‘Happyland’ refers to the ‘happiest place on earth’, a slogan used by Disney for its theme parks. Happyland also happens to be the name of a notoriously dense-populated slum in Manila.
HAPPYLAND is thus the uber-title that I have designated for a 2-part project that examines the labour and performance of happiness in the overall production of fantasy within the context of a globalized entertainment industry.
HAPPYLAND calls upon the strategies and mutations of a regime that controls, manipulates and reproduces popular representations of happiness. It is a global system, fueled predominantly by the workforce and skills of performers from the Philippines.
HAPPYLAND scrutinizes the complex system – from media-brainwashing of children, to high and mainstream popular cultures and to national labor policy – that creates the chain supply of Filipino performers embedded in a seemingly complicit system of reproduction and multiplication.
In Disneyland Hong Kong, a legion of dancers from the Philippines are employed as professional entertainers to repeat formatted performances of ‘happiness’ as their daily labour. Excluded from the main roles that are reserved for specific racial profiles, they are assigned anonymous supporting roles such as a zebra in lion king, a coral in little mermaid, a monkey in tarzan. Performers are hired based on their ‘disney cheeky factor’: their cheerful and lively disposition. The entrenchment of American culture in the psyche of the Filipino people has produced disciplined bodies suitable for affective labour in the happiness empire.
As a response to this phenomenon, two Filipino performers hijack the white-skinned princess, the archetypal model that dominates the narrative imagination of children while excluding their context, bodies and histories.
The duo meticulously distill and reconstruct the body language of this ideal fantasy princess, and program her mobility and speech into their own camouflaged bodies. Using strategies of mimicry and reproduction they overwrite the system’s pre-programed narratives, corrupting this closed world with their foreign bodies.
The performance re-configures the Fantasy Industry’s intricate body-sign-speech-language to undermine commodified and pre-constructed representations of happiness.
Princess transposes the Filipino body from the supporting position in the margins to the main role at the center. From within this advantaged position they infuse their being and re-envision new narratives of identity-formation.
commissioned by BHF-BANK-Foundation as part of Frankfurter Positionen 2017 * Mousonturm production * choreography: Eisa Jocson * performance: Eisa Jocson, Russ Ligtas * music: Marc Appart * creative presence: Arco Renz * light: Florian Bach * coaching: Rasa Alksnyte * production: Tang Fu Kuen * a production by Eisa Jocson and Künstlerhaus Mousonturm * in co-production with Frankfurter Positionen and tanzhaus nrw * supported within the framework of the Alliance of International Production Houses by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media * supported by Pianofabriek Brüssel and Para Site.
Premiere: Feb 11-12, 2017 Frankfurter Positionen 2017, Mousonturm, Frankfurt, DE