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an experimental theatre piece that, in the wake of the Grenfell Tower Fire in London, utilizes visual, sonic, and poetic strategies to interrogate the connection between nationalism and the rigid aesthetics

Rosacea employs landscape gardening techniques as a metaphor for antiquated, often violent national ideals that lead to tragedies such as the Grenfell Tower Fire in London, June 2017. Throughout the piece I attempt to unpack the psychology of nationalism, rooted in shame and feelings of inadequacy, and compare it to the complacency propagated by so-called “social media activism.” I also aim to expose the desensitizing effect of the 24-hour news cycle.  In Rosacea, I use two aesthetic approaches: 1) excess through floral imagery and heightened, classist language; and 2) the minimalist language and gestures of The Observers, who embody three positions of witness.

The piece explores connections between the designation of physical space and a country’s values and/or aesthetics that are applicable to U.S. audiences. Collaborating with artist Melanie Treuhaft on set design, I recently staged this piece as part of The California Institute of the Arts’s first Latinx Arts Festival.

Ostensibly, the Grenfell tragedy resulted from a faulty appliance caught alight. When the blaze spread to outside of the tower, the cladding, foam boards coated in zinc that were recently fitted so as to better sell swanky Kensington and Chelsea high rises, caught fire and lit the building up like a Christmas tree. Within 20 minutes the entire building was ablaze. Residents had been told to stay in their homes and shut the doors, with the false reassurance that any fire within the tower could be contained within an hour. More than 70 people in the 27-story tower block lost their lives. Those lost were mostly low-income immigrants and people of color. A year earlier, when residents had protested the hazardous cladding, the Kensington and Chelsea Council threatened them with legal action.

For more on Rosacea, please see my essay Treating Rosacea: On Beautification, Nationalism, and Creative Resistance published in Speculative Cities

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