November 17 2016
Artist looks at how the world is being shaped and shaping us through the internet…
IMAGINE President Barack Obama setting up his own Youtube channel, now that he is about to leave the White House and US frontline politics…
Well, you don’t have to envision that at all – because Hetain Patel has – and it will feature in his brand new one-man show, “American Man”, which enjoys a world premiere at Sadler’s Wells in London next week.
“President Obama is in it – I have studied him. I acknowledge what’s happened,” Patel told www.asianculturevulture.com. “It’s set in the not too distant future and there are about 20-25 sketches in all.”
“American Man” was born out of an earlier but similar show, “American Boy” – but this time around, it is not the movies that come under Patel’s intelligent gaze, but the world of the internet and social media.
“If ‘American Boy’ was the world of the movies, ‘American Man’ is the world of Youtube and online,” he explained.
As such, it is a 60-minute or so travel around the world-wide web and its discontents – from its annoying adverts through to characters and figures we might all identify through our own internet experience.
“You will recognise the archetypes of adverts and teenagers making Youtube videos from their bedrooms.
“You will see the characters change, sometimes I change accents, even languages and there are costume changes and sound and light effects.”
He wanted to make it clear that “American Man” is not so much a response to Donald Trump and his election victory, but a deeper examination of some of the underlying trends which have made him possible.
“When I started to write this, Donald Trump was not even a candidate – it was not a (political) world where he existed and this is not about the US presidential elections, but it is about power and politics, race and misogyny – all of that is in the show.”
Acknowledging the change with Trump winning, is part of a bigger picture, he indicated.
“I don’t like to make topical work, I feel it gets dated and what I always try do is make work about issues that are longstanding, hence we talk a lot about identity and language.”
He said a recent preview performance in Lancaster had provoked quite a passionate response in the post Q&A and that Trump’s victory had signalled that some old and very ugly ideas had returned seriously to the political fray.
“Someone remarked that had this show been made before Trump’s win, they would have said, ‘aren’t we all past this?’
“I kind of wish the show wasn’t relevant in that way, I’d prefer to have that and Trump not to be in power.
“I do a lot of slapstick and funny things and exaggerate – or that is what I thought I was doing.
“It’s uncomfortable, a couple of characters go really racist and really misogynistic – and the feedback I get now, is that this is not so far from the truth.”
Patel is a well-established artist – in the job title sense.
He attended art school and has made sculptures, installations and videos for galleries and has an impressive CV as a practising visual artist.
His folks were “concerned” when he made his choice, but his subsequent relative success has made that redundant.
While many an artist of this nature has ventured into film – few have gone down the live performing route.
It was a live performance artwork in a gallery and a best man’s speech that pushed him towards theatre.
“I did the speech at a wedding and it went down really well and then I thought about taking it on and applied (for support) as a performing artist showcase. Lots of big theatres picked it up.”
That was six years ago, and Sadler’s Wells supports his work, as one of its New Wave Associate Artists – these are mainly creative individuals who have a sense of originality and sometimes work beyond defined genres.
Patel has also worked with dancers and at the core of his work is language, identity and communication.
His earlier show “American Boy” (2014) explores the construction of identity through Hollywood films.
“It’s made up of film quotes – I learnt all the accents and it’s a snapshot of Hollywood in 1990s,” Patel explained.
The 35-year-old who lives in Bolton and grew up in the north is also well known for his Fiesta Transformer video.
This is where Hetain and father Pravin turned an ordinary Fiesta car into a ‘sculpture’ that resembles a transformer figure crouching in a typically Indian labourer pose.
‘American Man’, by Hetain Patel, Sadler’s Wells Lilian Baylis Studio, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R. 8pm, November 24 & 25. Post show talk on Thursday, November 24.
More info/Tickets: http://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2016/hetain-patel-american-man/