Monday, December 23, 2013

In memoriam Alain Buffard

How to start a relation?

By learning.

By violence.

By negotiated imposition.

By realizing the potential of common enjoyment.

By devouring until you are not.

By listening to yourself in the other.

Alain Buffard 1960-2014

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Yes yes

Yes yes light
make it light seemingly insignificant (which makes it significant precisely because you add the seemingliness) make it a combination of insignificants of knee-jerk intellectual reactions
Yes yes make it a structure a game we play a play we game a thing is a thing is a think
Yes yes perform it make it outdo itself
See it grow as if spontaneously (if possible, try to avoid as ifs)
Yes be precise about your incoherent professional skills
Make every move count
Indecently attractive
Have a conversation pretend to have a conversation pretend your words pretend your words
Be arrogant dress down move down speak down
Be understandable practice clarity
Yes practice lightness

trailer "to allege" from cie public in private- on Vimeo.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

What is New Art (the dark, romantic version)

Rilke - The Departure of the Prodigal Son

Now to go away from all the confusion
that is ours and yet does not belong to us,
that like the water in old wells
reflects us trembling and ruins the image;
from all this, which as if with thorns
keeps clinging to us--to go away,
and all of those
which you had quickly ceased to see
(they were so simple and so ordinary)
-- suddenly to see them : tenderly, appeasingly,
and as if it were a beginning, and up close :
and to realize how the pain
that filled childhood to the brim
descends over everyone, impersonally :
and still to go away, hand leaving hand,
like tearing open a new-healed wound,
and to go away : where? Into the not known,
far into an unconnected warm land
that like a backdrop behind all the action
will stay indifferent -- a garden or wall;
and to go away: why? Out of urge, out of need,
out of impatience, out of dark expectation,
out of no understanding and of unreason:

To take all this upon yourself and in vain
perhaps let fall what you had held, so as
to die alone, not knowing why--

Is this the beginning of a new life?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I distrust my disbelief.

It's something I've taught myself to do when working on an art project. Of course, things go wrong, and I might be heading the wrong direction. But most of the time, once I'm in the process, there is no way of telling. And I do lose faith. I stop seeing any magic whatsoever in what I'm currently making. Without magic things are the opposite of art - so could I be doing the opposite of what I should be doing? Aren't all the other grasses on potential other sides greener?
This is where the critical mind comes in handy, in a paradoxical way. I hear myself think all these "rational" thoughts, these fair criticisms of my own endeavor. And I distrust them. I don't consider myself fit to judge this objectively, and treat myself as a simple worker who needs to keep on working and stop whining. Rationalized whining is still whining. Actually, it's whining of the worst kind, because it uses rhetorical tricks. And it doesn't befit someone of passion - which any artist damn better be.
(Oh, and obviously sometimes the magic appears, after a while. And makes me smile, quite condescendingly, and somewhat complacently, at my whining, disbelieving self.)

 Mario Merz, Untitled
(an exhibition of his is opening at the Paris Gagosian)

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Dancing for Yourself

Awesome, isn't it?
Dancing for yourself is the best, and we all (?) know the feeling of something that is so good it should really be changing the world. Sometimes, we take things just a notch further, and include our private rituals in the non-private world, as if testing what the world can handle. But this esthetic extension is usually our little secret. We sometimes share its secret powers with a select group (maybe grafitti, but also psycho-geography, flash mobs, or even sharing a smile with a stranger who caught us laughing to ourselves...).
Here we have the secret revealed. Dance does change the world. Nothing is ever going to be the same. Say hello to a different persona, space, movement, sound, life.

Now that we've gotten this far, you need to know something: this event was staged. The person dancing is a performer, and what you have just seen is an art project.
This information changes the experience of watching the video (or in this case, it actually changes the experience of having watched it!). So here is someone who was acting as if they were putting their private ritual spontaneously out in the open. Someone who was building a universe for us to see and interpret. Preparing our experience. Possibly - preparing exactly what we felt before we learned this was a set-up.
This knowledge seems to be making it more difficult to fully enjoy the event. After all, what a staging implies we know all too well, and though charming it may be... feels like keeping a safety net, a secure distance.

Finally, the last step: Let's assume that possibly, this first video was, after all, a genuine, spontaneous dance. There is no final answer. The evidence is not convincing, either side. Once we're in the world of such uncertainties, how does it feel to watch the spectacle?
The work is not about excluding Gene Kelly. Or the prepared-choreography-space. It's about including the lady from the bus stop (let's say she is an anonymous passer-by). The work is to have Gene face the challenge and acknowledge the other dancer. The one that seems to be her or his own spectator, that remains their own private dancer, and that keeps making our day.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Happy Acts

In his classic How To Act With Words, J.L.Austin effectively brought about the idea that words (and by extension - other symbolic actions) can change things in the world - they are "performative". In his analysis, he used several categories of his own design. 
Claiming they cannot be considered true or false, Austin proposes to divide speech acts into happy and unhappy ones (the terms seem to have been later substituted (?) by effective, successful or fortunate). The happy ones would be those which achieve the goal of changing reality. The unhappy ones - those which, although they have been constructed correctly, did not achieve this goal (e.g. someone promises something but does not intend to keep his promise).
Austin could have named his categories Alfa and Beta. Instead, he gave them emotionally charged descriptions. As in: insanely charged. You could say this is just British pragmatism, which has a thing for being playful. But this is a text about the performativity of words. A far-going analysis of the effectiveness of language. Why would the term happy appear in such a context? Is Austin making fun of us, engaging us in value judgements, which, being the decent participants of performativity we are, won't be able to leave? Maybe he implies that even the description of communication requires emotion and engagement. Conventions couldn't possibly be innocent. Accepting them is always burning hot, irrational, un-conscious.
One other thing - calling an act happy is anthropomorphizing it. More precisely - it is claiming that acts have an agency. 
You know, when artists talk about works as if they were people: What does the work need? What does it ask of me? 
Even when we act alone, the act - also the artistic act - doesn't allow for solitude. The more of an act it becomes (does every action get to be an act?), the more it challenges us, burdening us with its agency.
And if we want it to perform, it better be happy.


Friday, October 05, 2012

Really real

Writing about performances one has seen is like telling stories of travels - it is not about a shared experience, all we can do is create a new experience. The experience of "I heard about a show where...". This is not always easy to accept, on either side.

The last edition of the Warszawa Centralna festival ended by two shows that deal with the dead-end of civilization as we know it, the fall of paradigms and the attempts to overcome entropy.
Two shows - one is Christoph Marthaler's +-0, the other, Christoph Schlingesief's Via Intoleranza II, ridiculed our attempts to try and do something, and both of them tried doing something, while not managing, but trying, and maybe doing, but not really, but really...
Marthaler's is a beautiful and desperate lamentation after a culture which cannot go beyond itself, which fits nowhere and makes nothing. It still is godly, but useless... For all its beauty, I found it proving its point too well - this high culture does nothing, here. It is a mixture of a deep-rooted feeling of superiority and of despair when this superiority does not help, build or bind. It is a hopelessness I am not ready to accept - or contemplate.
Schlingesief's work (not just this piece) is all about refusing to accept this status quo.
What does Via Intoleranza II do? If you see the trailer, you might get the impression that it's a lively multi-culti show with quantities of fairly classic stage-action and a humanist message. Which, of course, it refuses to be. And which it is, after all.

Let's begin with this: when watching the show, I can't stop imagining Schlingesief-the-director tired of the absolute spectacle with no performative transferrence. Tired of the isolation of art, and, on the other hand, of the happy solutions that are neither happy nor solutions.
And, of course, tired of being sick, of having his sickness define what and who he is (Schlingensief died of cancer short after the premiere).
So he makes one last show. A show where stage is a constant reminder that there is a reality outside. An uncomfortable reminder, one which is to make us feel how ridiculous this place, here, is, and that its one hope is making us feel the need to use it for something very different, really real, really real.
The problem is - unless you leave your culture of distance, pathos and irony, it contaminates everything. But how would you leave this culture? And what tools would you have left?
Please let me out.
How do I get out.
I would love to get out, but can I keep some of the toys? Can I still make it a performance? Can I tell them what I really think, and still keep it a show, and make it unbearable for them to the extent where they themselves will want to leave and act?

Of course, the tools are the tools at hand. The show tools. The contemporary theater tools. The German critical art tools. With a little help from this or that culture or art. It is difficult not to see the presence of the different artistic styles (from traditional Burkinabe music and dance to French-language hip-hop) as a postmodern collage. A playful fairy-tale.
But the question is not: whether, or how, can the real be built on fiction. The question is: what sort of real can we build with fiction?
But first: what sort of fiction can we build with the fiction of being smarter-than-all-this and more-provocative-than-all-this?
Well, in the case of Via Intoleranza II, fiction starts off by looking ridiculous.
Not again - the happy bourgeois laughing at their own pitiful culture. Not again - the spectators suffering joyfully, as it will all be gone soon, so what do I care, if this is real or not.

The first reaction is frustration: I didn't give you my trust and allow you to leave the space (mental space) of theater, so you can come back into theater and make the same sarcastic, self-flagelating stage jokes I know from so many  other contemporary theater artists.
Why are you doing this to me. Why are you taking us back into easy bitterness, when your bitterness was difficult and wild, when it was unbearable and over-the-top crazy and it was doing things. Why are you making it seem like it's just a show, after all?
The difference, here, happens, when you know it's real. If you know that there is an actual opera/school being built in Burkina Faso, if you know Schlingensief really was sick and did die, and really did give his social projects everything he had. Finally, if you know these people have something in there - that something is at stake, then it becomes something else.
It's a paradoxical situation: the show can only be performative (which is its explicit aim) if you know it corresponds to something real (in the outside world) already.
Whatever comes out of it, needs us to be prepared, and in a way, needs us to have lived it already. Is this a failure of art-as-intervention?
Maybe. Or maybe we misjudge theater. We still wishfully dream of the play making the King confess his crimes, out of nothing, out of thin air, and making the anonymous spectator become actor, agent, become activist, become action, become real.
This may make for some shallow theatrical provocations. Doesn't the spectator know he is more real than the stage? Because he comes from the outside? What is real, in this show, has already happened, and not onstage. It is the outside world that is working. And I'm not sure if the stage helps its existence in any way, if it provides it with the fictional energy, or if it is just an excuse.

After all, what we see is not what we get. We get everything it is part of. We are free to dive in and out of it, using it as a ficitonal or real weapon of our choice. Too abstract? Let's make it concrete then: the crazy stories about the opera being built exist also once you leave the space. You can help build the place. The child actor pretending to be an adult, is actually an adult actor who has the health condition of physically looking like a child. He says it, but why would we believe him? Because we know it already. Or we suspect it, knowing how the layers of fiction and reality abuse each other constantly.
Which makes it an insider's theater. Moving for those who had been moved even before, out there.
And extremely frustrating, because it makes it safe, after all, to treat this as a trick, a big, truth-filled trick. No matter how many operas you build and how sad the real death is, they remain outside. The show is so precisely full of itself, it is so spectacle-like, that I'm okay. Just when I hoped I wouldn't be.
That's my problem? I'm afraid Schlingensief's heritage makes it clear - it's ours.


Related Posts with Thumbnails