by invalids only.
Dance performance by Primož Bezjak
“September, 28th, 1990, General hospital Maribor. On Pohorje a rolling stone hit him in his left knee.” This is the beginning of Primož’s story about his knee injury with an abundant diagnostic and therapeutic documentation. By this day the story hasn’t seen its end yet. Primož is an active dancer, actor and performer with diagnosis: Laesio menisci medialis genus dex; at every rehearsal and performance in constant danger to dislocate his knee, as has happened many times before. His solo is a metaphor for the invalid production of the system, which we maintain ourselves. At his request viewers render him impossible, until he remains without arms and legs. Invalid system can prosper by invalids only. Without crushed knees and elbows one cannot exist nor succeed in the system.
Conceived by Primož Bezjak and Bojan Jablanovec
Performer: Primož Bezjak
Direction: Bojan Jablanovec
Text: medical diagnosis by General hospital Maribor, Orthopaedic hospital Valdoltra, University medical centre Ljubljana
Choreographer: Gregor Luštek
Music: Tomaž Grom (except J. S. Bach, Goldberg Variations performed by Glenn Gould)
Producer: Špela Trošt
Production: Via Negativa, 2010, with support of Ministry of Culture of Republic of Slovenia and the City of Ljubljana
Premiere: 17 April 2010, The Old Power Station Ljubljana
Duration: 60 min
Less is more?
SiGledal, 17. April 2010, Zala Dobovšek
In a solo dance performance entitled ‘An Invalid’, Primož Bezjak presents the chronology of his physical injuries, paraphrasing them through a dancing subject who is quite literally ‘disappearing’ on the stage, as the amputation of his limbs is simulated.
The lack that appears every time the performer theoretically takes away a piece of his body, endows the structure with a new physical constitution of the dancer entering in turn a different performing choreography (Gregor Luštek). Although the concept of choreography is more or less fixed throughout, it gets reconfigured with every removal of a limb through the intensification of the performer’s efforts, but above all with the overall effect arousing feelings of discomfort and all sorts of frustration. The sequencing of scenes soon becomes predictable, but the events are interwoven with insertions in the form of doctor’s diagnostic reports received by the performer from 1990 onwards, which is when the story of the ‘invalid’ also begins. The personal, or even intimate, relationship with the spectator is thus formed due to the disclosure of real private contents, while alongside the documentary approach there is further activation at the level of direct communication with the audience; the spectators are engaged as casual assistants who immobilize legs and arms, enabling the performer to bring his performance/concept to its logical conclusion.
With the ‘losing’ of legs and arms a new stage language emerges. The hurtling of the handicapped mass – ‘bodily remains’ of sorts –, gives rise to fascination and disgust in turn, while the deprivileged body strives, against all odds, for the effect of its erstwhile physical wholeness (as a metaphor for the dancer’s personal posture), hoping to legitimize the newly-arisen dynamics. The missing parts of the body are replaced by previous movements which stay the same, thus cultivating the spectator’s memory of the past integrity of the dancer’s body, while at the same time – paradoxically – these same movements, gestures, and motions resound into a metaphorical nothing, into an empty and painful frustration.
‘An Invalid’ (in the production of Via Negativa and directed by BojanaJablanovec) does more than just interrogate the impact of reduction which can indeed evoke unexpected dimensions of inspiration and yield innovative approaches. It is not merely about the performer’s deformity (the world stage boasts a number of such examples) questioning the meaning of any kind of valorisation of beauty, perfection and perfectionism in performing arts and the possible lack thereof – to which we are still possibly a little over-allergic. The more subtle provocation operates at another ‘moral’ plane, namely at the positioning of the ‘threshold of palatability’ of self-referentiality disclosed by the performer through the chronological survey of his injuries. The intertwining of a radically intimate discourse with the manner in which it is publically disclosed, alongside the awareness of all of the performer’s (real!) agonies, powerfully conveys the stigma of attention in the greedy society of the spectacle. Every suffering will charm someone and every event, no matter how traumatic, will at one point assume the role of impressing someone.