37. RMNSC: the practices of (non-)submission

Special written for the blog during 37. RMNSC Festival visiting / October 2012


The naturalnesss of a man like a machine (thoughts about the process of mechanization and computerization as a new round of human evolution, the naturalness of fear and alienation which are appeared when a person faces the new kinds of human beings and etc.) is the main idea of the festival program’s performances. The artists, using their personal experience and different performative forms, create a wide variety of understanding and interpretation of the future of this kind of evolution.

Thus, Belgian dancer and choreographer Lisbeth Gruwez, who was very impressed, as she says, the collaborativa with Dutch artist, director, choreographer and playwright Jan Fabre, showed the dance performance It’s going to be worse and worse and worse, my friend.

There is the empty space with light ground in the center. The performer appears in the men’s trousers, white shirt, with brushed back hair (no woman as well as no men). She stops in the center of the stage and looks at the audience. She is absolutely calm. We see the strong person, who with confidence looks on the mass in front of her. There are a lot of sounds around, but her body doesn’t submit to this algorithmic melody. Her body makes its personal moving because she is not a machine. The sounds begin to be louder, we could identify some words among abstract sounds:   we. made. we made.made … finance.

And  suddenly the body of the performer begins to respond to these words, unconsciously, the body answers to them. The performer tries not listen it, that to retain her individual rhythm. But the record whirls faster and faster. we. made. we made.made.made.made … finance.finance. advertising. finance. we … The rate as well as  the suspense increase. Stop. The performer is going to give a resolute rebuff. But the sounds, the words are formed in a mad algorithmic code, and the performer’s body couldn’t submit to it. Her body no longer belongs to her, it’s a machine. Is she a machine? We could see only her living eyes (as if the viewer watches a process during of which a person has lost the connection between the personal identity and the body). At the final, the body of the performer turns in ‘zeros’ and ‘ones’. Is this the end? Like a machine, and nothing more?

But, at the last moment, when it seems her own will be totally submitted, and we couldn’t see even her living eyes, the performer makes an effort, catches the moment and  ‘jumps out’ from the program. She starts from the floor and rushes up, like a bird, who breaks away from the trap. The sound algorithm changes to a violin melody. The performer jumps, and it seems that the force of gravity is overcome forever. Will there be any worse? And could this release happen in reality? There is no definite answer. But the idea of Lisbeth Gruwez is that in any case she will fight. And her dance (her leap) is a way of her insubordination.

The dance by Lizabeth Gruvets is really fascinated and put in the trance, as it is written in the abstract. Her every movement is not just physical, it’s made because of internal impulses. It’s obviously at the beginning when the performer sets a shirt’s cuff link straight; it’s not simply gesture, but a dance. Then, watching every move of her muscles, you find these links (internal and external), which in the moments of the voltage ( the conflict her own with her body which is as a machine) produces a powerful energy effect.

Many questions came after a performance World of Wires (Guggenheim Fellow 2011 and Obie Award 2012) by American director, painter and playwright Jay Scheib. There are two bases on the performance’s idea. The one is the message of ​​the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard about permanent interaction of the reality and its simulacrum. The second is the book Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?  by Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom, who suggested that the probability that we live today in a ‘matrix’ is more likely than the probability of the reality of our existence. Jay Scheib worked on the performance for several years, invited for the work scientists from the Institute of Engineering in Massachusetts, where he teaches. As a result, he could be able to tell not only a story of the simulation, but to show how the simulation looks on thetrical stage. It is that case when theatre could be able to compete with contemporary media forms, subordinating it to the theatre main condition – the living presence of the actors.

At the beginning, it seems that you won’t see theatre performance; it will be more non-theatre as post-theatre, it will be a film. There is a big screen in front of the stage where the movie is running at the moment when the audience comes. After any time you could note that the making of the film projected on the screen happens on-line on the stage behind of the screen. Actors walk, talk, run across each other, shoot, spill coffee – the camera in the hands of the operator, who walks among of them, accurately captures what happens on the stage. But the actions of the characters seem to be completely illogical, and talks about simulation and simulacrum are absurd.

It takes very little time, and one of the actress jogs the screen by her back  (we see it is only on video), and a part of it made out cardboard boxes is destroyed.  Now you can see a part of the stage with on-line action too. You listen to illogical talks and watch absurd actions again. It seems illogical for the viewer, but for the characters it is already natural, as they have repeated it many times. Their dialogues are constructed from fragments of the statements but they understand each other as they know the plot of the story. But suddenly they also don’t understand what happens, as they should make something against their desire.  Or the action around happens in their imagination, or in a parallel reality, or, conversely, the reality, about which they think as the reality, is only a simulacrum of it.

The screen has been destroyed completely,  and now you can see all action live.  But the operator continues to shoot, and the video is projected on the small plasma screens above. Thus, the effect of several realities and reproducing copies appears.  The video images, the cardboard stage set – all is like a simulacrum. The reality is only the actor’s acting. Because of the camera, you can see close-ups of their faces and all emotions are really.  But truly living on this absurd story, the characters know about camera’s presence, and sometimes they pose specially for it. The subject of a watching eye sometimes is used by the director for ironic way. For example, in the scene about the lost Eden, when the characters, being in a confined space of the bathroom (we only see their video images), undress, laughing, eat apples and suddenly they notice the camera and – oh, fuck – they put on their clothes again that to hide the nudity of their bodies as well as the personalities.

Thus, the subject of the simulation become not only philosophic abstract idea, it’s closer to our daily reality (the influence of the mass media, for example). On the one hand, the simulation of reality happens as if against the wills of the characters. But on the another hand, surrounding themself with moleskins, apple laptops, plastics, chips, imitating the behavior of  heroes of TV reality shows, the characters lose their individuality mading the simulation  or simulacrum of the reality around themselves. It’s not clear when they have real emotions and when they simulate the emotions (killings doesn’t end by real death, sex is not over, in principle, does not start).

The sense of the story, the understanding of the borders between the reality and the simulation are lost. There are the man and the woman on the stage at the end. He looks at her  reflection in the mirror and tries to touch her. She turns to him and quietly says: Hey, I’m here.

The performance provokes a lot of questions, not only about the main subject. One of the questions is the emotional perception of the performance because you don’t feel strong emotions in spite of real emotional actor’s play. Even the final, which could be stronger, more emotional and etc. doesn’t put a clear point. It stops abruptly.  Does it mean the director’s goal was to create the performance that the audience should feel nothing? Because of a new man doesn’t need emotions? Or even the performance is only the simulacrum of theatre?

We could only suggest, because modern theatre doesn’t give right answers (it’s really difficult to understand the personal stand of the director). The performance gives the audience only a way to feel a personal experience of freedom. Artists today only formulate the problems and state the facts, and the viewer should give his own answer and make a choice.

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