A Catharsis Between the Visible World and the Unknown: Interview with Gil and Oori Becher

This year, the ARé performing arts festival hosted a truly fascinating duo: Gil and Oori Becher from Israel. Gil is a multidisciplinary actor and artist, and the co-founder with Lisa Jacobson of Arma Theatre, the oldest street theater company in Israel. His son Oori comes from the field of cinematography and music production. Together they performed “Rituals for public spaces”, a mesmerizing and poetic show, in interaction with the audience and the HayArt exhibition space.

How did you cross paths with Armenia and the ARé Festival?

Gil Becher – It all started in 2016 when Marine was looking for participants for the “Dada 100+” edition of the ARé Festival. While searching on the internet, she came across our artist village, Ein Hod, where Marcel Janco, one of the founders of the Dada movement, settled in the 1950s along with other artists. Back then, my family and I had just come back from a three-year residency in the South of France and soon after Marine contacted us, my wife Lisa and I found ourselves on our way to Yerevan. In the framework of the festival’s exchange program, Marine and Nazaret also came to Israel and artists from our village did an exhibition in Yerevan during the Velvet Revolution in 2018.



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Gil Becher performing “Rituals for public spaces” at ARé Festival


How did you develop the concept of “Rituals for public spaces”?

Oori Becher – The idea emerged during a residency Gil was attending in Düsseldorf in 2019, where he was creating costumes, hats and various types of objects. He started performing in industrial and unusual locations, and with the help of a photographer friend, Josef Schulz, they shot interesting frames. When Gil came back from Germany, he handed me the material and we turned it into an eight-minute video that was projected at the ARé Festival in 2019. When Marine invited us this time, we thought we could actually perform the show live. I brought with me a lot of footage and recorded sounds, but the final video art and soundscape was finished here at the NEST Residency.

Gil Becher – Since I developed this concept, I have created and performed shows in various site-specific projects. It’s not a ready-prepared show where you come, open your suitcase and deliver. Each time is different: I get inspired by different people, different materials, by the space, the weather… It’s like coming with nothing and creating on the spot. I am very influenced by Antonin Artaud, a prophet of the modern theatre, who used to say that if an actor gets on stage to do the same movement and deliver the same lines, his performance is already a dead art. In street theatre, you cannot come with something fixed: you have to deal with everything that surrounds you and integrate it into your act. It’s a multidisciplinary and multidimensional practice.


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Gil Becher performing “Rituals for public spaces” at ARé Festival


In the performance description, you underline “the role of artists as shamans”. Could you tell us more about this dimension of your work?

Gil Becher – For me an actor is like a shaman who plays with the energy of the audience, of the space and creates some kind of catharsis between the visible world and the unknown. It’s a very spiritual connection. When a kid and his grandma are watching the show together, their imagination is taking them different places. That’s what art and theatre is all about: to open your imagination and talk to your unconscious.

Oori Becher – In traditional theatre, I often feel that the concept takes over the performance. Actors seem to be stuck with their concept, or text, which leaves little room for movement or improvisation. In our act, we tend to surrender to the beauty of the moment so that we can let ourselves go, and stay true to the audience.


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“Rituals for public spaces” at ARé Festival


Tell us more about how you designed the soundscape and the costumes…

Oori Becher – I usually don’t do music for shows. I mainly compose electronic music or soundscapes for my documentaries and abstract creations. For this show, I did some field recordings around on my home to capture different types of natural textures, and I also collected sounds from the Internet. The soundscape I designed is played live, which means that I adjust it to the vibe of the moment, so that each show has a unique atmosphere and different highs and lows.

Gil Becher – I am a former student of the Jacques Lecoq method, which states that an actor can be either a costume designer, an architect, or a poet, so I am used to create my own costumes and accessories, especially hats. I studied hats and masks designing in Paris, and I learned how to make traditional hats from the 15th-16th centuries. This helped me learn the basic and from there, I started developing my own style using unusual materials. It is the approach of “poor theatre”, as I call it, but in reality it is “rich theatre”. It’s a way of life. Since we live in a country where we don’t have all the necessary material, we have to “invent” it and turn it into a piece of art.

Interview by Achod Papasian