"Imaginarium Life" review by NEIL DE LA FLOR @ Artburst Miami

Imaginarium: An Astonishing Look At Life On Stage

BY  |  Artburst Miami

Imaginarium Life is a complex multi-media performance piece created by the brilliant dark angels at Bistoury Physical Theatre, Alexey Taran and Carla Forte. The performance documents — through dance theater, sound and gorgeous cinematography — the spiraling, chaotic world of an artist whose obsession with himself and his own imaginary world of self-inflicted wounds destroys him and the person he loves. Sounds tragic, yes, but the unregulated, self-centered ego focused only on detachment instead of human connection is a recipe for disaster. This all-too-human failing demands attention. Taran and Forte focus our eyes and egos on this failing in this exquisitely eerie performance.

Ruben, the artist, played by Taran, suffers greatly. In fact, he deifies suffering at the cost of his own well-being. But why? He seeks happiness and freedom, which are reasonable goals. We all deserve these things, but he tries to achieve those goals through radical isolation and detachment — an often misunderstood Buddhist notion. What we don’t realize at first is the suffering that his wife, Ana, played by Forte, experiences throughout this piece. As Ruben tries to retreat into his imaginary world to escape the demons on his back (who are always on his back no matter what world he steps into), Ana supplies the structure to keep her husband afloat in la la land. She enables. She encourages. She feeds. She loves him, but love sometimes leads us to betray our own self-interest that will inevitably come back to haunt us (and Ana) in the end.
“You dream too much: does it hurt?” is one of the first lines to create a lightening bolt. In the imaginary world there’s supposed to be no pain, no suffering, no hurt; just happiness, joy and freedom — at least in theory. This line made me question what isImaginarium Life. Is it an imaginary world free from sin and sorrow? Shame and suffering? Despair and desolation? Or is Imaginarium Life just life as it is simply renamed to give us (or Ruben) the false impression that we can create new worlds out of nothing when we are in fact powerless to do so.
“To be able to live: first kill the self.” I know what Ruben feels. Sometimes the only way to save ourselves is to destroy the absurd notion of the self that we’ve created because we feel like we’re not good enough, smart enough, cute enough, creative enough or fill-in-the-blank enough. This broken self, this powerful and intoxicating thing, becomes so big and damaged that it sublimates our authentic self to our manufactured self.