The Urban Laboratory for Law’s Decoding loans influence from forum theatre (as conceived by the influential drama theorist Augusto Boal). It aims to collectively imagine democratic reformation through the proposition and amendment of laws, responding to the prevailing state of estrangement restraining many from accessing legal systems — the law guarded by mighty gatekeepers, as portrayed in Kafka’s well-known polemic. The project proposes participation in performative scenes whereby law experts, performance artists and community members engage in debates on cultural citizenship and rights in the EU.
ULLD aims to bring performance to the heart of the city, to produce dynamisation and, in addition, to provide the participants with tools and knowledge, and to develop their desire for change that is transitive. Imagining oneself as a performer of change requires direct participation in power structures. The project proposes participation in performative scenes whereby law experts, performance artists and community members engage in debates, examine and propose law reforms. Debates on cultural citizenship and rights in the EU help us frame our understanding of the past. Such cases provide an insight into how the most privileged social demographics negotiate the distribution of civil rights in such a manner that marginalised groups are rendered legally powerless.
Performativity is characteristic of both theatre and law; both performance art and law operate as spaces in which imagination evokes a relay of interpretations and (re)actions. Augusto Boal proposed a method whereby spectators could participate in generating solutions for the protagonist, performing alongside actors to observe the feasibility of options and interpretations. ‘Legislative Theatre’ is the most remarkable stage in Augusto Boal’s ‘Forum Theater’; it is an attempt to use theatre within a political system to create a truer form of democracy. It is an extraordinary experiment in the potential of theatre to affect social change, bring theatre back into the centre of political action — the centre of decisions — by making theatre as politics.
The first iteration of the Laboratory will take place in Amsterdam, themed around migration laws. The project has an international scope, which include an invitation to develop the project together with the CAMP (Centre of Art on Migration Politics), Copenhagen, and The National Gallery for Art, Tirana.