Who must we kill for the love of the audience?
Like Bible’s Cain and Abel compete for god’s love, performers compete for the love of the audience. In theatre, the audience is god, and on stage or behind it we constantly switch the roles of Cain and Abel. In our story on envy we asked: who is our Abel? Four performers set up phantasms of their dying of four big names of the European performing arts world (Pina Bausch, Tim Etchells, La Ribot, Marina Abramović) and erasure them from the stage of contemporary performing arts.
“The Salieri syndrome, brought to extreme consequence.”
(ARTEATRO CONTAMINAZIONI, 27.11.07)
“A total removal of all elements unnecessary for the clarity of the message.”
(GAZZETA DI MODENA, 17.10.07)
“Finally, someone dares say it out loud and with no restrictions: the Audience is god!”
(RADIO STUDENT LJUBLJANA, 6.10.07)
Conceived and devised by the group
Performers: Barbara Kukovec, Katarina Stegnar, Petra Zanki, Grega Zorc
Concept, direction, set: Bojan Jablanovec
Producer: Špela Trošt
Production: Via Negativa, 2007
Co-production: Glej Theatre Ljubljana
Support: Ministry of Culture of Republic of Slovenija and the City of Ljubljana
Premiere: 5 October 2007, The Old Power Station Ljubljana
Rok Vevar: Can love exist without trauma?
Via Negativa: Four Deaths, Not Like Me, Večer Maribor, 23.11.2007
This weekend the Glej Theatre staged the premiere of Not Like Me, an outcome of this summer’s collaboration between Via Negativa and the International Festival of the New Theater Zadar snova. A good month and a half ago, however, Ljubljana hosted Four Deaths, an established production from the Via Negativa project series (Katarina Stegnar presenting and deconstructing Pina Bausch, Gregor Zorc in the role of the English director and performance artist Tim Etchells, Barbara Kukovec as a Spanish performer Lar Ribot, and Petra Zanki as the Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović), behind which lies the distinctive vision of its director Bojan Jablanovec.
One of the principal features of both productions – what seems to be becoming an increasingly explicit structural feature of Via Negativa productions – is the way the role of the performer is constructed. In the last two productions of Via Negativa and Bojan Jablanovec, the performer is first and foremost a spectator of his or her own performance: a spectator of various forms, contents and genres of contemporary performing arts, as well as, inevitably, a spectator of the world. As such the performers bring onto the stage their intertextual and intersubjective positions: they are fundamentally determined first by their career as spectators and only then by their acting or performing (intertextual) roles. The spectator is forever in between, in the liminal space between the auditorium and the stage, the subject and the object or vice versa, between their own vantage point and the world (intersubjectivity). Jablanovec, however, and his performers with whom he is – a point he emphasizes – in a co-authorial position, have managed to relocate in these last two productions the boundaries of theatrical or performing space: creators of performance as persons who are foremost spectators introduce into the production some kind of a meta-theatrical, meta-artistic narrative (a narrative telling us about the theatre, performing and contemporary arts), but at the same time, as “voyeurs” of everyday life they themselves watch and experience reality as theatre, as multiple forms of performance. And it is through them that we are interpolated as viewers: in the same way that performers are spectators so are we as spectators in some way also actors and performers.
The stage production Four Deaths – enacting “envy” as one of the seven deadly sins – is a narrative about the spectator and his desire, about striving “to see beyond”, while positing what is essentially the irresolvable question of intersubjectivity: what has the other got (e.g. Pina Bausch) which I constitutively lack? And as I try to fill this mystery with some content, to give it a name, a definition, a characterization, I destroy precisely what the mystery may have been, since I have named it (i.e. “I love you, but since what is inexplicable in you I love more than you yourself, I maim you”). It is all about the process of reflection, symbolization, of naming – which inevitably means the death of the ineffable, the truth, the Real, the mystery. If in Four Deaths the performer’s identity inflicts death upon the other by filling its lack through the inclusion of the other (Pina Bausch, Tim Etchells, La Ribot and Marina Abramović) into the speech-act, in Not Like Me identity is emphatically constituted through death as the exclusion of the other. In Not Like Me, which is a kind of series of stereotypical love gestures, the field of performance is superimposed directly onto the world: at the end, as a love duo, the Croatian performer (Boris Kadin) and the Serbian performer (Kristian Al Droubi) play a game with knives (Marina Abramović). This way they comment and parody the entry into history: of Yugoslav wars and contemporary arts, begging the question whether the battle to enter history is not always connected with blood and war, with a struggle for supremacy. Be it in the field of politics or performing arts, the question that arises is the following: is not love, so as to enter some intimate history, always directly proportional to the inflicted wounds or wounds which – metaphorically speaking – show up on the skin of their own accord when we are not prepared to inflict them ourselves? Does love exist without trauma, without pain? It all depends on our – Perspective on things.
Gareth K Vile: Death and Burlesque
http://www.theskinny.co.uk/, 15 Mar 2010.
The twin muses of Experimental Performance and Burlesque battle for the soul of the theatre critic. What will happen?
Given her almost nihilistic approach to both life and art, it is unsurprising that La Ribot’s death, as represented by Via Negativa, is a naked body in a welter of blood. While a tape-recording of Ribot’s thoughts on life crackles on the side of the stage, she lies there, ribs, breasts and bright red wig, slowly fading away, an installation to mortality. Once she is gone, the wig and her shoes are gathered up in a shoe box, her remains packed away with less ceremony than a pet buried in the back garden. Her words deny meaning, deny magic: not just a Godless world, but one devoid of purpose and coherence. In this imagined death, the human body is a mere object, bereft of soul or erotic intent.
Twenty four hours later, at Va Va Voom in Edinburgh, I am watching Cat Aclysmic’s Powder Puff routine. Once a fairly simple bump and grind addition to her repertoire, she has powered it up through close study of classic American burlesque and a cheeky British humour. It’s playful, and sexier for it: the body is tattooed with meaning, the focus of attention, and desire. Where La Ribot’s body is exposed and explicit, it is mere flesh. Cat Aclysmic’s body teases and implies, becoming word.
If Via Negativa perform Four Deaths – the symbolic murders of four artists – Va Va Voom, through Cat Aclysmic and Cherryfox, create Four Lives: sensual routines of assertion and energy. Both Via Negativa and Va Va Voom use humour – as the cast of Four Deaths announce, “theatre is fun.” But where Via Negativa gradually shift to melancholy – Marina Abramovitch’s departure is a slowly dissolving fall of bubbles that uses an obvious metaphor in a moving finale – burlesque leaves the audience dancing.
Ian Smith, MC of the National Review and head honcho of Mischief La Bas, has commented that humour allows serious artists to comfort the audience before leading them into darker territory. Via Negativa, with a tinny rendition of Mozart and a wry self-depreciation, relax the crowd before focussing on death. La Ribot’s terse material notwithstanding, Four Deaths is a spiritual journey, like a Buddhist meditation on impermanence. It also offers concise summaries of four artistic greats’ aesthetic, describing Tim Etchells from Forced Entertainment’s dangerous relationship between health and performing and Abramovitch’s notorious study of the body. It is intelligent, thoughtful, drawing a connection between the stage and life: the friendly, natural personae on stage add to the blurring of boundaries. It’s as if the audience is being invited to conspire in the company’s own fantasies.
I left the CCA calm and moved: despite the blood and scattered body parts, death is recognised as part of a natural cycle, possessing its own resonance and beauty. Even the pitiful dissolution of Pina Bausch into a final smoking cigarette becomes a symbol of her life and achievements. Yet Va Va Voom left me agitated, dispersed. The erotic thrill transforms into a terse questioning, the celebration of life compromised by the impolite desires swirling around my thoughts. My erudite contemplations on Cat Aclysmic’s use of tradition and narrative, dressed up in formal language, are driven by an undercurrent of raw physical desire. If burlesque is a meditation on life, life is confused, the mind and body locked into a conflict only resolved by tiny deaths.
Pascal Bély: Au Festival Komm’n’act: quatre morts et un enchantement
www.festivalier.net, May 2009
(…) Entre la fraîcheur et l’ouverture de ce collectif d’artistes Slovène et notre difficulté bien française à travailler le lien dans la créativité, il y aurait là une performance que ce festival pourrait assumer! (…)
Jacopo Lanteri: Via Negativa vs. Tim Etchells
(…) In the last action, the focus falls upon the historic performance of Marina Abramović and Ulay, in which they slap each other – with one difference: here, the performer is alone, naked, in the center of the scene. In this action, various meanings and possible readings branch out: from the killing the tutor through a process of reconstruction and remake, all the way to the exact opposite: an extreme homage to the tutor’s work. And the will and desire to punish oneself for the transgression made. The Salieri syndrome, brought to extreme consequence. (…)
Francesca Giuliani: L’altro volto dell’invidia
Gazzetta di Modena, 17.10.2007
(…) The artists, imperfect copies, balance precariously, caught between reality and fiction. And keep applauding the audience. Not a set search for an aesthetic, but rather a total removal of all elements unnecessary for the clarity of the message. The strategy the four Slovenes use to point to envy is clear: repeat the actions of their masters, which become grotesque and stop making sense when they are passed through the performer’s bodies, their physicality. (…)
Zala Dobovšek: The audience – the godly arbiter
Radio Student Ljubljana, 6.10.2007
(…) Through evolution, the audience becomes king, the godly arbiter. Beside the artistic effect, the performers, actors and dancers ready to face Death to gain in prestige, keep breaking through to dimensions of reality. Has this become the only path to victory in the “Cain and Abel” artistic battle? (…)
Primož Jesenko: Invisibilities
Delo Ljubljana, 3.11.2007
(…) The performers undertake indirect “killings” of their “rivals” systematically: upon entering the stage each one presents a clinical dramaturgical dissection of the chosen postdramatic opus and then evokes it with a live replica of one of the canonized performative acts. Katarina Stegnar presents a gracious death in the smoke of the last cigarette á la Pina Bausch, staging herself beside extras, random audience members, in a pieta. Zorc examines the terminal dimension of Tim Etchell’s performances as he slowly breaks the spiral succession of plugged-in light-bulbs. Barbara Kukovec, a virtual La Ribot lies naked in a spilled bucket of paint and then positions the angles of the spectators’ gazes. Petra Zanki a virtual Marina Abramovič slaps her naked self intensively. The effect of once revolutionary renditions varies in expressiveness (the spectators prior knowledge of the presented authors is not necessary to establish identification), while the “more” the authors reach for is, in this context, the applause of the manipulative (but very supportive) audience, brought upon by the reconstruction’s closing. (…)