Jean Lambert-wild, the former French director of Comédie de Caen, and Wayne Ashley first met at Festival d’Avignon in 2010. Supported by a grant from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Ashley traveled to meet artists throughout France who were advancing new explorations between performance and technology. After a second meeting in 2011 at the Waves Festival in Denmark, Lambert-wild and FuturePerfect set forth a plan to research and develop a new work titled Don’t Mess With Texas.
Don’t Mess With Texas presents the historical journey of French socialist Victor Considerant together with Belgian, Swiss, and Alsatian immigrants to Texas in 1854 to establish La Reunion, a utopian commune advocating socialist values, direct democracy, and political activism. La Reunion ultimately failed, but a performance about its rise and fall aimed to compel contemporary audiences to reflect on the current debates surrounding the impossibility of real political opposition in a world that may no longer harbor utopian visions, or competing notions of the future.
FuturePerfect established the groundwork that enabled the project to unfold in the US. We researched primary and secondary sources pertaining to the historical relationship between France and the US that were used to inform both the work’s dramaturgy and scenography. We helped to organize a creative team of American collaborators. This included locating and evaluating novelists to write an original script, contacting graphic designers including comic artist and illustrator Charles Burns, coordinating a technical team including scientist Eric Petajan, digital animation and character rigging specialist Raffaele Scaduto-Mendola, and creative technologist Barry Threw from Digital Obscura.
We met with our colleagues at RECOMBINANT MEDIA LABS (RML) to explore the artistic potential of spatial media including panoramic installations, surround cinema, and multichannel a/v. We engaged collaborative partners including the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas, Austin and Fusebox Festival and met with several institutions including School of Visual Arts in New York and California Institute of the Arts to enlist their students.