Sunday, April 24, 2016


A large public work 
by the L.A.-based artist Paul McCarthy 
stands in Rotterdam's town square. 

The piece, funded by the Dutch government, 
is intended as a holiday tribute, 
and its official title is "Santa Claus." 

Santa, or a gnome, holds a large, festive bell in one hand, 
and in the other what's (perhaps) intended to be a Christmas tree. 

But the resemblance of the Tanenbaum 
to a certain kind of sex toy 
has prompted a populist renaming of the piece as 

"The Buttplug Gnome."  LA WEEKLY



Wunderbaum, Red Cat, Richard Jordan Productions, Big in Belgium, Theatre Royal Plymouth in association with Summerhall - The Netherlands

With boldness and humour, Wunderbaum remind us that the only art worth making is that which disrupts, challenges and tests artists and audiences.
                                                            – THE GUARDIAN 

Looking for Paul is still messing with my mind.

                                                                       – FRINGEREVIEW

The question at the heart of [Wunderbaum’s] inquiry is the   purpose of art.
                                                             – LA WEEKLY




DB What was the initial inspiration for the piece and how does it relate to your own views on public art?  

MS When "Santa Claus", the work of art by Paul McCarthy was placed in Rotterdam, a huge discussion was provoked. A big number of citizens, politicians, shop owners were very negative about this controversial work in the city centre. Others loved it. All of a sudden everyone had an opinion about art in public space and whether we should pay for this with our own tax money.  This inspired us to create the project "Looking for Paul".  As we believe that artists should have the freedom to express themselves and surprise people in daily life in a good way. Not just please them.

DB What can spectators expect to experience in the area of entertainment and/or cultural issues regarding arts practice?

MS The show gives a good, humurous reflection on how we should deal with this discussion. We question ourselves as a company, our own position as artists. We talk about the Dutch funding system and our artistic mission.  In the end it is a funny, bloody mess. But that's all I can reveal!

DB Any thoughts on arts funding globally and/or in Canada and the U.S. 

MS We have been working in the US a few times now, but this is our first time in Canada.  We have seen the reality of professional American artists serving coffee during the day and rehearsing for free in the evening.  In The Netherlands, not in all European countries unfortunately, we still have a decent working arts funding system. We have long term subsidies, so you have time to fail as an artist. You can imagine our reaction when Dutch politicians cutting our art budgets, started to say: Look at the Americans! They can do it themselves! 

DB How do you feel about the term 'buttplug gnome'? Perhaps it unintentionally/coincidentally bears some connections to what might be considered particular 'uptight' elements of arts funding and practice?

 MS You mean art penetrating society, even if the society doesn't ask for this? My answer would be: Yes! If not, only fear will remain.




Inez van Dam lives and works in Rotterdam opposite the so-called “Buttplug Gnome,” a controversial public sculpture by contemporary American artist Paul McCarthy, whose work is known for satirizing mass media and consumerism. After receiving a US grant, Dutch theatre collective Wunderbaum brings Inez to LA to help her confront McCarthy and to develop her story as part of their residency.

The resulting work documents their journey and artistic process that explodes — sometimes very messily — into a debate on aesthetics and the politics and meaning of public art. Excessive, witty and rabidly unconcerned with decorum, Looking for Paul is a detailed and engrossing mixture of fact and fiction, parody and homage.

Advisory: nudity


Wunderbaum is based out of Rotterdam and has been making plays for over a decade. Formed in the aftermath of 9/11, their work largely focuses on crisis and social issues.

Wunderbaum is a Dutch-Flemish actors’ group that makes theatre about current issues, both on location and in the theatre. Usually, Wunderbaum writes its own texts collectively, based on its own research but every now and then it gives instructions to authors who will write a text. The group received the Mary Dresselhuys Award and VSCD Proscenium Award for their entire oeuvre, as well as a Total Theatre Award during the 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
In 2013, Wunderbaum started building The New Forest, a four-year project and growing cooperation with numerous partners, volunteers and spectators. The New Forest depicts transition and casts an eye on tomorrow’s society, and consists of theatre performances, seminars, a film project, context programmes and online content.


Richard Jordan Productions is an Olivier and Tony Award-winning production company under the artistic leadership of British producer Richard Jordan. His London-based company was founded in 1998 and has been at the forefront of developing and presenting works by a diverse range of established and emerging writers and artists. The recipient of more than 30 major international theatre awards and enjoying associations with many of the world’s leading theatres and arts organizations, the company has produced more than 190 productions in the U.K. and 21 other countries, including 70 world premieres and 81 European, Australian or U.S. premieres. Described by the U.K.’s Stage newspaper as “one of the U.K.’s most prolific theatre producers” and named seven times in their top 100 theatre professionals, Richard was the first recipient of the TIF/Society of London Theatre Producers Award and in 2009 a finalist in the British Council’s first-ever Creative Entrepreneur Award. In 2010 for his services to the UK and international theatre industries, he was selected for life time inclusion in A & C Black’s Who’s Who. Richard’s other Canadian productions include: Dickens’ Women; Dylan Thomas: Return Journey; Cadre; Hamlet (solo); Hirsch; Goodness; Kafka and Son; Internal; Fight Night and BigMouth. He has also worked extensively with a number of Canada’s leading artists and companies producing their work internationally including: Volcano Theatre; Ross Manson; Rick Miller; Naomi Campbell; Raoul Bhaneja; Darren O’Donnell; Alon Nashman and Ravi Jain. Richard is pleased to return to World Stage at Harbourfront having previously produced with his long-term collaborators, Ontroerend Goed, the Dora nominated Once and For All We’re Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen.


The Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) is an interdisciplinary contemporary arts center for innovative visual, performing and media arts located in downtown Los Angeles inside the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex. Each season REDCAT presents a far-reaching roster of work by globally renowned artists, inside one of the most versatile and technologically advanced presentation spaces in the world.
Through performances, exhibitions, screenings, and literary events, REDCAT introduces diverse audiences, students and artists to the most influential developments in the arts from around the world, and gives artists in this region the creative support they need to achieve national and international stature. REDCAT continues the tradition of the California Institute of the Arts, its parent organization, by encouraging experimentation, discovery and lively civic discourse.

Looking for Paul – Pre-show Tea

Wednesday, April 27, 2016 – 7pm
Join us for a series of Pre-show Teas with our World Stage Scholars-in-Residence. Admission is free with the purchase of a ticket to the opening performance of Looking for Paul.
Looking for Paul is many things at once: it is a performance about shocking works of art; it is a performance that stages a discussion about how art can shock; it is itself a shocking work of art. Join us in a challenging pre-show “Devil’s Advocate”-style discussion, facilitated by World Stage Scholars-in-Residence Denise Cruz and Matthew Sergi – who will take on, for argument’s sake, the opinion directly opposite from whatever has most recently been said – and who will playfully encourage you to do the same. Come out early and try out different and opposing opinions, just to see what fits, as we tackle tough questions about where and whether lines should be drawn – especially at publicly funded institutions like Harbourfront – between challenging art and harmful offense, between free speech and aggressive intrusion, between the private and the public.

Looking for Paul – Talkshow

Thursday, April 28, 2016 – After the show
Following this evening’s performance, connect with the artists as they field your questions and discuss the work you’ve just seen. It’s the most direct behind-the-scenes access you can get. Admission is free with the purchase of your ticket.




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