Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Presentation at Dorkbot Mexico this Saturday

I am happy to announce that I am invited to give a short presentation of my recent work and the current status of my Artaud installation in the context of DORKBOT CO. DE MEXICO. The video-lecture will be part of Dorkbot 17, which takes place this Saturday (May, 30th) at 7 p.m. at Central del Pueblo (Venezuela 72 Centro de Tenochtitlán hoy Distrito Federal). Other featured artists will be Alfredo Borboa and Adriana Calatayud Morán. Subsequent to our three presentations there will be a LIVE SET Open Mixer.


About Dorkbot:
Dorkbot is a group of affiliated organizations worldwide that sponsor grassroots meetings of artists, engineers, designers, scientists, inventors, and anyone else working under the very broad umbrella of electronic art. The dorkbot motto is "people doing strange things with electricity".

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Second Manifesto

n. pl. man·i·fes·toes or man·i·fes·tos

A public declaration of principles, policies, or intentions, especially of a political nature.
[Italian, from Latin manifestus, clear, evident;]

The most significant reason to base the installation / device, that i am developing right now at the Centro Multimedia, on „The Conquest of Mexico“ (and not on any other text from Artauds Mexico-Volume as f.e. „The Mountains of Signs“) was for me certainly its manifesto-character. I liked the idea to work with a text, that functions as a proposal, as a truly political declaration, as a effusive manifestation of a “clear state of mind”, and I still think there is no better way to deal with it than on a small scale, since models are on the one hand much more handy to outline and explain specific ideas than simple words, and on the other hand they always stay in their unrealized status of a proposal / manifesto, since they aim on having an impact on reality, but still wait for their actualization in "real life" or, as in this case, on a "real stage".

“The Conquest of Mexico” is first announced (and further specified) by Artaud in the second half of his second manifesto on “The Theatre of Cruelty”:

The first spectacle of the Theater of Cruelty will be entitled:

Within this manifesto Artaud describes initially content and form of “The Theatre of Cruelty” in general,

Besides this need for the theater to steep itself in the springs of an eternally passionate and sensuous poetry available to even the most backward and inattentive portions of the public, a poetry realized by a return to the primitive Myths, we shall require of the mise en scene and not of the text the task of materializing these old conflicts and above all of giving them immediacy; i.e., these themes will be borne directly into the theater and materialized in movements, expressions, and gestures before trickling away in words.

before he further explains the “moral grounds and the immediacy of interest of such a spectacle” and “the value as spectacle of the conflicts it will set upon the stage” in specific regard to “The Conquest of Mexico”.
These notes about the actuality and relevance of the staging of “The Conquest of Mexico” will establish the core of the introduction of “The An-archic Device”. They will be spoken in a Spanish translation by an actor, who I met earlier this week in a restaurant in the neighborhood of my apartment, after a series of lucky coincidences. As he was sitting on the table next to me, and as he was in discussion with some friends, I noticed first the sound of his voice, which seemed to have exactly the qualities that I was looking for: On the one hand very controlled and kind of straightline, it left on the other hand space for subtle modifications and break-outs without leaving its overall balance. So I was asking him, if I could do some voice recordings with him, and told him a little bit about my project, and he agreed. Since I was later told by a friend, that he is actually one of Mexicos busiest actors, Daniel Giménez Cacho, who even worked with Pedro Almodóvar in “La Mala Educación” before, I really hope that he will find some free time and that this collaboration will happen someday during the next two weeks, but I am quite confident, since during our nice talk it not only turned out that he had a book with poems by Paul Valery in his bag, but that he also had already a good knowledge of Artauds “Theater of Cruelty”, and he talked very passionate about it. He also pointed me to one very unpretentious performance he had seen once during a theatre festival, where one actor was carrying kind of a mobile enclosed cave- / theatre architecture with his body and asked the spectators in particular, to immerse into his construction, where they were given a short private performance.
Anyhow, his voice will mark the beginning of the installation, and it will be accompanied by a short video-performance, that I will record with another performer in the area of the ruins of the “Templo Mayor” in the historical center of the city (based on Artauds description of the Tutuguri-Ritus).
The video can be seen on the screen of the installation, that at the beginning works like a normal screen without transparency. Therefore, this first part of the installation works like a prologue in the theatre, when the curtain is still closed.

During the last week I also frequented quite regularly the robotics department of the Centro Multimedia, and made some progress with the mechanical design of the installation. I am happy, that there will not only be a real lighting rig with “small moving spots” (based on a construction with cheap motors and small leds) on the top of the miniature stage, but that there will also be a huge wheel construction, which allows the use of four different 3-dimensional picture stages behind the then transparent made screen, each one corresponding to one of the four acts, that Artaud is outlining, when he in a addendum to “The Conquest of Mexico” further describes “the structure of the spectacle according to the order in which it will unfold”. These four pages with more or less concrete images and scores regarding the dramaturgy of the play, have not been included in the French Edition of Le Theatre et son Double (as a part of the second manifesto), but have first been published two years after his death in 1950. Also manifesto-like in form and content, they will be the matrix for the miniature staging of the play, that follows up the introductory prologue.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Theatrical Devices / About Translation

Just as a tangent touches a circle lightly and at but one point, with this touch rather than with the point setting the law according to which it is to continue on its straight path to infinity, a translation touches the original lightly and only at the infinitely small point of the sense, thereupon pursuing its own course according to the laws of fidelity in the freedom of linguistic flux.

Walter Benjamin, The Task of the Translator

Thinking about my own „translation“ of Artauds theatre outline „The Conquest of Mexico“ into the media sculpture „The An-archic Device“ for the last few days, I was starting to read the notes of his contemporary Walter Benjamin on „The Task of the Translator“, an essay I was pointed to through Eusebio, who just recently discussed it in one of his collective groups, that is examining the language of things and documents. In some ways there seem for me to be analogies between Artauds proposal of the “invented being”, of “things [that] become unforeseen, corresponding to nothing”, and Benjamins notion of poetry and art:

In the appreciation of a work of art or an art form, consideration of the receiver never proves fruitful. Not only is any reference to a particular public or its representatives misleading, but even the concept of an "ideal" receiver is detrimental in the theoretical consideration of art, since all it posits is the existence and nature of man as such. Art, in the same way, posits man's physical and spiritual existence, but in none of its works is it concerned with his attentiveness. No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the audience.

While Benjamin explains further, that the “essential quality” of a literary work is not “communication or the imparting of information”, but that what “lies beyond communication” (a conception that provides an interesting foil to Artauds idea of “the spirit of profound anarchy which is at the root of all poetry”), he insists that not similarity to its “original” would be the most important task of a translation, but rather to find its “mode of intention”:

The task of the translator consists in finding the particular intention toward the target language which produces in that language the echo of the original.

As life goes back to normality in Mexico-City (restaurants and public institutions opened 3 days ago), I start now to discover another aspects of its social life, and realize a big relief wherever I go. You can still feel traces of fear and hysteria, but openness, humor and musicality have found their way back into the daily life. Walking through the streets, I become quite impressed, with how much care and affection people are treating small items and construct cheap but pragmatic superstructures with a passion for the details. Mexico seems to be still in some way a religious, catholic country, as I am not only remembered from the daily ringing bells of the church opposite my flat, but also from a considerable amount of small altars in the streets or private doorways. When I arrived in Mexico and went to the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, I already noticed replica of these hybrid entities, as they took a prominent part in the exhibitions of contemporary Mexican life. Right now I am starting to connect this idea of these “private devices of worshipping”, with their very theatrical settings integrating colorful paintings and photographs, sculptures of the Virgin Mary, flowers and sometimes even special lighting effects, with my planned “translation” of Artauds “The Conquest of Mexico”. As we have seen, Artaud assigned a cathartic and social function to the theatre. For him, the collision of the sacred and the profane made theatre alive. Still, there is a significant difference between religion and theatre, since the latter is not based on belief, but on the knowledge about the "theatrical pact". Therefore, the sacred is here not equivalent with dogma and the affirmation of an unity, acknowledging and establishing layers of power and submission in this way, but opens the wide space, where each subject is set back to its self in its relation to the world. Taking Artauds idea of a "Theatre of Cruelty" seriously, i became quite sure, that "The An-Archic Device" has to claim its (very theatrical) autonomy. I am looking forward to take the different parts of the installation together.

That is how we sorcerers operate. Not following a logical order, but following alogical consistencies or compatibilities. The reason is simple. It is because no one, not even God, can say in advance whether a given multiplicity will or will not cross over into another given multiplicity, or even if given heterogeneous elements will enter symbiosis, will form a consistent, or cofunctioning, multiplicity susceptible to transformation.
Deleuze & Guattari

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The An-Archic Device

I say that the stage is a concrete physical place which asks to be filled, and to be given its own concrete language to speak. I say that this concrete language, intended for the senses and independent of speech, has first to satisfy the senses, that there is a poetry of the senses as there is a poetry of language, and that this concrete physical language to which I refer is truly theatrical only to the degree that the thoughts it expresses are beyond the reach of the spoken language.

Artaud, Metaphysics and the Mise en Scene

After closely re-reading Artaud for almost two weeks in Mexico City, it is now the time to turn more towards concrete questions regarding the final conceptualization and realization of my installation. Before I went to Mexico, I didn't know what would expect me here and how it would influence my project, and this general openness was pretty much part of my concept.
In the last nine days you could get the impression in the worldwide media, that most of the people here in Mexico-City are supposed to die immediately if they use the metro, kiss their friends, or do not disinfect their hands all 30 minutes. Therefore, the social life was almost brought to a deadlock, and fear and hysteria became a big part of the everyday life in the city. In these moments the actual relevance of Artauds “Theatre of Cruelty” was shown to me quite plainly.

What I really like about Artauds poetics, is that it is an affirmative way of thinking. As we can see in his writings, Artaud was not just passive lamenting about the decline of civilisation, but was permanently looking for ways to solve its crises. Even if Artauds conception of theatre had to remain an almost unmatched utopia until today, it is - especially if we talk about art and about its practical implications – surely worth the effort to deal one more time with his notes on theatre:

The contemporary theater is decadent because it has lost the feeling on the one hand for seriousness and on the other for laughter; because it has broken away from gravity, from effects that are immediate and painful - in a word, from Danger. Because it has lost a sense of real humor, a sense of laughter's power of physical and anarchic dissociation. Because it has broken away from the spirit of profound anarchy which is at the root of all poetry. [...]
This helps us to understand that poetry is anarchic to the degree that it brings into play all the relationships of object to object and of form to signification. It is anarchic also to the degree that its occurrence is the consequence of a disorder that draws us closer to chaos.

Danger is always a part of our life, and we have to be prepared, if we face it in reality. And where can we prepare ourselves for it, and where can we solve its fears, if not in the realms of art? This is at the core of Artauds poetics, and from here we now can see, how his Theatre of Cruelty - operating with the two poles of seriousness and laughter and undermining the insufficient fields of human communication and knowledge - hence has inherent the possibility for its actualization as a truly revolutionary disagreement-machine, as a machine producing things that refuse any order and categorization:

A moment ago I mentioned danger. The best way, it seems to me, to realize this idea of danger on the stage is by the objective unforeseen, the unforeseen not in situations but in things, the abrupt, untimely transition from an intellectual image to a true image; […]
Another example would be the sudden appearance of a fabricated Being, made of wood and cloth, entirely invented, corresponding to nothing, yet disquieting by nature, capable of reintroducing on the stage a little breath of that great metaphysical fear which is at the root of all ancient theater.

When things become unforeseen, corresponding to nothing, then they resist any intelligibility. As Samuel Weber states in “The Virtual Reality of Theatre”, here neither becomes the relation to the other or the outside dissolved, nor is that other simply reducable to a goal or a purpose.

With my installation based on “The Conquest of Mexico” I try to follow these ideas by Artaud, and sharpen them even further. What I am actually trying to construct with my small toy theatre is kind of a potentially revolutionary laughing machine for domestic use.

"The Conquest of Mexico" will become: "The An-archic Device”.