We caught up with poet and performance artist Jorge Clar in his home in New York, and talked about words, sounds, and image. An ideal for living. Initially, you came to New York because you wanted to be close to the disco scene. That was…..
Kabarett der Namenlosen
Ever since the beginning of Et Alors? Magazine we have had a soft spot for singer, model, bon vivant and muse Le Pustra. Being inspired by the same artists and artwork such as the Oskar Schlemmer’s costumes for the Bauhaus movement, Georges Méliès, Klaus Nomi and Leigh Bowery, we always make sure to keep in touch with his work in progress and latest endeavors. Leave your inhibitions at the door and say welcome to Le Pustra’s Kabarett der Namenlosen.
It’s the first time I’ve seen you without make-up, which is quite weird, but I guess you get that a lot.
All the time. I guess when people see the make-up, they don’t ponder on the fact that it’s not real. Like they expect to see me in white make-up all the time. It’s quite interesting really because it’s the same thing with movie stars where people fall in love with the image. The reality is quite different though.
In reality you’re a different person to the one you are on stage?
The last 4 or 5 years it’s definitely ‘me’ but with make-up on. In the beginning it was more a character as such. More exaggerated. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. Time brought me more confidence and I’m more relaxed now, yet I’m not one of those performers who have to be on stage all the time. I’m very happy to be natural, at home and be quiet. For me it’s not a lifestyle.
Tell me about your new project.
In 2012 I went on a Christopher Isherwood-tour through Schöneberg, Berlin. He went there in 1929 and wrote Goodbye to Berlin in 1939. During the tour, the guide mentioned the Kabarett der Namenlosen – the Cabaret of the Nameless – and it intrigued me very much. Little information is available but this Cabaret existed from 1926 till 1933. It was one of the most disreputable yet very successful shows because the host, Erich ‘Elow’ Lowinsky, would put talentless or disabled performers on stage just so the audience could make fun of them. It was a bit like today’s talent shows where people let themselves be humiliated on TV, just because they want to be famous. When I read the story of the Kabarett it was not exactly what I wanted to do, but I really liked the title as such.
You moved from London to Berlin. Why there?
It’s difficult producing new shows in London nowadays. The scene is so oversaturated and there’s too much happening all the time that people get bored. So it’s really a struggle to get people’s attention, and if you do it’s very fleeting. When I ended up in Berlin last year it all came together. I contacted Else Edelstahl from Bohème Sauvage – Berlin’s biggest 1920 party concept for over ten years now – pitched my idea and she was interested. Plus we found a beautiful venue called Ballhaus Berlin, a gorgeous building from 1905 and an original ballroom from the ’20’s, so it all sort of came together very easily. The city is having its moment in the spotlight and if you are very motivated it’s a perfect place to create something. All the opportunities are there.
Tell me about your fascination for the ’20’s?
Coming out of the restrictive and repressed Victorian/Edwardian period and then the First World War, it must have been an exhilarating, liberal time. Especially for homosexual men – who were finally able to have easier access to gay sex. Berlin suddenly became this Sodom and Gomorra where you could live out every filthy fantasy that you ever had. In contained spaces that is. But the reality was that Berlin was gripped in poverty and struggle. We tend to only focus on the glamourous side of the ‘Golden Twenties’ in Berlin but cabaret was mostly enjoyed by the privileged and the rich. I think we all have different ideals and fantasies of different times. We may fantasize about the ’60’s or ’70’s for example. For me, this show is my fantasy of the 1920’s. It’s what I envision. I wanted to present it in a fresh way by mixing a lot of contemporary music and live original ’20’s songs with a lot of dark undertones. I really took all my inspirations including fashion, film, music, and put it all together. And it worked. The show really transports you back to that thrilling and interesting time.
This show is a stepping-stone to you becoming more and more of a producer?
More than anything it was a personal challenge. For the last 10 years I’ve performed in other people’s shows, therefor you’re never really in control of the environment. Promoters cast you as one of your personas but the setting is not your own world and a 5-minute performance is not that satisfying, not to me anyway. I’ve changed a lot over the years and I want to establish myself as a producer and a creative director. Basically it’s about using all the experience I’ve gained which – I’ve been lucky – are many different skills. For me it’s the perfect time to move on to the next step and create something that satisfies me. This show has given me a lot of opportunity to blosom into something new. To keep evolving and reinventing myself. Like Madonna.
‘For me it’s the perfect time to move on to the next step and create something that satisfies me. This show has given me a lot of opportunity to blosom into something new.’
The show is a success, I guess that makes you proud?
First and foremost it was a validation. You always have to prove yourself and as an artist there’s always this doubt that never goes away. So the result was good and it showed me that you can do a lot of things if only you believe in yourself. I know this sounds cheesy but it really did affirm my abilities. You don’t know if it’s going to succeed. There are no guarantees with artistic endeavors. I wanted to put great performers like Bridge Markland, Lada Redstar and Reverso – who possibly wouldn’t normally collaborate – together. It’s a mixture of disciplines, aesthetics and oh a lot of nudity. Naturally.
The nudity is not presented in a sleazy way, it’s part of the whole experience. After a while you just don’t even notice it anymore. In a lot of productions nudity feels so sanitized nowadays, so I wanted to see how far I could go. It’s not a question of trying to be provocative, it’s just an essential part of Berlin Cabarets from the Weimar-era, to which I’m staying as true as i can. In Kabarett, the performances are happening around the audience, the spectator is part of my darkly twisted and sexy little world. They are transported back into a Weimar ‘nachtlokal’ and my intention is to have the audience forgetting where they are by creating a disorientating smoke bubble and moving art. It’s not a traditional Cabaret but a complete theatrical experience and the moment you walk in, it’s already happening.
What are you plans for the show?
I want to establish it in Berlin as a main theatre show. Tourists go to Berlin in search of the movie Cabaret but are unable to find it. You’d be amazed to see how many people are actually searching the Internet to see where Sally Bowles performs, while she doesn’t even exist. Now it’s quite interesting that an Ausländer – which I am – has created this vision. A lot of Germans don’t have a clue of their city’s rich and naughty Cabaret history. I think the fact that I have a direct link to the grandchildren of ‘Elow’ who created the original cabaret – his granddaughter found me on the Internet – makes me a good candidate to keep this piece of history alive. Since we tend to romanticize this period I wanted to make my show a ‘surreal version of what i want it to be’. I’m also producing a Revue version of the show, with myself and my fabulous pianist, Charly Voodoo, which can tour anywhere. And the third idea is to offer Kabarett as the ulitmate luxury show for private events and clients thus making the show versatile and creating more job opportunities in the process.
Aiming big. I like that.
If you really believe in your vision and are focused, something good ought to come out of it. If you compromise too much it translates and the end result becomes sloppy. I think I’m confident enough now not to compromise anymore. It’s a hard thing to do for a lot of performers because you are scared you won’t get booked again but you need to find a balance between being very assertive in what you do and being able to communicate this in a polite and professional way. But you need the confidence to say no. Artists will always be challenged and I sometimes wonder why I have all these talents and can’t make a living out of it. But I’ve accepted that this is who I am and just get on with it. I feel I’ve come too far now to stop and you never know when your big break will come. From this moment on I just want to enjoy what I’m doing. And if it pays the rent, then that’s great. There was a time when I wanted fame, now it’s not my priority anymore.
If it’s not fame, then what is it?
I think you can call it destiny. This is what I’m supposed to do. It’s as simple as that. It’s just who I am and I know that if I would stop, I would be very unhappy. It’s something that’s part of you and I’ve accepted that. Sometimes it can be pretty scary because as an artist there are no guarantees, you’re constantly stressed about money, and then there’s this whole issue about being validated. But I’ve accepted this and have completely surrendered to it. Once you get over it, you can get on with the more important things.
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