A satire of pandemic hoarding, Caca-Capitalismo is not just a delight – Olivia Muscat says that it’s a model of accessible dance
I didn’t really want to watch Jonathan Homsey’s Caca-Capitalismo. It’s described as an accessible fotonovela, “a comical meditation on our internal monologues, directly inspired by the fight for resources driven by capitalism and hoarding” that’s based on “real life Karen stories during COVID-19”.
But I don’t want to laugh about panic buying and people abusing each other over the last packet of flour or roll of toilet paper. I’m over hearing about selfish Karens. In fact, I no longer find anything to do with the pandemic remotely amusing. I’ve been avoiding social media for this very reason.
But I was intrigued, as I always am, by the idea that accessibility had been considered from the beginning of the project. The promotional material claimed that Homsey had made a point of including audio description, so I wanted to give it a shot. I had still yet to be very impressed or engaged with an audio described movement piece where I am a purely online spectator; I was a little sceptical, yet also willing to be proven wrong. If I’ve learned one thing, labelling a work as “accessible” doesn’t mean that it is accessible in any meaningful way.
In fact, when I first went to the website – which has both the Spanish and English versions – I spent way too long trying to work out how to watch the performance with the audio description. Then I realised that it was included for everybody, that the different versions refer to the audio description itself – not simply dialogue, as I had first thought. It’s not an optional extra! This was the first pleasant surprise.
The second surprise was that I laughed out loud several times during the video. Usually when I watch things online and alone (so, basically, all the time now) I don’t have strong reactions. I might acknowledge to myself that I’ve found something amusing or moving; but I will rarely actually laugh or gasp or cry.
I couldn’t help laughing at this piece. I found myself swept up in its absurdity and surrealism, even as part of me recoiled from the grain of truth at its core: that this performance came to be because real people in real supermarkets were acting like monsters. I haven’t stepped foot in a supermarket for six months, and my mental pictures of how people have been acting have already taken on a weird over-the-top quality.
So it was amusing to me on that level as well, confirming my suspicions of just how far people will go to not run out of the things they deem essential. I enjoyed the pure melodrama of this piece: a baby being hurled across the room; a supermarket worker transforming into a superhero. It was dramatic and ridiculous in the best way. I don’t know if it would’ve been sustainable for longer than this short dance. But it definitely works here.
The audio description is a brilliant example of how accessibility can be built into a performance to enhance it, instead of distracting from the artwork. There’s a misconception that things like audio description need to be done in a clinical, detached way to avoid interfering with the original work. But this ends up pulling the viewer out of the whole experience.
It’s often another way that disabled people are othered; it’s as if we’re pulled aside in the middle of something fun and asked in a gentle, concerned, patronising voice if we’re having a good time. It may be well meant, but it’s another way of pointing out how different we are and making sure we know that you think that difference is definitely a bad thing.
Caca-Capitalismo does not do that. Everything about it has an immense sense of fun, including the audio description. It made me laugh, and I didn’t feel that the artists thought my experience of it should be less than anybody else’s. I enjoyed it so much that, even though my Spanish isn’t great, I watched both language versions.
Of course my experience is different, because I’m not seeing the pictures. I judge whether a work has been successfully accessible by how much I feel that fact matters. I can never see the vision; sometimes I’m not fussed by that, and sometimes it’s glaringly frustrating. The less of a big deal that is made of my difference, the more successfully accessible it is. “Different” is not the issue here.
Although this work is a dance, it’s easy to follow because I am given context. Yes, there’s a story, which definitely helps, but all the movements are also brought into focus. They are attached to concrete physical concepts or objects, which makes forming an image of what is happening much easier – especially when it comes to digital performance, where there is no opportunity to use other senses to form an understanding of the movement. The description was clear and precise, and added to the drama of the piece as a whole. I was thoroughly impressed.
I delight in things with an unbridled sense of fun, especially those with a satirical element. So despite my not wanting to engage with anything related to the pandemic that isn’t absolutely necessary, I completely enjoyed Caca-Capitalismo. The fact that it’s a shining example of accessible, audio described online performance plays a huge role in achieving that.
Caca-Capitalisimo, choreographed by Jonathan Homsey, directed by Monica Guitti. Cinematography and editing by Max Hopkins, audio description by Will McRostie, composition and voice over by Oscar Jimenez. Danced by Dominque Cowden, Kathleen Campone and Lauren Drago. Online at West Projections until August 30 and Tempo Dance Festival September 16-19.