"I've discovered that I'm a buffoon," Octavio Campos told me on Thursday morning during a four-hour debrief after his return from a 2-month residency in Australia. Not that he felt like a fool for going Down Under. Quite the contrary: his performances at the Melbourne Fringe Festival confirmed his twin commitments to 1) Miami and 2) cabaret.
I've been thinking about Miami as a cabaret town for a while now. Since the deadline for next summer's performance studies international conference is coming up, I thought maybe that idea might fit into the conference theme of performance and the culture industry. Adorno is not a cabaret kind of guy, so I turned to Benjamin and came up with Ernest Bloch's review of Benjamin's One-Way Street, called "Philosophy as Cabaret."
Here's Bloch: Cabaret may be employed as one of the most open and – contrary to its own intentions—most honest forms of the present: it then becomes the mirror of that empty space in which nothing can be made whole without a lie and where only fragments can still meet and intermingle.
Octavio told me that he told his audience in Melbourne that they were going to have a salsa party to some Cuban music -- and the Australians nodded earnestly. Then he played Olga Tañon's "Mentiroso" (Liar).
I almost fell off my chair laughing. Of course, there's no reason why the Australians would know that Olga is Puerto Rican or that the song is a merengue, or that merengue is Dominican.
Then when Octavio had them all dancing happily, he cut out the lights and plunged them into blackness, theater of cruelty-style. With a sinister voice, he announced: "I lied. I told you I was going to tell you the true story of the Bay of Pigs, but I'm not going to tell you the true story."
What else could he do, hailing from this empty space where only lies can make us whole?