Saturday 21 March 2015

Guest post: Strategies for Problematizing Identity in the Eastern European Arts – Identity.Move!, Prague

[at the Identity.Move! Festival, alongside the shows there were a series of short papers/talks/presentations. I discuss Karol Radziszewski’s Why I don’t Like the Rainbow here. This one is by Una Bauer. I thought it was brilliant, and she’s kindly let me republish it here, essentially saving me the trouble of having to just say everything that happened in it]

"in the case of future rebellions and revolutions" 
from Studies on Greylag Goose

Your first sentence is: “There is no end.” You are making a transcript of sound recordings preserved on magnetic tapes. The tapes don’t exist. Your transcript is a copy of what didn’t exist in the first place. Bits of your sentences, or rather the transcript of the voices and sounds, are interspersed with notes in brackets that state where the non-existent tapes have, nevertheless, been damaged. “Five second silence.” “Four centimeters damaged tape.” “Inarticulate.” You seem to be writing about or writing through an experience of a woman caught in a space-between or in a world-between, as if that which she perceives, and that which her perception is made of, resonates on another frequency, that you sometimes catch a glimpse of, or rather, a sound of. Yet she is not the only voice in your book. In fact, she is the one listening. You mention astrobiology, as if that is an already established discipline. You hint at a catastrophe that happened six years ago. It seems there is now only your sister and you in this dusty eternal summer that you seem to be living through. Yet there is no tension of anticipation, seductive dynamics of revelation of this other world. There are only bits and pieces of something that, occasionally, seems familiar. You write about forgetting the astronomy lessons you took in Osijek, a city in the eastern Croatian region of Slavonia, while Osijek was still there. You seem to know Osijek well, it looks like you’ve lived there. Your writing is bubbling with detailed and precise descriptions, yet they are as detailed as they are discontinuous. You write as if you are entering into an unknown, dark basement with a flashlight that keeps turning off. Yet you are, obsessively, trying to complete a task of describing this space, for someone who was never there. So you describe the bits you can see when the light is on, but somehow you keep losing yourself, and every time the flashlight is back on, you start from a different place with your laborious rendition. At some point, you mention transitional time, before the riots, when the rumours of the collapse of the West started growing stronger and stronger. It seemed that the entire European Union looked like Siberia, and bottles of milk and packages of sugar held warning messages: “These products may contain traces of European origin.” But you never tell us what was it that happened, although you do mention cow encephalophatia, pig plague and emerging xenophobic political options. They seem to be announcing the catastrophe, however, rather than being the catastrophe itself. You seem to be living in a permanent state of mobilization, pursuing a particular goal that never reveals itself. Two thirds of your novel are written in one continuous sentence. You are Luka Bekavac, and your novel is called Viljevo. You are Dorotea, Eliza’s sister, who escaped from Osijek that never looked like what you so obsessively describe it to be. You are Josip Marković and you wrote the last part of the novel Viljevo which is a quasi-scientific study on the phenomenon of radio transmisions from the same space, yet another world.

You are a choreographer. You are choreographing movement which neither attempts to conquer the space, nor does it close itself on its own imaginary internality. You seemed to have turned the space inside out, reshaped the empty air around you into a solid block of thick matter. Conversely, your body appears as the empty space, a cut out, a hole. With fast, yet restricted motions of your upper body, you bring the space around you into existence, forcing it to appear in its materiality. You seem to be carving your movement into the thick mass of the space around your. It is a pleasure to watch your moving, as you, unlike so many dance performances, are not invading the space and trying to show your virtuosic dominance over it, by suppressing its materiality, negating its resistance. You are insisting precisely on this resistances. Yet you are not doing this by any obvious means such as by slowing down of your movement or by intensive emphasize on the strain of your movement. You are standing firmly in your position, wearing heavy shoes, locked in your security and safety, yet at the same time, with your upper body you invite, demand, produce this firmness as instability, performing movements which almost suggest that your body is hanging on a thin thread, that it is shaking uncontrollably back and forth. Yet there is nothing of pantomime in what you are doing. Your strategy produces certain dis-embodiment or doubling, a certain de-personalization of your body, its transformation into an object. You emphasize contingency as the basic mechanism of every living organism but what is interesting is that you produce this contingency in the performance, rather than using it as a ready-made. You are choreographing your body as unstable, introducing insecurity and fragility as dramaturgically and choreographically created and chosen. You are Vesna Mačković, dancer and choreographer from Zagreb. You are a dancer with disability. You are Vedran Hleb, director and dramaturg. Your piece is called Intensities.

You are making a performance which, by exploring the strategy of subversive affirmation or over-identification, articulates the thesis that the conflict between the oppressed and the opressors is a conflict between different (human, animal) species which have been, to an extent, deprived of communication amongst themselves because the initial axioms of their existence are so different that one species cannot access the truth of the discourse of the other, as it, to draw from Foucault, refuses methodological principles which condition the entrance into the truth of the other. The aesthetic and political strategy of your performance is built primarily on a certain hypertrophy of the theme of «civilization» or rather on an exaggeration, or forcing into absurdity various semantic streams of this basic idea. The problem that you are engaged with, is that those different species, their material existence doesn’t carry the same weight – in the language of the performance – you are either the louse or the elephant. Or, to quote from The Mothman Prophecies (2002), an American blockbuster starring Richard Gere: “I think we may assume that these entities are more advanced than us. Why don’t they simply come and tell us what is on their minds? – You are more advanced than a cockroach, have you ever tried explaining yourself to one of them?” Cockroaches might survive nuclear war, however a man can destroy a cockroach much easier than the other way around. You frame this line in your story with another one – with an introductory story about a graylag goose which, due to imprinting and other forms of habit creation as explored by Konrad Lorenz, always continuously re-establishes and re-affirms its habit, enforced by fear. The habit becomes the norm, something unquestionable and unquestioned, something good, something which helps us conquer fear. Arbitrarity or contingency turns into absolute fairness – teleologically speaking – if you are poor, you deserved to be poor, because the world cannot but be precisely what it should be – just and fair. Even more so, there is no need to change this just world, we only need to make sure that we continue the way we did so far, and to defend it from those who want to question hidden political origins of inequality. You are Aleksandar Nikolić, director and dramaturg from Belgrade. You are Nataša Antulov, dramaturg and director of the performance Studies on Greylag Goose. You live in Rijeka, Croatia.

from Intensities

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