Travelling across Europe to meet musicians from different backgrounds and cultures, Marieke Dermul’s long-term art project is an attempt to explore the points of contact and conflict between Europeans on what it means to be European. The premise of the project is for Dermul to create a pop song made entirely of suggested lyrics from musicians and members of the public throughout Europe, aiming to enter as the Belgian entrant for the Eurovision Song Contest 2019. The show takes an almost secondary role in charting the life and journey of the project so far and in this sense does feel somewhat like a work in progress, as the project being showcased is not concluded.
“a charming and playful presentation”
The show is a charming and playful presentation of how the project is opening a political dialogue with people who have differing perspectives and understandings of the complex and fragile relationships within the EU and Europe. Audience members are brought forward to represent the significant individuals Dermul has interview during the project, forming a symbolic Eurovision band – they get given instruments and everything.
However, it feels as though Dermul has not genuinely been as keen to listen to the conversation as much as the show (and indeed the title) would suggest.
At several points in the show, we see conversations Dermul has with an anarchist from Greece who denounces the notion of borders in conversation. In response, Dermul seems to cherry pick and bends this idea into supporting her preconceived idea of a more united Europe in the EU. This is not quite what the anarchist had been getting at. Dermul also spoke to a punk band from Italy (who refused to contribute to the song but allowed her to use them in the show) who argued that the Eurovision platform is just reinforcing the European populism of performing an idealistic view of a Europe with universal values and politics. Dermul again seems to not be registering her own confirmation bias, ignoring their input to the conversation and selectively choosing to read their comments as a provocation to include mild eurosceptic politics within the lyrics of the song. In this regard, I feel like it was slightly untruthful of Dermul promoting the show as something which ‘we here today will help complete’, as there is no real allowance for the conversations had to reshape the project itself, merely provide additional lyrics.
This does make me sound slightly like a brexiteer, I realise. Really, I was hoping to see a show which would offer a new perspective and shed some light on the complex situation in Europe, which European Citizen Popsong did seem to have the promise of, as an Intereuropean experiment into dialogue and discussion. However, it seemed to manifest itself as ‘another show about how confusing Europe is’, ultimately only platforming Dermul’s opinions under the guise of a collaborative and representative political art project.
European Citizen Popsong is performing at Summerhall until August 26th (not 13th or 20th), tickets can be purchased here.
Image: Marieke Dermul
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