Presented in the 231 Project Space at the New Museum as part of Performa 11, Spartacus Chetwynd's The Lion Tamer was a the site-specific work will create a psychological space in a confined arena within the supposed freedom of the performance. Chetwynd is influenced by Mikhail Bakhtin’s identification of the carnival as an outlet for insurrection, turning all order upside down and inside out to reinforce the day-to-day order of society. In her piece, she allows the confines of the performance to create a utopian, corrective environment. The exasperating, inexplicable, out-of-reach ugliness of the everyday is set aside and escapism is moved into place for twenty minutes—what a relief!
The Lion Tamer is a performance made specifically for an audience aware of the permeable possibilities within the live moment. In this piece, reality and fantasy will reach each other for a short, organized, designated encounter. The Lion Tamer is influenced by two films: The Dresser, from 1983, which tells the story of an aging actor’s personal assistant who struggles to keep his charge’s life together; and by I’m No Angel (1933), in which Mae West plays Tira, a lion-tamer who tames the beasts on stage and the “society swells” offstage. Chetwynd attempts to tame the crazed egos of the very participants in her own piece, where an attempt to emulate the lion-taming act provides a cathartic role-play for the divas within the performance troupe.