What happens when the past collides with the present? If the philosophical is made tangible, does it still have the power to transform? And can myths ever hold any relevance to our lives? These are the questions that Belgian performer Pieter De Buysser sets out to answer in his quietly remarkable one-man show about objects, families, and a mysterious boy called Zoltan.
A thought provoking and theatrical détournement of some of the most culturally important objects of the modern world.
De Buysser walks into the Summerhall’s Old Lab smiling affably and carrying a cardboard box. He makes his way through plinths displaying odd and varied objects: a single glove on a single mannequin’s hand; near-empty bottles of vodka; an unknown electronic gizmo. These are pillars in a temple to everyday historical artifacts, soon to be reincorporated back into the everyday. De Buysser tells us the history of his cardboard box, its hand-me-down journey from revolutionary thinkers--from Trotsky and Breton to Debord and finally to him. When he first opens the box, the boy Zoltan appears to him, knocked off his horse and searching for his one true love. Pieter befriends Zoltan, for whom time apparently works in different ways. Together, they restore meaning to the lives of ordinary citizens who’ve become disillusioned with work, life, and each other. They do this by introducing historically significant objects back into the world: sand from Plato’s cave, Henry Ford’s unused rocking horse, Aquinas’ table cut-out and so on. By bringing these objects into contemporary contexts – a hospital bedside, a classroom, a suburban living room – De Buysser follows in Breton’s footsteps and recalibrates history for his own ends.
Moreover, De Buysser shows the power these objects still possess to change lives and minds. His performance is finely crafted, his words are accessible and the show as a whole, perhaps surprisingly given the potentially heavy subject material, is completely unpretentious. He is light on his feet, easy to listen to and tells his story with complete passion. Where the show falls down slightly is in its length – the formula behind Zoltan’s adventures is somewhat repetitive and as a result the show doesn’t quite earn the entirety of its eighty-five minute stay. You can’t help but feel that, as magical as the stories behind the individual objects are, the general coherence of the show may have been served better had one of them been left out.
However, this is not said in any way to denigrate De Buysser’s efforts, the power of which should not be understated. In Landscape with Skiproads, he has created a thought provoking and theatrical détournement of some of the most culturally important objects of the modern world. Bringing the magic of myth to everyday banality, this is an eye-opening landscape that deserves to be appreciated.