Sunday, September 21, 2014

Terni Performance Festival: Hate Radio

Genocide can happen, it seems, remarkably quickly. Once you have your triggering event, the dominoes just fall. When race is used as a reason for hate and dehumanisation on a wide scale, all humanity seems to evaporate into so much pink mist.

Of course, the speed is a fiction. A given society can have its violent bed made long before the first shot is fired. The media's key causal relationship with horrific violence is clear and well-documented, which doesn't stop it being a breeding ground for new ethical vacuums, (yes, even in the West), or indeed, instances of genocide occurring.

Hate Radio, a production from the International Institute of Political Murder that has done the rounds in European festivals, documents explicitly this link between propaganda and genocide in one specific instance of recent history - the Rwandan genocide of 1994. This event saw race-based crimes against humanity that exhibit a shocking level of dehumanisation. Rape, murder, torture, and a particularly pathological fixation on, not just killing, but suffering are key narratives of that conflict. To fragile, western ears, it's a barrage of monstrousness that begs belief.

These stories are relayed to us by actors, appearing on screens and speaking through radio headsets allocated to each audience member, in the grueling first 15 minutes of Hate Radio. The dramaturgy here is carefully layered but does not spare us the violence of the stories, women offering themselves as sex slaves only to have their breasts cut off, children having limbs cut off, hiding in underground toilets for days, staying alive in the middle of a pile of massacred corpses. There appears no atrocity which could not occur in this space of madness.