Uncommon Transport Or How Three Buses Were Detoured Directly To The Lane Of An Imaginary Realm

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This summer, the Romanian Cultural Institute and the Ilotopie theater group proposed a new form of a public transportation line for Bucharesters: a transportation out of line! For almost a week, three buses belonging to the RATB public transportation company became three mobile utopias, three stories on wheels, traveling through the traffic. The fathers of this audacious project were the actors of the French Ilotopie group – it is one of the most remarkable street theater groups currently active, which has, in fact, specialized in this kind of urban utopias. With the help of sets, the group turned three RATB buses into Surreal spaces, uncommon transportation means, ready to lead the travelers to their final stops, but also to transport them beyond their daily life, into the realm of imagination and dreams. One bus was transformed into a forest; on another one they created the elegant ambiance of a luxury lounge; and the third one was decorated as a curio cabinet. The three show buses rode on their usual lines for several hours every day between August 27-31, 2008. In these newly-created spaces, the French actors joined by young Romanian actors became characters who interacted with the travelers-spectators, initiating them and leading them through the story installed on the bus. In the forest-bus, called Arboribuz (tree-bus), they "planted" a forest made up of trees with leaves, grass, tree stumps, rocks, fresh earth, dead leaves, smell of moss, and chirping of little birds. The Surreal forest was populated with characters out of fairy tales who looked contemporary. There, one would encounter the Wolf, but a modern one, not the one in the fairy tale: intelligent, charming, ambiguous, ironic. This contemporary Wolf told tales to the travelers, spoke about the wolf's condition, and remembered his old love, Little Red Riding Hood, with pain in his voice (namely a long squeak). She no longer wore her old red hood, but, rather, a red elegant business suit. Meanwhile, she had become a successful real estate agent working for the Your Forest Company, the Directorate in Charge of Sales and Relations With Fairy Tales. An active woman, Red Hood was able to negotiate, she drove hard bargains when it came to prices, answered the phone, set meetings, and handed calling cards over. In the entangled paths of the forest, one could also see the four-handed witch who lived in the house made of ginger bread, a tourist who had lost her way and was looking for the road to Istanbul, a forest guard, and a painter. So as to create a complete feeling of unreality and a confusion of realms, the painter painted the forest under the very eyes of the travelers: for a second, they felt they had entered into a living painting, which already included them. On the luxury lounge bus, called High Life Buz, the travelers were invited to enter an elegant and sophisticated space, decorated with art objects, exquisite furniture, and soft fabrics. As soon as they stepped in, they were told by the host "here, your wish is our pleasure." On this five-star bus, the services they offered were impeccable: butlers in livery welcomed the travelers, escorted them in, served them tea or coffee in china cups, fanned cool air at them, and even massaged their hands. A pianist played sonatas and waltzes on a piano installed on the bus. In this setting, Blanche, an aristocratic lady of yore wearing an evening dress, passionately told the story of her past, her lost lover Pierre, and the old life in the manor house. During moments of enthusiasm, Blanche would order champagne for everybody and all the travelers were served champagne glasses one by one, to the chords of the piano. In this festive atmosphere, many travelers almost forgot to get off at stops. The third bus, called Bizarbuz (bizarre bus), hosted a cabinet with weird things on the very edge between science and a fantastic world, governed by bizarre characters. A lady sat in a cylindrical glass box knitting, a magician performed illusionist numbers, a bird-man was suspended by the holding rails and played an uncanny instrument. At the other end of the bus, a philosopher discussed existential issues with the travelers. As for dinosaurs or impossible objects, chairs suspended on the ceiling, monitors showing video clips from the National Geographic channel, a full-size skeleton handled by a puppeteer lady, pillows whence eerie stories could be heard, a hand coming in through the ceiling – these were just some of the items in the set full of surprises on Bizarbuz. The travelers who got on one of these three unconventional buses embarked upon an adventure unwittingly. Their reactions were extremely diverse. Some showed reticence, but most of them entered into the story amazed and curious, and, even if they did not venture into the dialogue with the characters, they savored it, amused, from a distance. Others were delighted to exit the boring, commonplace role of an RATB bus traveler and to try unusual postures alongside their new playing partners: they showed interest in buying the Red Hood's forest (some even called her cell phone), they imitated the howling of the Wolf, they asked questions of the old aristocratic lady on the High Life Buz, they sang songs to the forest guard to make him happy, as Red Hood had asked them to, and, once they got off at their stops, they urged other people to get on the strange bus, which "will make you wind down for the rest of the day." Many of those who ran into these stories on wheels wondered why they were treated to such an inventive and unexpected experience in the traffic. "Uncommon Transport" sought to transform one of the grey spaces we live in through art. An artistic utopia came to life in an unconventional urban framework, and this made it possible for ordinary travelers, not just a selected public, to experience it. The traffic, the dull space we interact with every day, which sometimes encompasses nightmare accents, crossed paths with dreams and fairy tales for a couple of days. "Uncommon Transport" is, at the same time, an invite to artists to get more deeply involved in the public space, which can become an object of their art work, play, and artistic invention/intervention any time. Translated by Monica Voiculescu

by Mihaela Neţoiu