Jessa Wildemeersch shares her insights about the creation Paradise Blues on national radio.
This text is an assemblage of a broadcast on Radio 1
It started with the book Sum: 40 tales of the afterlife, by American neurologist David Eagleman. A delightful description of 40 possible heavens. The afterlife became my starting point, an inspiring motive.
In the research and development phase for a new performance, I always start from the unknown. When talking to people I discover new insights and realize how much I don’t know.
I collected many different perspectives, interviewed a diverse group of people from different countries, with contrasting cultural and religious backgrounds. I came to one conclusion: There are as many possible heavens as there are people.
How people reflect on the afterlife has got a lot to do with how they live their lives.
During my R&D phase I realized: ‘I am ignoring death.’ And it came back at me, I suddenly understood , to get to the afterlife you must die first. That speaks for itself, but it confronted me with my own fear of dying. There is this existential void that we all feel. A professor of Italian studies at NYU, specialized in Dante’s work, gave me this beautiful quote: ‘We all have something sacred and we are all in the dark wood, looking for a path.’
I registered all the interviews, this allowed me to listen to the recordings, reflect upon them, cut and paste. The source material is tangible. I love the way people speak, the rhythm, the sound, the musicality of language,…
After 40 interviews I needed to retreat. Flanders Literature awarded me with a writing residency on an island in Lake Como, Italy. Because of a storm I could not get to the Island and had to stay one night in Milan. I met Fabio, an Italian archeologist. I spoke with him and thought: ‘ the archeological perspective on the afterlife is missing in my research’. However Fabio didn’t allow me to record him. My working method fell apart.
Because I could not register his story, I started to look and listen differently. I started to absorb his story sensorially instead of counting on registered documents.
My journey came to a tipping point. Meeting the archeologist propelled me forward into a trip. I was challenged to search for my own perspective on paradise.
In the final performance some of the interviews are woven in, but they don’t take a prominent place. The story takes on a different turn. The journey to the island and the search for my paradise is expressed sensorially, through live music, film and poetry.