Therapist, dramatist and performer Hector Aristizábal's 30-minute "Nightwind" performance piece is a simulation to and perspective on his (and his brother's) three-day torture at the hands of the U.S.-backed Colombian military back in 1982. Aristizábal will present "Nightwind" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, at Lupton Auditorium, Lupton Hall, Oglethorpe University. A Q&A and artist reception will follow.
How long have you been performing "Nightwind"? It started as an improvisation three years ago after I saw the Abu Ghraib pictures. Then it has developed into the 30-minute piece and the workshop afterward. I have performed all over the U.S. and Canada and will take it to Europe [later this month] and to India in February '08.
What's the challenge of making a performance about torture something other than simply a repulsive thing to experience by the audience? Theater is the best weapon I know as an activist, since it engages the imagination rather than telling people what to do. Acting is also the most healing practice I have encountered in my many experiences. All of these combine in a ritual where I invite others to participate in my own reflections over my life, and in that way it becomes a healing ritual for me as well as for the audience.
What's the most consistent response you get from audience members after having seen your performance? So far I have received a very powerful and positive response from all types of audiences. Since the piece opens the heart, people are more willing to perhaps listen to points of view completely opposite to theirs. I don't argue with them from an ideological position, but I share the contradictions of my own experience. I then invite people to make their own decisions.
Is this your only form of political activism or expression, through performance art? Or do you participate in other activities? I participate in vigils all over the country, civil disobedience, marches and other forms. But I always bring either plays, or storytelling or stilt walking, and always drumming as part of my form of resistance. We have to make the revolution irresistible. Beauty is the most subversive weapon we ever had. We have to re-engage imagination in the current binary discourse of good an evil, we and them, etc.
How did becoming a parent help you deal with so much inner rage? The dream of my children, their innocent eyes, their unconditional love and their desire for me have often healed any blind rage I feel possessed by at times.
You've been quoted as saying, "A society that allows torture creates, both for the torturer and the survivor, a society that is torturing itself, its own human values." While you dismiss the "ticking bomb" scenario of needing to use torture to prevent a terrorist attack, what would you do if anything remotely representing that scenario presented itself? I am more interested in looking at the kind of world we have created where some people feel so much hate, so much despair as to be willing to sacrifice themselves or to commit massacres by killing innocent people.