Day 5: Pieter De Buysser & Jacob Wren



What does it take to turn a pessimist into an optimist? In the case of Jacob Wren neither his friend Pieter De Buysscher, nor their internet & theatre project Anthology Of Optimism, and not even Barack Obama can do the trick. Maybe confetti?

An anthology of optimism is a staged discussion on the very possibility of optimism, by the Belgian all-round artist Pieter De Buysser and the Canadian writer and director Jacob Wren. A little bit of music, an overhead projector, some silly jokes, and two smiling men – one a pessimist, one an optimist – trying to convince us of the necessity of optimism.

Their Anthology is based on an internet project, for which they have written a letter to artists, thinkers and opinion makers from all over the world, asking them to share their vision of ‘critical optimism’. As De Buysser & Wren explain during their performance at the KunstenFestivalDesArts, for one to be a real critical optimist, he or she has to take five ‘rules’ into account: respect facts and reality, focus on the next small step instead of the big utopian dream, ask oneself the question what it would take to turn a pessimist into an optimist, realize that there is no optimism without imagination, and last but not least: resistance.

Wren & De Buysser spell all this and more out for their listeners, in a very light, playful and gentle manner. Along the way De Buysscher comes up with a selfhelp-kit for pessimists, Wren turns to a confetti-shower to chase away his negative thoughts, and they show us the contributions they have received so far. One even being a letter from the former Belgian prime-minister Guy Verhofstadt.

But throughout all this, Wren never loses his doubts and cynicism. Can nothing be done about it, then? Not even Barack Obama? ‘A cliché of optimism’, says a wearied Wren (who, by the way, resembles George W Bush in a very strange way). But in the end, he falls for another politician: the Colombian mathematician and philosopher Antanas Mockus. As Bogotá’s mayor Mockus once roamed the streets dressed in spandex and a cape as Supercitizen.

Optimists: 1, pessimists: 0.

(photo credit: kab./Mathilde Geens)


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