Cucú and Her Fishes / Cucú y sus pececillos 

New Museum artists in residence Ensayos premiered Act I of their experimental ecofeminist drama Cucú and Her Fishes on September 1, 2020 at 6AM, 2PM, and 8PM EST.

The 2PM screening was followed by a Q&A with Ensayos cast members.

The play begins at a country house partially submerged in a peat bog. As a group of women plan a fundraising scheme for ocean advocacy, debates about ecological justice and interspecies ethics escalate. The actions and conversations are drawn from Ensayos’ “undisciplined” fieldwork, which incorporates creative cross-disciplinary research of pressing ecological issues at the world’s end. Ensayos practitioners are not professional actors; they are a group of artists, scientists, and activists who collaborate on eco-cultural inquiries. Ensayos, in English, means rehearsals. Queering each other’s research methodologies, Ensayistas navigate the complex tasks of ecological conservation through playful, performative experiments in Tierra del Fuego, Norway, Eastern Australia, and New York.

Cucú and Her Fishes is inspired by Fefu and Her Friends (1977), a feminist work by Cuban-born American avant-garde director and playwright María Irene Fornés (1930 – 2018). In Fornés’ play, the audience moves through a deconstructed stage set and experiences a “plotless” narrative in which characters debate gender roles, complex kinships, and cooperative action. Camila Marambio and Christy Gast proposed the re-imagining of this piece to Ensayistas as a way to reflect on their own performance and further entwine their transdisciplinary eco-cultural ethics. Nine Ensayistas began meeting online for weekly rehearsals in March 2020, drawing on compositional and somatic exercises including Fornés’ generative writing, Cote Junemann’s canalizations, and Camila Marambio’s METitative prompts to develop characters and dialogue. Prior to global quarantine measures due to Covid-19, Ensayos had conceived Cucú and Her Fishes as a project that would be developed and performed in the physical space of the New Museum with both in-person and remote participation. After a decade of international collaboration, the process of shifting the performance to virtual space during a pandemic reaffirmed Ensayos’ commitment to an ethic of care across distance and to transgressing humanness.

Ensayos is a collective research practice initiated on the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego in 2010 that brings together artists, scientists, and locals to exercise speculative and emergent forms of eco-cultural ethics. Ensayos has presented work in exhibitions and performances at the Kadist Art Foundation, Paris; the Institute for Art and Olfaction, Los Angeles; Bruce High Quality Foundation, New York; Puerto de Ideas, Valparaíso, CL; Festival Cielos del Infinito, Puerto Williams, CL; Kurant, Tromsø, NO; Gertrude Contemporary, Naarm/Melbourne, AU; and The 8th Floor Gallery, New York.


Cucú and Her Fishes (Act 1) was produced by Ensayos and the New Museum, New York, and screened on September 1, 2020 by the New Museum. Directed by Camila Marambio in collaboration with Christy Gast. Set design by Christy Gast with input from cast members. Edited by Christy Gast. Post-production by Darío Ordenes and Camila Marambio. Sound Mix by Ariel Bustamante with collaborations by Christy Gast and Karolin Tampere. Sound Master by Pablo Thierman. Script translation by Manuela Baldovino. Special thanks to Fernanda Olivares Molina, Julian Donas Milstein, Amaara Raheem, Derek Wright, Emily Mello and Andrew An Westover.

Script was written by cast members based on Fefu and her Friends by María Irene Fornés

Cucú: Bárbara Saavedra (Santiago, Chile)
Cindy: Carolina Saquel (Paris, France)
Christina: Caitlin Franzmann (Brisbane, Australia)
Julia: Hema’ny Molina (Santiago, Chile)
Ema: Carla Macchiavello (Santiago, Chile)
Paula: Denise Milstein (New York, New York)
Su: Christy Gast (Amenia, New York)
Cecilia: Randi Nygård (Oslo, Norway)
María Irene: Camila Marambio (Papudo, Chile)

Act I was written and rehearsed during the first six months of 2020. Cast members met weekly online at Wednesdays at 8am EST, 2pm CEST, 10pm GMT. Ensayistas will develop and perform Acts 2 and 3 in 2021.