Performance and text by Rapha Rodrigues
Translation by Danielle Cascaes
Dead Tired was a performative experience about exhaustion that took place on December 6, 2022, at Escola de Teatro e Dança da UFPA (School of Theater and Dance of UFPA) – ETDUFPA, under the guidance of Professor Ana Karine Jansen de Amorim, as a result of the Performance course. This course was offered in the Theater Education degree at Universidade Federal do Pará (Federal University of Pará) – UFPA during the 6th semester, following the new Pedagogical Political Project (PPP) that started in 2019. In the same year, the student and performer of this work, Rapha Rodrigues, artistic name of Rafael Bruno Rodrigues dos Reis, joined the program. Originally from Belém, but having crossed rivers and roads to Cametá, he is currently living in the Ananindeua district, metropolitan area of Belém.
His journey as a student, actor, and performer at UFPA includes both the technical high school program in Theater during the afternoon and the Theater Education program during the evening. Besides university studies, he is engaged in non-mandatory paid internships during the day, as well as religious and theatrical activities on weekends, making for a packed weekly schedule during the performance course period. It’s a busy schedule with many activities, which can be exhausting.
According to the Brazilian Dictionary of the Portuguese Language, the word “cansaço” (tiredness) represents “fatigue caused by excess work, exercise, or illness,” which, by the end of the semester, was the reality not only for Rapha but for the entire academic community. South Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han, in his book “The Burnout Society” (2015), argues the concept of tiredness, which is the body’s response to the excess of positivity and pressure imposed by society.
If walking through ETDUFPA’s spaces, you can always hear someone mentioning how tired they were. This state of tiredness and exhaustion was a common point among teachers, students, staff, and the school’s general services team. Everyone was, as the popular saying goes, “dead tired.”
Eckert, Peruchin, and Mecca (2020) conducted a study with students at a Community University in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, regarding the stress caused in the academic environment. In this quantitative research, 16% were in an alert state, 36% showed some resistance, 9% were in a near-exhausted state, and 12% were considered exhausted.
Fatigue was the central theme chosen by the performer for the final evaluation, and to address fatigue, the idea conceived was dangerous, as it would subject him to an exhaustive and vulnerable state. The performance script began with a walk, serving as fuel for the performer to become tired, eventually arriving at the location where he would lie on the ground and wait for someone to outline the silhouette of his body on the floor with charcoal. The silhouette represented a body that had just died, as if it were a homicide scene, but the cause of death would be fatigue itself.
Regarding the day of the performative act: it was the first Tuesday of December. A cloudy day in a rainy week, which seemed to be one of the obstacles to the realization of said performance. At 6:00 am, Rapha Rodrigues initiated the first stage of his performance: walking from his home (in the Quarenta Horas neighborhood of Ananindeua) to ETDUFPA (in the Umarizal neighborhood of Belém), which amounted to a three-hour walk between the two points of the route. This walk was inspired by the performances presented by Artur Dória in the classroom.
As he walked through the city’s urban environment, one could perceive how exhausting it was, how accelerated, relentlessly frantic. The act of walking in this urban space had a specific purpose: to induce exhaustion in the performer for the second stage of the work. According to Mota (2016, p. 58), the walker is:
“Someone who walks,” challenging, unraveling, and discordantly navigating this urban scenario marked by woes and undesirable hostilities to the body, I call a walker. By this, I do not refer to everyone who walks daily out of necessity, such as someone going from home to work, but to a specific type, one who engages in walking as an act or intention, who traverses the city spaces to experience them not as a function but as an invention, without aiming for specific objectives.
During the first stage, Rapha also represented the performer’s daily routine: he would wake up at 5:30 AM, so that by 6:30 AM he could catch the bus and head to his internship. The bus was often crowded and hot, and sometimes it was necessary to take two types of transportation. These early hours were already tiring.
In the second stage of the performance, Rapha laid on the school’s courtyard ground, where there was a box containing sunscreen, fruit, a water bottle, an umbrella, and a bag of charcoal, all of which contributed to the performance. As a result, the performer’s body was exposed to all kinds of weather changes (rain, sun), hunger, and thirst, sensations sometimes experienced at school in a regular day.
During the course, Professor Karine Jansen presented various examples of performers and their performance acts, such as Marina Abramović and her performance “Lips of Thomas.” In reality, Abramović was the inspiration that gave the performer the strength to carry out the performance, as “Lips of Thomas” pushed the physical limits of the performer.
To guide the audience on what they should do with that bodies on the ground, some signs were placed on the walls of the school as prompts, with phrases like “How long has it been since you had time for yourself?” “Do you feel tired?” “Excess of positivity,” or simply a silhouette drawing near the performer’s body (Figure 1).
Some of the phrases were based on Byung-Chul Han’s book, “The Burnout Society.” Han (2015) views the 21st century as the society’s century of positivity and performance. Unlike the 20th century, which was characterized by an immunological society, negativity, diseases of otherness and strangeness, the 21st century is marked by an excess of positivity and neuronal diseases (depression, hyperactivity syndrome, and burnout syndrome) that can be more violent and dangerous for the individual, as “violence does not only come from negativity but also from positivity, not only from the other or the stranger but also from the same” (HAN, 2015, p. 3).
Based on these indications, the audience interacted with the performance by drawing a silhouette that surrounded the performer’s body on the ground, which would not move until someone drew over it. The performer filled the courtyard and the parking lot with silhouettes placed close to each other, totaling approximately a hundred silhouettes (Figure 2).
Han (2015, p. 8-9) talks about the exhaustion of obeying oneself due to performance pressure. We pressure ourselves to perform a certain task well and forget that we are beings of failure too. This pressure leads us to tiredness, exhaustion, and fatigue. For this performance, the pressure was to reach the graduation cap, an important symbol for the academic, which was located in front of ETDUFPA’s Library, on the opposite side of where the performer begun the performative act, separated by an extensive parking lot (Figure 3).
Therefore, the goal was to fill up the entire courtyard and parking lot with the silhouettes of the performer’s body, or the body of anyone else who wanted to lie on the ground alongside him. A significant amount of time was required to achieve this goal, totalizing 12 hours of performative act.
We know that performances can have unexpected and completely different outcomes from what was initially expected, because it is a dynamic, living art that depends, most of the time, on the audience. It was expected that the people circulating around campus would get really involved, and it can be said that the performance did mobilized the school on this day, where you could see people’s concern for the performer’s safety (Figure 4).
DICIONÁRIO BRASILEIRO DA LÍNGUA PORTUGUESA. Verbete “Cansaço”. Disponível em: https://michaelis.uol.com.br/busca?id=GQP3. Acesso em: 18.dez 2022.
ECKERT, Alex; PERUCHIN, Morgana; MECCA, Marlei Salete. O estresse no ambiente acadêmico e seus reflexos nos alunos de uma Universidade Comunitária Gaúcha. Revista UNEMAT de contabilidade. 9(17). (FALTA O ANO). Disponível em: https://doi.org/10.30681/ruc.v9i17.4297. Acesso em: 18.dez 2022.
HAN, Byung-Chul. Sociedade do cansaço. Trad. Enio Paulo Giachini. Petrópolis, RJ: vozes, 2015. Acesso em: 15.fev 2023.
MOTA, Artur Dória. Paisagens caminhantes. 2016. 215f. Dissertação (Mestrado) – Universidade Federal do Ceará, Programa de Pós-graduação em Artes, Fortaleza (CE), 2016.