Performance in Martinique

Excellence, Audacity and Transgression​

FIAP is Martinique’s own festival dedicated to performance art. The festival is a meeting point for local and international artists to create site-specific performances together while strengthening non-institutional networks. C&AL spoke to the curators Annabel Guérédrat and Henri Tauliaut about performance as the artistic medium most accessible to the public and bringing the Worlds of Aqua (water), the Iguana, Afropunk and Techno Shamanism into this year’s festival.

C&AL: You are artists too. How does that sensibility play into your role as curator?

AG/HT: As curators, it is important for us to maintain a family atmosphere at our festival. There is no star. Everyone is at the same level, in a good-natured atmosphere, serene, where we take care of each other.

C&AL: The Caribbean has a very particular relationship to performance. How do the traditions relate to performance as an artistic medium?

AG/HT: We wanted to develop the art of performance here in the Caribbean since it seems to be the best medium to reach the audience locally. Painting, sound and sculpture in contemporary art remain elitist. Performance art is more easily accessible to the audience, who is attracted by living art and knows the concept of the ritual via local magico-religious practices and via our Carnival.

Moreover, performance art in the Caribbean is a mixed practice, incorporating visual arts, sound, dance, theatre etc.… Like during our Carnival, or in our sacred practices which do not derive from the Western world. That’s why the interconnections are easier, between performance art and the audience here. The body is at the center. There is no representation. It is real. The audience is more touched and moved by this specific artistic practice with the body, which is performance art.

C&AL: How does Martinique’s performance culture relate to other cultures in the Caribbean?

AG/HT: We use three words to describe our festival of performance art here in Martinique (which is part of the French West Indies in the Caribbean): excellence, audacity and transgression​. Performance art is totally adapted to what we want to transmit and express. As a ritual practice that incorporates the body, time and space in performance art and culture, we use our bodies to involve and affect the audience, for instance, by moving in extreme slow motion or by walking. We invented four worlds through our performance art practice (the Aqua, Iguana, Afropunk and Techno Shamanism Worlds). During Carnival, which takes place every year during five days, we did a performance, and it was one of the best examples of what we’re doing with our performance art in Martinique. Many other Caribbean islands have their Carnival at the same time, and their Carnivals also question the art of performance.

The Festival International d’Art Performance (FIAP) took place in Martinique from November 5-11, 2019.

Will Furtado is the deputy editor of Contemporary And and is based in Berlin.​