Cristina Maldonado trades in the unpredictable
Theater performances are tailored to one person at a time
Posted: October 2, 2013
Personalized performances take place in 'The Stranger Gets a Gift Service.'
By Morgan Childs
For The Post
Cristina Maldonado, the Mexican-born artist behind The Stranger Gets a Gift Service, stands onstage at Divadlo Alfred ve Dvoře and makes a good-faith effort to describe her event: part performance, part media installation, and most importantly, part public service. Maldonado wryly recounts the pains she took to list the performance in the classifieds section of a local newspaper without revealing The Stranger's content. The performance, Maldonado explained matter-of-factly, was an intimate service designed to meet a need of an individual. The editor, she notes in a deadpan, had no trouble categorizing such a service (entirely inaccurately, it should be said).
The task of classifying Maldonado's three-part series, onstage now at Alfred, poses a challenge only incrementally smaller than describing what the experience entails. In each of "Amuleto," "Reminiscencia," and "Interruptor," Maldonado engages directly with her audience - always restricted to one person at a time - and manipulates sound and visual media in order to perform a service for him or her. The goal, explains Maldonado, is to create individualized experiences that the audience can put to use, and The Stranger is Maldonado's effort to establish "an entity that offers these devices as a service." Art, says Maldonado, is as essential a part of life as a trip to the passport office, the post office, to the dentist or to the barber's. Audience members can select the service which most appeals to them and make a reservation for a session with the artist online.
Maldonado has lived and worked in Prague for the majority of the last decade, and the artist developed The Stranger over the course of 2013 as a resident of MOTUS, Alfred ve Dvoře's initiative for the dramaturgy and production of the "living arts," as well as in residencies in Cyprus, Portugal, and Armenia. Following its limited run in Prague, the series will move to Mexico, where Maldonado intends to continue its development. But introducing The Stranger, which straddles the boundary between theatre, performance, and installation art, poses a challenge each time Maldonado takes the project on the road.
"We need to create gaps in our daily lives to exist without protocols and predictable situations," says Maldonado. In The Stranger's intimate exchanges between artist and audience, predictability and precedent elude the latter entirely.
Morgan Childs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org