Yair Oelbaum who, at 23, has tried his hand at writing, music, photography and theatre, stops half way through explaining his practice to apologise for ‘sounding too pompeus’. This modesty and self consciousness runs through much of what he says. He’s in London to perform his piece, There We Will Be Buried at the ICA, having already taken the performance to the Whitney Biennale in New York.
The project has taken much of his time since mid 2010, when German painter Kai Althoff approached him to write a play for them to perform in. Oelbaum and Althoff previously collaborated on another project, Mirror Me; when the writing started for There We Will Be Buried they had no definite plans, but soon enough Althoff was invited to Focal Point Gallery in Southend-on-Sea and after a residency the play opened at The Palace Theatre. The London dates, which will mark the final curtain call for the play, have been arranged as a part of a special collaboration between the ICA and LIFT.
For Oelbaum this is the biggest project to date. He admits that prior to There We Will Be Buried, he did little performance work, ‘certainly less than five, much smaller pieces’. It’s therefore perhaps not surprising that working on the play involved quite a lot of self-reflection.
“When Kai contacted me with the opportunity of performing this piece I was really just beginning to think about it. There were a few basic concepts, but I wasn’t entirely sure exactly what I would write about. I wrote pretty much just one scene and then thought about everything I felt that scene embodied. I noticed references that I seemed to be making without even realising. I began to develop the ideas that belong to the play based on analysing my own writing. In rehearsals it was just Kai and I and it was a slow process, enacting the scenes, taping rehearsals, seeing how the scenes looked, deciding on different courses of action and then trying to re-enact them, tape them again, watch it again It was just this…very repetitive process of taping ourselves, watching and tweaking.”