Sebastián Squella: Beyond Democracy

Sebastián Squella © Jean Paul Osses

Beyond Democracy

In general, my work is what they call «Political Theater», although I'm not entirely comfortable with that label. However, it makes it easier to understand what I do. In that sense, my interest in political and social events is a fundamental part of my work. I critically examine what is happening politically. In recent years, I have been focused on thinking about the concept of democracy, trying to imagine the possibility of moving beyond democracy towards a better system. I want to stop seeing democracy as an adjective, stop seeing it as an end, and understand it as a verb, as a means. I want to ask ourselves who we are and where we are heading. Is this system the best we can achieve as a species? Is this the pinnacle of human knowledge? Democracy is not the goal; it's a means to build a better, fuller life for everyone. However, in recent years, democracy has given way to too much hatred, too much fascism, too much denial of minorities. I imagine that this is not the end, that we can build something different, use theater to come together, get to know each other, create a critical space where we can look at each other. In particular, in the play Beyond Democracy, it's a space where we can represent ourselves, exercise our voice without representatives, without politicians, without actors... to see if this is ultimately possible or not. This work is about demystifying the idea of democracy, imagining its end, and envisioning a better system because we can only create what we have imagined.

Best discovery

Thanks to theater, I've been fortunate to travel and visit some places, always doing a show or being part of a festival, where you're there for three days or a week, at most three weeks. I had never been in a three-month residency before, and I think something wonderful has happened after the first month here, something related to time and the city. I've started to meet people, recognize people I've seen in other places, people I've seen in the theater, people I've bumped into while training, people I've seen at the supermarket. After seeing each other two or three times, people start to recognize you, greet you, and then have conversations. Getting to know people like this has been an incredible experience, very enriching for my work. Everyone I've met here has an opinion about democracy, about this democracy, about other democracies they know, and it's very interesting to have conversations with someone like that. You start to feel like a part of the place, a part of the landscape, and you can understand other things beyond the formal and the theoretical. You can understand how people relate to each other, what their dreams and grievances are, why they are here. Without a doubt, just like in democracy and my work, people are the most important. It has also been revealing to see how people have a different relationship with things that, for me, are very different: democracy, the police, the river, the city, among many others. I hope to continue meeting people, continue learning from their experiences. The people of Basel have been the best discovery, and I hope to keep delving into that.

Building networks

I've had the opportunity to get to know, reflect, and learn a lot during this time. I hope to continue delving deeper into this city, getting to know local artists, seeing their work and their concerns, and trying to gather as much input as possible for my work. This is a wonderful opportunity for which I am very grateful, and I hope to finish it in the best way possible. I hope to create a piece that satisfies me, to get as close as possible to the work I want to create and, at the same time, to the artist I want to become. Getting to know more and allowing people to also learn a bit about Chile and Latin America through my work is important to me. It's a great opportunity to find new references and build networks. We live in complicated times, politically speaking, and in a world where we've been taught that everyone must fend for themselves, that if we fail, it's our responsibility, and not because the social and political conditions are not in place. Building networks is the best way to confront the chaos, to meet and understand each other, to support each other. It's the only way to build a future together.

Sebastián Squella - Artist in Residence