Fight Fire with Fire: Cie Carabosse at Womadelaide (Interview)

Cie Carabosse go beyond firepots and flashworks with their Exodus of Forgotten Peoples installation

cie carabosse

Womadelaide doesn’t stop expanding mental horizons when you get out of earshot of the stages.

Trebuchet’s Adelaide correspondent fits in a visit between acts to see Cie Carabosse‘s fire/sculpture installation.


On Thursday, we conducted a very pleasant interview with Jerome, one of the designers of the work. He told us that he had been here in 2016 in order to ‘imagine’ the space and the way that the installation would work, given that he felt that it needed a quieter place, away from the musical acts, so spectators could contemplate the implications of the work in relative peace.

Although Carabosse are presenting a much smaller installation than in previous years, this show is, in its own way, just as powerful. There are still some of the primary ‘Installations De Feu’ but a vital ingredient of this show are the figures that symbolize displaced people. Entitled Exodus of Forgotten Peoples – a production that the company first presented in 2013, Jerome explained that the situation pertaining to displaced people is now even more important than it was back then.

‘It grew’ he said ‘and it became more complex. Now the need to present this message, given the international situation is something that we needed to continue to explore’.

Of course given the basic tenets of Womadelaide, celebration of diversity and multiculturalism, it was natural that the Womadelaide organizers more or less gave Carabosse a free hand in the design and content of the work. I asked him what was the company’s general ethos in designing their work, did they have one person who comes up with the concepts or are the group more of a collective who are given input into developing new works?

‘We work more as a collective, the company encourages each member to take the initiative to design new works, the work shown at Womadelaide was developed in partnership with another company member and it has evolved as events changed’.

I visited the installation three times during the weekend and each time I heard people declaring their admiration out loud. A great deal of this is the fascination that we humans have for the fundamental elements that are used by the company.
I posed the question:
‘Why fire’?

‘Well it is one of the basic elements of life and it also holds an element of danger, for which we are perhaps excessively protected against in these times. I think our work allows people to come in contact with these elements in a controlled way, to get close, to experience its power and beauty and to be safe at the same time’.

We see Jerome on the big chimney on Monday night and he is responsible for some of the best ‘chimney fireballs’ of the weekend.

But tonight, we concentrate on the ‘Exodus’ portion of the installation. When we saw it before the festival began (during the day) it lost much of its power, but in the darkness with low illumination from strategically placed fire pots, the anonymous, hammer headed, low necked wooden figures assume a degree of despair, desperation, pathos and humiliation that I would not have thought possible. Its also a production that evolves over time.CIE Carabosse

Briefly, the wooden figures have obstacles in their way, fences, boats…distances. But just know that this wasn’t a static situation….

As our photographer Ian puts it: ‘Between Friday and Monday the content changed. The crowded boat on Friday had reached desperation point on Monday with people on top of people, scrambling to stay aboard. Similarly with the wall/fence. Most of the refugees walking to the wall on Friday had fallen by Monday. They were not going to make it. Whilst at the wall there was a frenzied scramble of body on body, desperate to get over, with others fallen en route.’

Powerful stuff, and only really evident to repeat viewers. Although I was initially disappointed that there were not more of the traditional installations from previous years, I feel that this iteration of the company is perhaps their most successful visit so far to Womadelaide.

Image: Womadelaide
Trebuchet’s 2017 Womadelaide archive can be read here.

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