About pride between the viewer and the performer. Out plays with the performer’s anticipations and the spectators’ expectations.
When they take their positions in the theatre, their roles are clearly divided: the performer is there to show something, the spectator to see something. The performer makes a claim on the spectator’s attention and understanding; the spectator expects fascination. Out is testing how the spectator and the performer will act out their roles in a situation in which it is no longer clear what they can expect from each other. Ten performers get down on their knees and start playing the game of dog’s devotion “throw and fetch” with the audience. The game goes on as long as the audience is willing to play it.
“Via Negativa has succeeded in opening up a field in contemporary Slovenian theatre for which theatre in Slovenia will never be quite the same again.”
(VEČER MARIBOR, 17.11.2008)
“What Via Negativa is trying to show, boldly and impertinently, since it dares to, is that the theatrical space is in equal measure filled by the performers as by the audience.”
(RADIO 101 ZAGREB, 17. 10.2008)
“It is not entirely clear whose pride is being addressed here. Who is worse off: those who always catch the ball in the same way or those who always throw the ball in the same way?”
(ZAREZ ZAGREB, 30.10.2008)
Conceived and devised by the group
Performers: Katarina Stegnar, Gregor Zorc, Darko Japelj, Sanela Milošević, Kristian Al Droubi, Petra Zanki, Boris Kadin, Uroš Kaurin, Rok Matek, Nataša Živković
Concept and direction: Bojan Jablanovec
Concept and direction assistance: Katarina Stegnar
Additional costumes: Oliver Jularić
Stage technician: Igor Remeta
Production manager: Špela Trošt
Production: Via Negativa, &TD Theatre Zagreb, 2008
Co-production: Glej Theatre Ljubljana
Support: Ministry of Culture of Republic of Slovenia and the City of Ljubljana
Premiere: 10 October 2008, &TD Theatre Zagreb
OUT Workshops were held in Zagreb (Teater &TD), Beograd (Kulturni center Rex) and Dublin (Balkan Irish Arts Forum, concluding performance: August, 28th, 2008, Dance House Dublin, performers: Deirdre Lennon, Maud Hendrix, Lisa Marie Johnson, Alex Conway, Ailish Claffey, Aoife Heery in Sascha Perfect).
OUT Via Negativa, Perforations Festival, La Mama Experimental Theatre Club
Kathy Gray, BOMB Magazine No. 116, Summer 2011, Brooklyn, New york (…)
Inflate the theatrical event, let it burst!
Rok Vevar, Večer Maribor, 17. November 2008
Bojan Jablanovec and his collaborators (Gregor Zorc, Katarina Stegnar, Sanela Milošević, Kristian Al Droubi, Petra Zanki, Boris Kadin, Nataša Živković, Darko Japelj, Uroš Kaurin, Rok Matek) have rounded off the Via Negativa cycle of performance pieces based on seven deadly sins with the production OUT (Stara elektrarna, production: Via Negativa, ITD, Zagreb, Glej Theatre), tying it to the theme of pride. How? Pride is inherent in the very structure of Out in a number of ways: as theatrical psychological stamina (actor demanding his own text), as a literal performing act (inflating a balloon), as provocation (Katarina Stegnar provoking the audience in various ways), as its own “wounded” consequence (Kristian Al Droubi), as manifestation of power, potency (Rok Matek), as cliché-ridden assistance (Nataša Živković) – and we could go on.
How do we get a handle on the production Out? Via Negativa conceives of pride in quite explicit terms, literally, analytically, almost scientifically, but less so moralistically. It seems to be saying the following: inflated nothing (the theatrical event) pushes out the membrane (the matter, through which the viewer morphs into the actor and the actor into the viewer) of its weak boundary to a point where it either bursts (viewers leave) or perseveres in a frail equilibrium (we are waiting to be let off by the theatre protocol). In doing so VN sticks to three main tasks: (1) it focuses on the substance (on the slippery nothing), which inflates (What stuff is the theatrical event made of?), (2) on the act of inflation itself (What is the theatrical event doing?) and (3) on the membrane of the object produced by the winds (Where is the limit to the theatrical event?). Of course VN poses a number of fundamental questions: (1) is theatre not merely a pure manifestation of haughtiness, a mixing of air (2) or is theatre not special types of wind, so to say “organs without a body” that cannot be structurally, dramaturgically or in any other way incorporated, and (3) is not theatre inherently subject to disorganization, coincidence, to something that is inevitably Out-side. Of course, one is prone to wonder: is Via Negativa series not turning itself into a convention of sorts, where inclusion is becoming more and more consistent and this outside evidenced as already a symbolic space, something already part of the idiom itself?
Certainly, there are conclusions to be drawn at the close of the Via Negative series. Between Starting Point: Anger (The Modern Gallery, 2002) and this year’s production Out (The Old Power Station) Bojan Jablanovec and his collaborators have created one of the most significant opuses of contemporary Slovenian theatre. In this opus the focus is not on the performance executed with a predetermined theme, a particular form and iconography, but rather as a format in which a semiotics with its structure get transposed and supplemented into a theatrical event the moment the viewers begin interacting with it. We could say that in the case of Via Negativa, it is the politics of each and every performance that is foregrounded, while culturo-political, aesthetic, performing, directorial, dramaturgical, theoretical and other contexts that powerfully contribute to artistic ideologies are being vitally questioned. Such politics gives rise to conditions in which the performers and viewers can begin writing their story from scratch, and make and remake themselves along the way rather than consent to fixed territories of moral positioning (deadly sin as an aesthetics of politics), as is the case within the police and politics of Western democracies. True, Via Negativa does not carry through its set tasks with equal success in each and every performance, but this is ultimately irrelevant: it has succeeded in opening up a field in contemporary Slovenian theatre for which theatre in Slovenia will never be quite the same again. Let us hope that VN explorations continue.
Theatre spectator may very well be god, but what when performers are atheists
Nika Leskošek, Radio Student Ljubljana, 11. November 2008
(…) Similarly as in previous performances, sin is once again explored interactively, taken outside the domain of theatrical representation and projected across the barriers. This time the performance turns on pride, indirectly then on the pride of the audience, though pride, paradoxically, is precisely what Jablanovec & company have developed as a side product of their seven-year-long theatrical journey.
Why pride and indirectly audience’s pride? First because pride is handily the last remaining, as yet untreated sin, and second because their specific approach consisting of shock-therapies and stretching the boundaries of theatricality has time and again provoked opportune reflection while simultaneously honed the taste of the audience. The opening of ever new horizons of expectation move more and more towards the unreachable heights, primarily thanks to the performances of sinful lust in Would Would Not and to sheer brilliance of Viva Verde on sloth.
It is high time, then, to settle accounts with the omnipotent position of the spectator, who is henceforth setting impossible demands. While, at the same time, of course, also with their own trodden path which is in vital juxtaposition with their audience. Having abandoned the representation of characters and acting out predetermined and alien words by way of opposing the classical theatre, Via Negativa have dedicated themselves to the process of self-searching in relation to the theatrical. Again we are presented with the trick of Jablanovec’s trade as each of the performers undertakes the task of questioning in his or her own personal way. The result is a cluster of seemingly disconnected and fragmented pieces, but which nevertheless make up a mosaic-like narrative whole, this time about the difficulties of performing under the heavy weight of the audience’s ego.
Grega Zorc is caught up in a penetrating search for a text, Darko Japelj, thoroughly fed-up with movingly portrayed characters, is fighting off the classical theatrical repertoire, Boris Kadin, like a magic rabbit, is cooling down fiery bodyartistic blood, and the radical Katarina Stegnar, overcome by a hysterical fury, simply fucks off the entire audience, driving them out of the auditorium. In a parodied image of oscillation between obliging flattery and utter ignorance, when the physical or the psychological tearing-apart will no longer do, the performers go down on their knees and enact a doggedly devoted game of “fetch and bring”. To finish, they thank us for our attention in a speech oozing with trashy sentiment.
The performance unfolds in tediously drawn-out acting against the audience’s expectations, continues more frenetically in a radical attempt to negate and obliterate the audience and their expectations until it culminates in utter subordination and acceptance of the inevitable as the performers seemingly indulge the audience. Instead of a loaded and creative shock-therapy, the audience were served a half-baked lesson wrapped in cling film. And even this to only the biggest of the audience’s egomaniacs, whose mute presence kept forever delaying the end. In a graded finale the actors also betrayed performing unease in their bearings towards the spectator. It isn’t easy with the spectator, even less so without him. (…)
Out, Via Negativa
Igor Ružić, Radio 101 Zagreb, 17. October 2008
The Slovenian performance group Via Negativa has already demonstrated the value they attach to an interactive approach. All of their projects to date, all part of a seven-year-long scheme of enacting deadly sins, were interactive, as performance art indeed is. At times, perhaps, even slightly more so, or at least with an insistence towards it. Well, a simple summons to cooperate delivered from the stage only very rarely falls on fertile ground in a more or less darkened theatre. The stage continues to be a position of power, or at least more power than that of the silent auditorium, and the members of the group know this even as they attempt to evade the normative ways of functioning in a performing situation.
”Out”, the last and concluding of the group’s performance pieces, this being the easiest way to describe the format of Via Negativa’s productions, takes up pride for its theme. The last of the deadly sins is once again the initial motif around which the performers and authors build their own miniatures, more or less fitting in with the overall group effort that can, at times, remind one of workshop presentations. Since in principle the focus is not on the actors, their every performance is read differently, assuredly as a meta-theatrical experience, something the performers are not attempting to hide and the audience, in any case, anticipate. Therefore, and for reasons also other than above, “Out” is the production in which Via Negativa has the most to say about the theatre itself, albeit no more than has also been said in “Viva Verdi”, still Via Negativa’s best piece to date. While the theme then was sloth, more precisely work, as well as the issue of artistic production, the focus now is the theme’s presentation, the ways in which to manipulate one’s own position of power and those who have acquiesced to it in a performance situation, be it consciously, subconsciously, or simply by abiding the rules of civilized behaviour and ritual goings to the theatre as an a priori cultural prerogative. (…)
What Via Negativa is trying to show, boldly and impertinently, since it dares to, is that the theatrical space is in equal measure filled by the performers as by the audience, the former with their audacity and skill, the latter with their understanding and consent. A shortcoming in any of these components annuls the theatre, despite the imaginative stage direction, décor, mists, sound and fury. Every one of the witty, hysterical, abject, nonsensical and gentle episodes in this performance is therefore a living defence of the theatre, all up to the point in which one of the particularly agile women performers opens the side door and reminds the audience that, literally, they should not have to take “being fucked around”. This summons to leave the theatre, which on the other hand is not eviction, comes after at least an hour’s long testing of the audience and their readiness to undertake with humility the watching of what is largely nonsense, even if at times witty nonsense. On the other hand, it is true that each of the episodes does repeat some of theatre conventions to which we normally consent, from false provocation, to pure exhibitionism, awkward improvisation and plain balderdash, or even mindless wasting of performance time without recourse to any concept. Though not in the least bit agreeable, “Out” is a performance piece that should, for all of the above, be made a part of an education programme, say in the seventh or eighth grade of primary school. An audience educated in this way would ensure a better theatre, because it would neither abandon it haughtily nor assume it was – a theatre critic.
Dogformance, dogs lives and beasts
Nataša Govedić, Zarez Zagreb, 30. oktober 2008
(…) Judging by the dramaturgy which simply sequences episodes of hyper-theatrical as well as failed “non-action” on the stage to then once again re-enact them in a faster mode, the group Via Negativa judges people as brutally as it does our four-legged friends: we are all one big army, incurably subservient to a template.