15 minutes with Edouard Louis (rough translation)

Half-past five on a drizzly Tuesday afternoon at Leidseplein. Half of the Dutch ‘intelligentsia’ are probably already moving towards the capital to listen to a man in the International Theater of Amsterdam who discusses the contemporary themes of our time - gaps between rich and poor, city and countryside, inequality, meritocracy, deindustrialization, but above all politics as a form of violence - and painfully illustrates them through his own history as a class migrant whose father and mother have been physically, financially and emotionally abused by a state that does not care about the people of his family, and the people from the village and region in which he grew up: Edouard Louis, is his name.


I cross the tram tracks towards the theatre, close my umbrella and sit at the window with two friends. Coffee and tea are ordered, coats are hung.

Suddenly the front door of the theater is roughly slammed shut. Two chairs are placed against it, an employee comes to our table and says, "We need to go to the back, please come along, there's something going on in the Apple Store." The whole thing lasts 3 hours: where, at first, we see people lying on the floor from the window - a robbery, or a hostage situation? people are talking - we have to go deeper into the theater 15 minutes later, and wait behind the burgundy curtains. While gradually more and more people are given the opportunity to make their way into the night through the back entrance, the organization of the ITA tells us: Louis wants to let the performance go ahead. Because we have to stay inside from the police, the public is welcome.


Art is alienating. It introduces us to things we may not have known before and can make us think. It can temporarily place us outside of the individual self, in a world where certain norms have shifted, where stories that are commonplace on the street are questioned on stage, in a world that is not ours but can be ours. You feel such power when the lights of an almost empty International Theater suddenly go out, a woman on stage begins to speak - if neoliberalism were a person, would Edouard Louis spit on it? Has Louis forgiven his parents? Who is Edouard Louis? - a man plays the young homosexual 'Eddy Belleguele', who was continuously ravaged at school for ten minutes - fag, gay - and you then follow the interview between Louis and Marcia Luyten: you are suddenly no longer concerned with the hostage situation that is taking place a hundred meters away that literally and figuratively represents the potential of violence that an open and complex society always harbors. Which always lurks when we as a society accept that we don't protect everything, that we dare to allow 'friction', that we sometimes want to put freedom and alienation and uncertainty above safety.

The value of art and alienation is important in a world that feels more and more insecure, unfree, and unsafe. Because there is so much uncertainty, because it is possible for a leader in Russia to create a chain of events that could potentially lead to a World War, we as individuals may be more and more inclined to seek order and seek ease. That order and convenience are also offered to us, from flash delivery apps to streaming services. Our lives are becoming more frictionless, with less and less resistance, while the forces that act upon us still contain the potential of (political) violence just as much - whether that is because of the long-built-up tension on the geopolitical tectonic plates is released, or because of inequality.


There may be a lesson hidden in Edouard Louis's work for all of us, one in which it becomes clear what the power of political resistance can be, coupled with a sharp analysis of how politics and culture can be both the catalyst for more violence and 'frictionless' lives, as well as its renewal.

I don't think it's for nothing that Louis wanted the performance to go ahead. Not letting the show go ahead would in a sense be like the young Eddy Belleguele that never would have entered the international stage, never rebelled against his bullies, and against a political system that performs political violence on people in the form of austerity and poverty. Not letting the show go on is like a society that is increasingly yielding to the comforts of security and order, to the freedom and unpredictability that cities and citizens and art can produce. As a society and political community that does not fight back against authoritarian and land-grabbing leaders.


The fact that the police had to cut off the performance after half an hour does not change any of that.


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