesarino, Bojana Cveijc, Gisele Gordon, Dr. Mojgan Hodaie, Jochen Roller, Pedro Neves Marques, Kent Monkman, Archer Pechawis, Meg Stuart and Amy Taubin.

The evening program will feature two talks that will be open to the general public. For those wishing to participate, The Copycat Academy will host an Open House Event with all participants on the final day.

Some of the topics and practices covered through the week will include:

  • Investigative performance art practice
  • exercise in thinking out loud along with moving images
  • „antropofagia“ (or the trope about Brazilian history cannibalizing other cultures in defiance of European hegemony)
  • deep brain stimulation and other interfaces of technology and flesh
  • daily bodily practice

The curriculum for this year’s Copycat Academy follows four main protagonists as two couples in Cronenberg’s Consumed: A Novel. Two topics are related to the two couples, which we would like to delve in, somewhere between theoretical fiction, scientific study and experimental art practice: cannibalism and investigation by way of flesh. The two topics are dissociated from Cronenberg’s stories in Consumed. With each new encounter with a philosopher, anthropologist, choreographer, writer or artist, and so on, cannibalism and inquiry into flesh migrate from their original context to a new location. We, which includes the whole academy population, are both agents and witnesses to the uncertainty of such mutation and drifting as far as one could touch the limits of a loose connection with the absent master. Hereby an outline of the two thematic trajectories we will follow and take flight from:

São Paulo
In the case of the French couple, Aristide and Célestine Arosteguy, matrimonial cannibalism is at stake, described in detail in the second part of the novel. The cannibalistic act ends the longstanding relationship of the Post-Marxist philosopher couple and could be both a demonstration of the husband’s eternal love. But it could be as well read as a joint warning and threatening propagandistic gesture towards the direction of the all-consuming West.

The Copycat Academy explores cannibalism against the historical backdrop of its Brazilian variant: the avant-garde art and anthropology movement of Antropofagia. While it went through several stages of transformation in Brazil: first formulated in 1920s in Sao Paulo, then revived in the Tropicalism of the 1960s and eventually reinterpreted as an aesthetic emancipatory strategy for periphery nations in the multicultural 1990s, cannibalism/antropofagia is for the Copycat a concept that undermines the divide between and complicates the relationship between nature and culture from the beginning of the last century.

With: anthropologist Pedro Cesarino (Sao Paolo) and the artist Pedro Neves Marques (New York)

Radebeul and Oujé-Bougoumou
The young lovers are two American journalists, whose way of being could be seen as a floating existence, yet a form of systematized techno-nomadism. Cronenberg calls them parajournalists. De-territorialized to the extent of becoming almost immaterial figures, in their profession they are always searching for bizarre forms of corporeality: extinct STDs, experimental amputation surgeries, illegal organ trade, or near death bodies. The Copycat Academy focalizes their research technique, described as “shag your sources”: this man and this woman penetrate their materials and their sources, they lodge themselves on their interview partners, harming themselves through disease and loss of identity.

In the Copycat Academy we will look at different investigative practices in contemporary performance art: embedded research, participatory observation and re-enactment. We choose to look at a specific case - the German imagery of the “Indianness", for instance, as in the famous novels of Karl Mey – from a queer perspective.

With: the choreographer Jochen Roller, the artist Kent Monkman, and special intervention by the artists Giséle Gordon and Archer Pechawis.

Maybe North Korea
The two thematic trajectories above are journeys which make us detour from the novel only to provide a “safe” return for another, this time more in-depth reading of Consumed. A series of formats, lectures, exercises and experts will “repatriate” Cronenberg’s novel in oblique.

Two afternoon sessions with the New York film critic Amy Taubin, the film theorist Jonathan Beller and the cultural theorist Marcus Boon; a daily bodily practice with choreographer Meg Stuart; “running commentary” as an exercise in navigating rhythms of perception, thought and speech while watching moving images with performance theorist Bojana Cvejic; an introduction into the interface of flesh and technology (DBS) with neurosurgeon Dr. Mojgan Hodaie.

P.S. Let’s underline that we guarantee a safe homecoming to Cronenberg’s novel. At the same time one should also remember that in this novel all the figures are invisible in the end: they elude perception, weaving themselves into the seams of the narration itself. Or we could also say they disappear into the only public and official secret place in this world: North Korea.