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Poverty & Inequality project

Introduced to the world of performance by teachers Romy and Gable Roelofsen, the first years kicked off a project that would result in 3-minute individual performances, based on prior conceptual research. From this performative stage, they fully dove into an extensive research process, being given the far-reaching topic of ‘poverty’ to eventually transform their knowledge into a performative dinner show. Through their artistic research and individual topical field research, the students gradually gained a depth of knowledge and understanding that would help them to fully develop and execute a performance in just a few weeks left to spare. Four groups, five weeks and one show.

After conducting their individual research strategies, five first year students started off the show with their project Escape Poverty. They found that a theme such as poverty so vulnerable and unfathomable cannot be researched thoroughly and completely. Immersive research when it comes to the subject of poverty is unattainable because of its immense complexity, therefore they came to the conclusion that their experiences in “poverty” were temporary and they were in a place of incredible privilege. This was the point where inspiration met and initiated the concept of Escape Poverty. In translating field research into an artistic form, they created a prelude in the form of an escape room. After completing the game, audience members were invited to drinks in a separate space adjacent to the escape room experience where they were welcomed with champagne and strawberries — a very different tone than the “poverty-inspired” game they had just witnessed.

The audience was then led into the “FoodBank” area where another group of first year students served the main course in their performance — Cuisine du Clochard. Inspired by the theme of inequality, this team prepared an unexpected dish for the audience that was determined at random — simulating the feeling associated with economic injustice. In presenting intricate storytelling and various performative elements, they hoped to relay this message to the audience in a confronting and hopefully, insightful way.

On to the next group of students, which served dessert; their experimental aspect of the dinner show focused heavily on poverty related to the prostitution. Their final performance was inspired by their field research — going undercover in an erotic massage parlour as a potential employee. This extremely informative experience led the group to the conclusion that their preconceived view of this lifestyle was widely inaccurate, therefore they tried to break down these same notions. Their artist statement states “We focused on the regulations behind prostitution in the Netherlands in combination with the psychology of dreams”. In the form of spoken word and climactic dramaturgy, they pulled of a truly immersive theatrical experience.

The final student group of first years presented their project entitled, Appetize Empathy in which they hoped to create an open environment where communication between different social groups becomes cohesive rather than divisive. They drew inspiration from the apparent social division between economic classes and how this inhibits us from making potentially meaningful connections. With this in mind, they created an integrative piece where they invited people of all social classes to have dinner together — but with a twist. At the beginning they were all separated from one another by a set of walls that were removed gradually over the course of the meal.

The five weeks leading up to the final presentation day were intensive, but after a successful project such as this, we as a group are excited to find out what is in store for us next.


Written by Isabella de Angelis
iArts first year student