Frida León Beraud
Socially committed puppetry
Swiss Performing Arts Award 2022
Frida León Beraud was born in Chile in 1970 and grew up in Argentina. She trained in drama at the University of the Arts in Neuquén, and then studied at the Hochschule Ernst Busch in Berlin on a DAAD scholarship in puppetry. Since 2003 she has lived in Zurich, where she set up the DALANG Puppet Company together with Frauke Jacobi in 2004 and completed an MA in scenography at the Zurich University of the Arts in 2008. Frida León Beraud works as a cultural mediator and performer in various projects, liaising between Argentina and Switzerland. Since 2016 she has been artistic director of Dalang & Co, running interdisciplinary projects on the social and economic periphery. Frida León Beraud sees herself as a mediator, promoting artistic encounters between puppet theatre, object- and media-oriented stagecraft, as well as dance, comic book, the visual arts and performance.
The trademarks of Dalang (the word means “puppeteer” in Indonesian) are openness and a willingness to embrace other disciplines and themes. For a dalang, there are no boundaries between fantasy and reality. Frida León Beraud deliberately seeks out topics that prompt her audience to reflect and resist. In Buenos Aires in 2016, for example, she developed “Mozart in Moscow”, a Mozart opera featuring garbage collectors that she also showed in Zurich in 2017. The project’s main aim was to enable socio-cultural exchange between young people from various social strata in Argentina and Switzerland. For 2022’s “sweet & sour” documentary theatre on sex work and migration, she invited sex workers to invent ideal brothels and work clothing that were then integrated into the staging. During Frida León Beraud’s research, her puppet and alter ego Maria helped her engage in conversation with sex workers on the street.
Objects and puppets play a special role in the works of Frida León Beraud. They are the secret helpers that get people talking to each other and create space for their previously untold stories: stories that tell of complex interrelationships, social oppression and economic dependencies. Frida León Beraud is an artist working across continents. One is Europe, the other South America; but sometimes the continent is just round the next street corner. Not far away, perhaps just unknown because we prefer not to look. Then along comes Frida León Beraud to take us there, helping us to understand that we all live in one world and are responsible for each other.
Markus Joss, jury member