THE HISTORICAL PROJECT OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT FAILED. LIGHTS DO NOT WORK AT ALL.
Oops is a dance performance enacted as a continuous ‘dialogue’ between the dancer (Anita Wach) and the stage, which keeps questioning the meaning of the performer’s and its own existence. The stage takes on the role of a ‘dramatis personae’, addressing the audience and the dancer by way of a projected text: “I’m having trouble with the lights. I know I should turn them on any moment now. But I am afraid that this could be a mistake.”
Even though the stage speaks from a position of a timeless consciousness, a transcendence, “critical reason”; even though it is perfectly aware of the historical loop of mistakes in which it gets caught up over and over again together with the artists, produces, audience, economy, the state, science, religion – it is completely powerless, condemned to the physical presence of the performer. The dancer, trapped in her own physical presence and at the same time a captive of its context, can only defend her own meaning through her body. Both set a limit to each other and both are forced to admit to each other how every time anew they manage to betray each other. Mistake is the only meaningful reason for their existence.
Oops addresses the mechanism of the mistake, which acts as a noose from which there is no escape. For there is never just one mistake. It is always followed by an endless series of mistakes, until the need for change becomes too great. You change your dress style, or eating habits, your partner, job, name, address, bank, director, marriage, president, government, constitution, system … Life becomes an endless process of correcting mistakes, revolving around the repetition of one and the same mistake – to correct the mistake. History gradually loses its meaning. “Enlightened reason” got stuck at the court of King Louis XIV, cynically condemning every attempt to reach a solution to failure. It has become the captive of the mistake.
Jacek Kopciński, literary historian, dramaturg, theater critic and editor of the Polish monthly magazine Teatr, proclaimed Oops for the best dance performance in the season 2011-2012.
Conceived by Anita Wach and Bojan Jablanovec
Performer and choreographer: Anita Wach
Concept, text and direction: Bojan Jablanovec
Technical manager and light: Janko Oven
Music (selected by Anita Wach): Jean-Baptiste Lully: Le Bougeois Gentilhomme (performed by Le Concert Des Nations, Jordi Savall), The Other Half: I need you (Randy Holden, Mike Port), Michael Praetorius: Dances from Terpsichore (performed by Ensemble Bourrasque, Bertil Färnlöf), Jean-Baptiste Lully: Musiques à Danser, à la Cour et à l’Opéra (performed by Les Talents Lyriques, Christophe Rousset), Johnny Thunder: I’m Alive (Pete Lucia, Tommy James)
Producer: Špela Trošt
Production: Art Stations Foundation Poznan and Via Negativa
Co-production: Tanzhaus nrw Dusseldorf and, in the frame of residence programe, DanceIreland Dubrin
Supported by modul-dance and the Culture Programme of the European Union, Ministry of Culture of Republic of Slovenia and the City of Ljubljana, Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland
Premiered in Puppet theatre Ljubljana, 21 May 2012 / tanzhaus nrw Dusseldorf, 31 May 2012 / Old brewery Poznan, 5 June 2012
Duration: 60 minutes
OOPS, Via Negativa’s new performance
Radio Student Ljubljana, 29 May 2012, Zala Dobovšek
The performance Oops, directed by Bojan Jablanovec and performed by dancer and choreographer Anita Wach, shifts its target of research to a rather unusual one this time – a something, or by now we should rather be saying a someone who is present, without fail, at every performance, though mostly does not get a chance to speak. This target saw every performance under the sun, hosted countless performers, had to swallow many stupid an idea, as well as ingenious ones; it was quartered, »erased«, worshipped. Not to mention the excretions, foul language and maltreatment it endured when it came to ‘hosting’ Via Negativa. What or who could this target be … what an idea to start a review with an enigma!
Who has already got it, well done, and who has not, here is the answer: the “what” or the “who” is of course the stage. The stage setting which Via Negativa always so ambitiously and provocatively unsettles by shifting its boundaries, exploding received notions, and perversely undermining its functionality, nudging the spectator into a new awareness and whenever possible, destroying any collective comfort zone. The personification and transformation of the object into a living and indeed talkative subject in the performance Oops is what endows the stage with a dimension of a dramatis personae, and that with a good deal of engagement and intellectual rigour. Its communication is enacted as a projected script, while the style of language and content are ever so jabbing, ironic, entertaining, presumptuous and proudly self-assertive.
While the phenomenology of the stage is timeless, megalomaniacal, even transcendent, if you wish, the performance itself manages to skilfully dodge this with a characteristic balancing act which effectively humanizes the stage as an object, bringing it closer to us. Even compassion can at times find its way into its reciprocal relationship with the spectator. The stage addressing us in the dark is universal, prototypical, while at the same time made lucidly concrete and personal. In short, it becomes the protagonist of the action, for the most part drawing attention to itself, while its true character emerges only in dialogue with the performer (Anita Wach). Even the stage can have stage fright at times, or it is lazy, ill-disposed or simply fed up of the entire circus on it. »What if tonight we dropped the whole jargon of audience, performer, artist etc.? Can’t we just be people for once and can I just be space?«
Oops can be said to already border on a kind of lecture performance since its approach towards the historical meaning of error and its continuous regeneration as well as »false repetition« is philosophical and sociological as well as artistic and creative, paradoxically representing error as a vital link in progress. The pedagogical streak of the stage enlightens us: for our being here today – at this particular event – we should be thanking four historical actors: Louis XIV, who was a decisive supporter of the professionalization of dance; Jean Baptiste Lully, who was responsible for bringing women dancers onto the stage; Pierre Beauchamps, who conceptualized five basic positions, out of which classical ballet developed; and Molière, whose invention of comédie-ballet brought dance out of the royal courts and into the streets.
On the other hand, in its communication with the dancer, the stage is rather aggressive, vulgar and offensive – »I feel sorry for you. You are made not to speak. Even Jean-Baptiste Lully knew over 300 years ago that you have nothing important to say. He wasn’t wrong. At least not in this case.« She resists in whichever way she can: with vulgar dance, obsessive and inarticulate movements, soft »body art«; with red lipstick, powerless repetition of »Fuck you« and the banned lighting up of a cigarette, of course. In other words, a settling of accounts on the one hand between the stage and the performer, and on the other between history and the present, all together predictably underlined with renaissance music, references to Kant and his critique of the Enlightenment, then Louis XIV and reforms of modern states, to Tesla and Edison… even men of genius erred amply; except that an error is not always an error when it happens. What defines it as such is mental distance and civilizational progress. But how goes the saying? It’s easy to be smart in retrospect. And in any case: we learn from mistakes.
OOPS is an educational and interesting performance, which in an innovative and inspired manner emancipates the overlooked and suppressed potential of the stage, revealing it to be both an intellectually and emotionally equivalent component in performing arts. In this context the performance is neither offensive nor overly radical. It is perceptive/sharp/sensible? before it is controversial. But isn’t that the same thing?
The essence of mistakes has been supported by Zala Dobovšek.
*PS: STAGE: »I feel like a complete idiot. I should have spoken up long ago. My mistake.«
Der Tanz der Unvernunft
Rheinische Post Düsseldorf, 3 June 2012, Melanie Suchy
Die Vorstellung des slowenischen Kollektivs “Via Negativa”, einer international renommierten Gruppe, im Düsseldorfer Kunstpalast letzten November war starker Tobak, gewagte Körperarbeit, immer mit einem Hauch intelligenten Humors in der Rauchwolke. Nun erwarteten die Zuschauer im Tanzhaus diese Art der kritischen Kunst wieder, als die polnische Tänzerin Anita Wach mit ihrem Programm “Oops” dort gastierte, das sie mit “Via Negativa” erarbeitet hat.
Der Dunst war diesmal nicht metaphorisch, sondern wahrhaftig, da die Künstlerin auf der Bühne rauchte und sich gegen Ende die Zigarette keck zwischen die Zehen steckte. Zwei Bühnenhelfer eilen herbei und nehmen ihr die Fluppen wieder ab. Der etwas müde Pina-Bausch-Witz steht wohl für die Unvernunft des Menschen und sein schmutziges Benehmen. Denn in der Vorführung geht es um Aufklärung, das Hellwerden oder, frei nach Immanuel Kant, das Erwachen des Menschen aus der Unvernunft.
Deshalb also das Rauchen. Deshalb wohl auch Theater und Tanz. Anita Wach betont das Gaffen und Begafftwerden durch knappste Bekleidung ihres dünnen Körpers auf hohen Pumps. Es geht auch um den Sonnenkönig Louis XIV., der den Tanz beförderte. Barocke Tanzmusik füllt den Raum. Wach verwuschelt im Takt ihre Haare oder tanzt unspektakulär umher. Sie zeichnet Smileys mit Lippenstift auf ihre Haut. Sie zieht und leckt an Körperstellen, so dass Tänzchen entstehen. Halbwegs unterhaltsam und klug ist das, etwas geschwätzig, kokett und didaktisch.