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PUBLICATION First published 2009 by the Romanian Cultural Institute in Stockholm in connection with the exhibition THE SEDUCTIVENESS OF THE INTERVAL, Romanian Pavilion - 53rd International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia (7th June - 22nd November 2009) Reprinted 2010 in connection with the exhibition THE SEDUCTIVENESS OF THE INTERVAL at The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago (2nd May -27th June 2010) Editorial concept: Alina Şerban & Mirela Duculescu Texts by Mieke Bal, Alistair Ian Blyth, Roann Barris, Adina Br\deanu, Mirela Duculescu, Hanneke Grootenboer, Erika Fischer-Lichte, Catrin Lundqvist, Dan Lungu, Angelika Nollert, Andrei State, Saviana St\nescu, Ovidiu }ichindeleanu, Katalin Timár, Adnan Yıldız Translation from Romanian and proofreading: Alistair Ian Blyth Translation from Swedish: Alan Crozier Design: Arnold Estefán Published by: Romanian Cultural Institute in Stockholm Romanian Cultural Institute in New York Skeppsbron 20, Box 2336 200 East 38th St. 103 18 Stockholm New York, NY 10016 info@rkis.se, www.rkis.se icrny@icrny.org, www.icrny.org

ISBN: 978-91-977432-7-3 Printed in Bucharest by FABRIK, 2010 Print run: 800 © Alina Şerban and Mirela Duculescu for the catalogue concept. © Romanian Cultural Institute in Stockholm and the authors for their respective essays. © The artists for the reproduction of their respective works and Gallery Plan B Cluj/Berlin, Nicodim Gallery Los Angeles, Andreiana Mihail Gallery Bucharest. © Dan Vezentan (newfolder.ro), exhibitions views: 19-21; 76-78, 80-81; Alex Axinte, exhibition view: 18, Andrea Faciu, exhibition views: 23, Arnold Estefán, views of the exhibition model: 70-74. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission from the copyright owners. Acknowledgments: The editors would like to thank the following for permission to reprint their material: Mieke Bal for permission to reprint the essay “Setting the Stage: The Subject Mise-en-scène,” originally published in Peter Pakesch, ed., Videodreams: Zwischen Cinematischem und Theatralischem - Between the Cinematic and the Theatrical (Cologne, 2004) 28-49. Erika Fisher-Lichte for permission to reprint the essay “Introduction: Theatricality: A Key Concept in Theatre and Cultural Studies” originally published in Theatricality. Spec. Issue of Theatre Research International 20.2 (Summer 1995): 85-89. This publication has been financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Romania and the Romanian Cultural Institute in Stockholm.


EXHIBITION THE SEDUCTIVENESS OF THE INTERVAL The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago 2nd May -27th June 2010 Artists: Ştefan Constantinescu, Andrea Faciu, Ciprian Mureşan Curator: Alina Şerban Exhibition Design: studioBASAR - Alex Axinte & Cristi Borcan The exhibition THE SEDUCTIVENESS OF THE INTERVAL is presented by The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago with the financial support of

The exhibition THE SEDUCTIVENESS OF THE INTERVAL was initially conceived and produced for the Romanian Pavilion at the 53rd International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. This exhibition constitutes a traveling version of the Venice project. THE SEDUCTIVENESS OF THE INTERVAL Romanian Pavilion - 53rd International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 7th June - 22nd November 2009 Artists: Ştefan Constantinescu, Andrea Faciu, Ciprian Mureşan Curator: Alina Şerban Exhibition Design: studioBASAR - Alex Axinte & Cristi Borcan Commissioner: Monica Morariu (Ministry of Culture, Religious Affairs and National Heritage, Romania) Project manager: Mirela Duculescu Press: Alina Şerban Assistant Curator: Livia Pancu Stage Setting Production: MOB HOUSE, Bucharest Exhibition Design collaborator: Livia Andreea Ivanovici Structural engineer: Cristi Botoi Technical installation of the works: Terramarine - Igor Vucic (www.terramarine.de) installation of Andrea Faciu’s work EXUBERANTIA suspended; Guillaume Blondeau - sound installation; Cristian Butoiu - light installation Web Design: Valentin Chincişan Graphic Design: Arnold Estefán The exhibition in the Romanian Pavilion has been financed by the Ministry of Culture, Religious Affairs and National Heritage, Romania. With the support of

Botanischer Garten MünchenNymphenburg

In partnership with


CONTENTS

- 07 -

FOREWARD TO THE SECOND EDITION OF THE CATALOGUE “THE SEDUCTIVENESS OF THE INTERVAL” Horia-Roman Patapievici

-09-

NOTE Alina Şerban

- 109 -

Critical Texts - 119 -

Hello. Excuse me. Can You Tell me Where I am? On the Dynamics of Signifying Practices in the Exhibition Katalin Timár

- 127 -

Empowerment and Manipulation: The Seductive Betrayal of Art Roann Barris

- 133 -

Openendedness: Becoming Intimate with the Object Hanneke Grootenboer

Artists/Projects - 41 -

- 51 -

- 61 -

- 71 -

- 85 -

ŞTEFAN CONSTANTINESCU Ştefan Constantinescu - A Child of the Revolution Catrin Lundqvist ANDREA FACIU “Licking the Surface, Scratching the Wounds” A conversation between Andrea Faciu and Angelika Nollert CIPRIAN MUREŞAN The Democratic Device. The Art of Ciprian Mureşan Andrei State

- 139 -

Radical Politics, Art, and Theatres of Emancipation and Liberation Ovidiu }ichindeleanu

- 147 -

studioBASAR Consuming Disruptive Worlds Mirela Duculescu

The Politics of the Stage or The Stage of Politics Adnan Yıldız

- 155 -

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE INTERVAL Notes towards a Metaxylogy Alistair Ian Blyth

The T-words: Truth, Theatre and Torture (performative questions for a better ‘I’ and a smarter dog) Saviana St\nescu

- 161 -

In The Recycling Room Adina Br\deanu

- 173 -

Writer’s Notebook (Auto)biography and empathy Dan Lungu

Key Texts

- 91 -

Introduction: Theatricality: a Key Concept in Theatre and Cultural Studies. Erika Fischer-Lichte

Setting the Stage: The Subject Mise-en-scène Mieke Bal


The seductiveness of the interval

Horia-Roman Patapievici

Foreword to the Second Edition of the Catalogue “The Seductiveness of the Interval” “The Seductiveness of the Interval” represents a statement of a Romanian generation’s desire to reconcile its troubling, recent history through variations on violence and cruelty, which ultimately become a rough theatricalization of current social norms. It also represents a modern generation’s need for interval and gradation, an attempt to stop the tempo; the exhibit’s segmented trajectory allows for direct experience intertwined with moments of contemplation. These moments of “seductive” pause provide perspective and the possibility for serenity and balance. Susanne Ghez, the director of The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago selected this exhibit from the Romanian Pavilion at the 2010 Venice Biennale, saying, “It is not only an invaluable window onto a former Communist country for western audiences, but is an incredibly clear aesthetic inquiry into questions of broad consequence.” And, indeed, the opportunity of such a strong presence of Romanian contemporary arts in the U.S., under the auspices of a highly reputed visual arts institution, encourages the Romanian Cultural Institute to pursue its complex balancing act between mainstream talent and past cultural achievement, on the one hand, and remaining relevant and creatively engaging with the emergent international arena, on the other. The center versus periphery dilemma seems to have been overcome by globalization; what used to be inaccessible territories can today embrace and single out Romanian arts. This awareness further inspires us in the belief that, through its consistent support to emerging artists over the last four years – artists who are increasingly being recognized internationally – allowing new generations to break through and ensuring a permanent presence of new creatives in museum exhibitions, gallery shows, art fairs, and key events such as the Venice Biennale, the Romanian Cultural Institute has succeeded in becoming a major springboard and proponent of the imaginative, dense and visionary tensions of new Romanian arts. They now speak internationally with distinctive eloquence but also connect organically to a broader spectrum of ideas. Both a critical and a performative endeavor, this project is an ideal example of the Romanian Cultural Institute’s understanding of an emancipated and pertinent RomanianAmerican cultural exchange.

Horia-Roman Patapievici is a writer and philosopher, who currently serves as President of the Romanian Cultural Institute and Vice-President of the EUNIC network, and who has brought an innovative approach to cultural diplomacy. In Romania his articles and books have sparked intense debates about religion, social issues, ethics and the state, and the moral values of societies in transition. From 2000 to 2005, he was a member of the National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives, where he promoted greater openness and transparency with regard to the records of the Romanian communist secret police.

-07-


The seductiveness of the interval

Alina Şerban

Note on “The Seductiveness of the Interval”

At the heart of our fascination with strangeness, otherness, and the unfamiliar is a distinctive utopian or mystical understanding of life. The clash between nature and artifice, between appearance and reality, between hope and despair disseminates particular individual utterances that allow reality to be experienced differently, fragility to become evident and imagination to designate a space which is not bound to the laws of the quotidian. Yet, what appears to ground all possible scenarios for modelling parallel worlds is tension either by means of intonation, speech, and gestures or imagery, which in the end help us to reveal us otherwise than we know ourselves. In the framework of the 53rd International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 2009, titled Making Worlds, the exhibition in the Romanian Pavilion can best be understood as an attempt to put onto the stage a play in five acts, represented by the works of artists Ştefan Constantinescu, Andrea Faciu and Ciprian Mureşan. The three artistic positions are conceptually united within a site-specific installation conceived by the studioBASAR architectural group as a theatre set, which has the virtue of cutting a physical and narrative sequence out of the Pavilion space that can either enhance or suppress the viewer’s relationship with a world that differs from the quotidian. Artists working in different artistic and social contexts, some of them possessing the experience of exile, of the shift in political regimes, social and cultural transitions, Ştefan Constantinescu, Andrea Faciu and Ciprian Mureşan relate in their work to the theatricalisation of social practices, the encrypted “dramaturgy” of the public realm, and the complex order of individual destiny. Their narratives enclose the viewer in a space of tension and reverie where he can act not only as an agent who merely sees, but also as a scrutiniser in search of the network of motivations and the causal links between the multiple passages and visual narratives presented within the exhibition, in order, ultimately, to ensure the coherence of the whole.

-09-


Alina Şerban - Note

The Seductiveness of the Interval sets out from an apparently simple observation - the artwork within an exhibition places the viewer in a relationship with a new reality. Once the original context of its production has been distanced, the work becomes the stage set for “performances” of an interpretative type generated by a whole set of relations (formal, aesthetic, social and emotional) between the author’s vision and the viewer’s expectations, between what the artist proposes as a “scenario” and what the spectator gradually discovers in time. The exhibition present in the Romanian Pavilion proposes a reflection upon the exhibition space as a world put on the stage. The central questions of the project regard the role of the viewer in connecting the reality of art with the reality of the everyday, the conditions whereby the exhibition space is transformed into a space of self-reflection by means of the gaze. Under which conditions the one who views is transformed into the one who is viewed? How can we liberate the onlooker from the passivity of his gaze in order to engage him directly in a world of strangeness, of the fragility of which he is aware that it can only offer just a temporary escape from the everyday? What are his choices in a world constructed according to the singular lived experience of the artist which deprives the viewer of something or receives something back?

Ştefan Constantinescu

Troleibuzul 92

The present publication, released on the occasion of the 53rd International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia 2009, represents a distinct chapter in The Seductiveness of the Interval project, and is a glossary of themes, sub-themes, and questions posed in debate by artists Ştefan Constantinescu, Andrea Faciu and Ciprian Mureşan. Conceived as a reader and as a detailed documentation of the works presented in the Romanian Pavilion, the publication problematises aspects that relate to the condition of the spectator to the way in which the subjective vision of artists regulates the position of the viewer, his engagement to the works, the Gaze and, further, the construction of Space. Moreover, the selection of essays by theorists of culture studies, and scholars and curators in the field of art discusses the possibilities of the viewer negotiating his role in the exhibition narrative; theatricality as an intrinsic property of the perceptual dynamic; mise-en-scène as a cultural and artistic practice; the ways in which the display of reenacted situations, events, and occurrences within the exhibition site lead to an intimate absorption of the audience into a temporal and spatial interval with which they become eventually complicit.

Alina Şerban (b. 1978) is an art historian and curator. She lives and works in Bucharest, Romania. She has a Degree in the History and Theory of Art and a Master’s Degree in Visual Arts (2005), both from the National University of the Arts, Bucharest. She is a doctoral candidate in Art History at Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK. She is the co-founder and co-director of the Centre for Visual Introspection, Bucharest (www.pplus4.ro). In 2006, she took part in the Kuratorenwerkstatt programme at the Kunsthalle Fridericianum Kassel, where she was curator of the Indirect Speech exhibition. She is involved in research projects, giving theoretical presentations and lectures at various international conferences. In parallel, since 2002, she has been involved as a curator in the activity of independent spaces in Bucharest, and has developed specific publishing and exhibition projects both locally and internationally.

-10-

2009 RED transferred to Blu-ray 8 min Courtesy of the artist In association with IASPIS


Ştefan Constantinescu Selected solo exhibitions:

2009 The Golden Age, Gallery Gal-On Art Space,

Tel Aviv, Israel 2008 The Golden Age for Children, Botkyrka Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden Archive of Pain, The Romanian Cultural Institute of Stockholm, Sweden 2007 Thanks For A Wonderful, Ordinary Day, Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest, Romania The Passage, Gallery Posibil\, Bucharest, Romania 2004 Dacia 1300 – My Generation, The Museum of the Romanian Peasant, Bucharest, Romania Dacia 1300 – My Generation, Vector Gallery, Ia[i, Romania Dacia 1300 – My Generation, Malmö Art Museum, Malmö, Sweden 2003 Dacia 1300 – My Generation, ID:I Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden 2000 Archive of Pain, co-authors Cristi Puiu and Arina Stoenescu, Sala Dalles, Bucharest, Romania Archive of Pain, co-authors Cristi Puiu and Arina Stoenescu, Contemporary Art Center, Vilnius, Lithuania

Selected group exhibitions:

2010 (upcoming) Handlung. On Producing Possibili-

ties, Bucharest Biennale 4, Bucharest, Romania The Seductiveness of the Interval, The Renaissance Society, Chicago, USA Romanian Cultural Resolution, Spinnerei, Lepzig, Germany Teenagers of Socialism, Waterside Project Space, London, UK 2009 The social critique 1993-2005, Kalmar konstmuseum, Kalmar, Sweden The Seductiveness of the Interval, Romanian Pavilion, 53rd International Art Exhibition-La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy Dada East? Contextes roumains du Dadaïsme, Tourcoing, France Bad Times/Good Times, FUTURA – Centre For Contemporary Art, Prague, Czech Republic Portraits of the Artists as Young Artist, Andreiana Mihail Gallery, Bucharest, Romania 2008 The Map: Navigating the Present, Bildmuseet, Umeå, Sweden Periferic 8 – Art as Gift, Biennial for Contemporary Art, Ia[i, Romania Dada East? Romanian Context of Dadaism, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland There and Here, wip:konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden 2007 Dada East? The Romanians of Cabaret Voltaire, Färgfabriken, Stockholm, Sweden 2006 Dada East? The Romanians of Cabaret Voltaire, Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, Switzerland indirect speech, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany

2005 Minnesbilder, Skulpturens Hus, Stockholm, Sweden

On Difference #1. Local Contexts –Hybrid Spaces, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germany

Selected screenings, artist talks:

2010 (upcoming) Goldsmiths College, London, UK MORALITY: Act III, And the moral of the story is..., Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, Netherlands 2009 Screening of The Passage, Eastside Projects, Extra Special People: Salon, Birmingham, UK Screening of The Passage and Troleibuzul 92, The Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, Israel 2006 Screening of The Passage within “Politics of Space”, conference in the context of the exhibition On Difference #2: Grenzwertig, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germany Artist talk, parallel event within Chaos: The Age of Confusion, Bucharest Biennial 2, Bucharest, Romania

Film festivals:

2007 The Passage, Tempo Documentary Festival,

Stockholm, Sweden 2006 The Passage, Transylvania International Film Festival, Cluj-Napoca, Romania The Passage, Göteborg Film Festival, Göteborg, Sweden 2004 Dacia 1300 – My Generation, 8th Annual Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin, Paris, France

Filmography:

2010 Apartamentul 21 (in pre-production), Producers

Eroikfilm, Sweden and 42 km, Romania Taxi 2000 (in pre-production), Producers Eroikfilm, Sweden and 42 km, Romania 2009 My Beautiful Dacia, co-director Julio Soto, Producers The ThinkLab Media, Madrid, Spain and Hifilm Productions, Bucharest, Romania Troleibuzul 92, Producer Comitetul Central, Bucharest, Romania My Beautiful Dacia, co-director Julio Soto Producers The ThinkLab Media, Madrid, Spain and Hifilm Productions, Bucharest, Romania 2005 The Passage 2003 Dacia 1300 – My Generation 2002 The Baron, 22.02.2002 (based on a concept by Cristi Puiu)

Publications:

2008 The Golden Age for Children, The Romanian

Cultural Institute of Stockholm, Labyrinth Press, pionier press, Stockholm, Sweden 2006 Northern Lights, IDEA arts+society, No. 23, Cluj-Napoca, Romania 2003 Dacia 1300 – My Generation, Simetria, Bucharest, Romania 2000 Archive of Pain, pionier press, Stockholm, Sweden

Troleibuzul 92 2009

Production Company: Comitetul Central Studio Director: Ştefan Constantinescu Producer: Barbu B\l\şoiu, Toma Velio Production Coordinator: Vlad Tutuianu Director of Photography: Barbu B\l\şoiu Actor: Gheorghe Ifrim Editing: Mircea Olteanu Graphic Design: Ştefan Cios Colour Correction: Victor Dumitrovici Sound Design: Florentin Tudor

First Assistant Director: Alexandru Antoniu Still Photographer: Bogdan Susma Makeup Artist: Gabriela Cre]an Focus Puller: Valentin Simeonov Boom Operator: Constantin Dinu Clapper: Victor Filip Gaffer: Leonardo Fanone Key Grip: Radu Marinescu Loader: Valentin Simeonov


Ştefan Constantinescu

Passagen

2005 Betacam SP transferred to DVD, 62 min. Courtesy of the artist Financed by: Konstnärsnämnden Editing: Ştefan Constantinescu Bogdan Marcu Video effects: Bogdan Marcu Sound: Bogdan Marcu Film Consultant: Tom Sandqvist

Music: ”El Pueblo Unido” – Music Eduardo Carrasco y Sergio Ortega, Inti Illimani, 1968 ”Tack För En Underbar, Vanlig Dag,” Music Agnetha Fältskog/Bosse Carlgren, Agnetha Fältskog, 1968 Archive: Scener ur Pedro Ramirez Garreton Film ”Sökandet”, 16 mm, 6.20 min, 1973 Postproduction: Audiovideo CRAC Translation English: Andreea Cârnu


Andrea Faciu

EXUBERANTIA suspended

2009 Mixed – media installation (irrigation system, plants, audio system, speakers) Variable dimensions Courtesy of the artist


EXUBERANTIA suspended 2009

Garden installation: TERRAMARINE - Igor Vucic, Berlin Project supported by Botanischer Garten Muenchen-Nymphenburg, technical manager Rudi Mueller & the team. Audio installation: musical composition by Guillaume Blondeau. texts by Andrea Faciu. Sound arrangement: Guillaume Blondeau & Andrea Faciu. Excerpts from: Domnica Trop “Bocet” & Francis Cabrel “Ma ville.” Voices: Andrea Faciu, Vincent Faciu, Guillaume Blondeau, Sandra Filic, Gülbin Ünlü, Ketevan Kurashvilli Krause, Ondrej Svadlena, Antonio Guidi, Salah Saladin and others.


Andrea Faciu Selected solo exhibitions:

2011 (upcoming) ConTrakt, Artothek, Munich,

Germany 2010 Träume & Komplizen / Dreams & Complices, Kunstverein Braunschweig / Remise & Kunstverein Junge Kunst, Wolfsburg, Germany 2009 Staedtische Kunsthalle Lothringer13, Munich, Germany 2007 Mechanik des Alltags, Winde der Normalitaet / Daily Mechanics, Winds of Normality, Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Dueren, Germany 2006 Lies mich, Leser, wenn ich dir Freude... / Read me, Reader, if I bring you Joy, Kath. Akademie, Munich, Germany 2005 Gefuege Eins / Structure One, Project Space, Rathausgalerie, Munich, Germany

Selected group exhibitions:

2010 The Seductiveness of the Interval,

The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago, Chicago, USA Diving for Pearls (in you own Soup), Städtische Galerie Lothringer13, Munich, Germany Landschaft I-IV / Landscape I-IV, Galerie der Künstler, Munich, Germany Galerie Sonja Junkers, Munich, Germany When your Lips are my Ears, our Bodies become Radios, Sommerakademie, Zentrum Paul Klee, Berne, Switzerland 2009 The Seductiveness of the Interval, 53rd Biennale di Venezia, Romanian Pavilion, Venice, Italy Reading the City, ev+a 33rd Edition, Limerick City Gallery of Art, Limerick, Ireland The Artists as Young Artists, Andreiana Mihail Gallery, Bucharest, Romania 2008 Favoriten 08, Kunstbau-Staedtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany Between the Images, Romanian Cultural Institute, in cooperation with Cinemateket, IASPIS, Index – The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation, wip:konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden Diving for Pearls in Your Own Soup, different venues, New Quebec Street, London, UK BJCEM XIII Biennial of Young Artists, Puglia, Italy Moves, Kunsthalle Koidl, Berlin Sky wide open (together with Michail Pirgelis), Artlodge, Verditz/Afritz, Austria Most - Bridge, La Fabrika, Prague, Czech Republic RE-Construction, Young Artists Biennial, Bucharest, Romania 2007 Quatro Stelle, Villa Romana, Florence, Italy Verwendungsnachweis, Project Space of MMK Museum fuer Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt/Main, Germany Ars viva 2006/2007 - Narration, Stadtgalerie Saarbruecken, Germany Ars viva 2006/2007 - Narration, House of the Lords of Kunstat, Brno, Czech Republic

Expedition Medora III, Kunstarkaden, Munich, Germany Touching the City, No 1, Vector Association Gallery, Ia[i Romania Jahresgaben, Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Dueren, Germany Friends, Foes and Collaborators, Galerie IG Bildende Kunst, Vienna, Austria La Boum III, Krakaw Poland 2006 Im Anfang war das Wort / In the Beginning was the Word, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany Ars viva 2006/2007 - Narration, Oktogon, Hochschule der Kuenste, Dresden, Germany YBA - Young Bavarian Artists, GAGOSIAN GALLERY, Project of the Berlin Biennial, Berlin, Germany Periferic 7 Biennial / Social Processes, Former Turkish Bath, Ia[i, Romania Ursula Blickle Videolounge, Video archive in cooperation with Kunsthalle Vienna, Austria Invideo, Monza, Italy Expedition Medora, Project space of ZKMax, Munich, Germany Eight Days - Video project in public space, Munich, Germany Jahresgaben, Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Dueren, Germany Underdox Filmfestival, Munich, Germany 2005 Videotheka, Centro per l‘ Arte Contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato, Italy Paperart 9 Biennial, Leopold-Hoesch-Museum, Dueren, Germany (curated by Dorothea Eimert) SayNoProduction II, Galerie Klueser 2, Munich, Germany 2004 Manifesta 5, Biennial for Contemporary Art, SanSebastián, Spain Love It Or Leave It, 5th Cetinje Biennial, Cetinje, Montenegro Harald Falckenberg Collection, Maison Rouge, Paris, France Photography, Barbara Gross Galerie, Munich, Germany No. 1, Video, Rote Zelle / Red Cell, Munich, Germany 2003 In den Schluchten des Balkans - Eine Reportage / In the Gorges of the Balkans, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany Einblicke / Sights, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany In the very Silence, Franziskanermuseum, Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany zimmer frei / Vacant Room, Hotel Mariandl, Munich, Germany Kunst am Boden / Art on the Ground, Kulturzentrum und Theaterlabor, Schwabhausen, Germany


Ciprian MureĹ&#x;an

Auto-da-Fe

2008 3 channel slide projection, 154 slides Courtesy of Andreiana Mihail Gallery Bucharest & Nicodim Gallery Los Angeles Project assistants: C\t\lin Ilie Ĺžtefan Tiron Authors: Irlo, p.n.e.a. & Masi, Pierre le Venerable, Neuro, Mimi, Akira, Misionarul no limits, Silve, C\t\lin Ilie, Cristian Rusu, Irina Bako, Quincy, Cristina David, Raluca Barb, Octavian Rusu, Ovidiu Anton, Teresa Novotny, Phillip Hohenwarter, Julia Hohenwarter, Anna Witt, Diana Du]\, M\d\lina Zaharia, Mircea Cantor


Ciprian Mureşan Selected solo exhibitions:

2009 Luv, Galeria Plan B, Cluj-Napoca, Romania 2008 Auto-da-Fé, Andreiana Mihail Gallery, Art State-

ments, Art Basel, Switzerland Work and Travel, Andreiana Mihail Gallery, Bucharest, Romania 2007 Ciprian Muresan and Adrian Ghenie, Kontainer Gallery, Los Angeles, USA Expulsion from Paradise, Raster Gallery, Warsaw, Poland I Believe I Can Fall, Kontainer Gallery, Los Angeles, USA 2006 Ciprian says, Prometeo Gallery, Milan, Italy Choose..., Galeria Plan B, Cluj, Romania 2004 The End Of The Five Year Plan, Studio Protokoll, Cluj, Romania

Selected group exhibitions:

2010 The Beauty and the Distance, 17th Biennale of

Sydney, Sydney, Australia The Seductiveness of the Interval, The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago, Chicago, USA Les Promesses du passé, Centre Pompidou, Musée National d´Art Moderne, Paris, France The first Haifa Mediterranean Biennale, Haifa, Israel 2009 All Creatures Great and Small, Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland Invisible Body, Conspicuous Mind, The Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Los Angeles, USA Incorrigible Believers, David Nolan Gallery, New York, USA From One Thing to the Other, Romanian Cultural Institute, Stockholm, Sweden The Seductiveness of the Interval, Romanian Pavilion, 53rd International Art Exhibition-La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy The Generational: Younger Than Jesus, New Museum, New York, USA 2008 TINA, The Drawing Room, London, UK where the east ends, Nassauischer Kunstverein, Wiesbaden, Germany Monument to Transformation, Fragment #7: Communism Never Happened/ Vocabulary, Tranzit, Bratislava, Slovakia Monument to Transformation, Fragment # 6: Labour Day, Labor, Budapest, Hungary OÙ ? Scènes du Sud – Volet 2, Carré d´art - Musée d´art contemporain de Nîmes, Nîmes, France Like an Attali Report, but different - On fiction and political imagination, Kadist Art Foundation, Paris, France 3D Rubliov, Nassauischer Kunstverein, Wiesbaden, Germany Dada East? The Romanian Context of Dadaism, Zacheta - National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland Signals: A Video Showcase - Mash Up, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, USA Schengen, Feinkost, Berlin, Germany

Fusion // Confusion, Museum Folkwang Essen, Essen, Germany A Turn to the Real, Apollonia, Strasburg, France 2007 ...not figments of a madman´s imagination... , Florence Lynch Gallery, New York Dada East? The Romanians of Cabaret Voltaire, Fargfabriken, Stockholm, Sweden friends, foes and collaborators, IG Bildende Kunst, Vienna, Austria 1’st Athens Biennale, Athens, Greece Across the Trees, David Nolan Gallery, New York Prague Biennale 3, Karlin Hall, Prague, Czech Republic Noutati, Andreiana Mihail Gallery, Bucharest, Romania The State of Endangered Body, Trafo Gallery, Budapest, Hungary 2006 Small Wonder, Andreiana Mihail Gallery, Bucharest, Romania Cluj Connection, Haunch of Venison, Zurich, Switzerland Czeslaw Milosz “To Allen Ginsberg”, Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel Periferic 7, Focussing Iaşi, Why Children?, Iaşi, Romania 2005 Motion Parade, Fotogalerie, Vienna, Austria No Significant Incidents to Report, Galeria Noua, Bucharest, Romania On Difference #1, Wuertembergische Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germany Textground, Display Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic Storyboards. Trapped in the Escape, Galeria Vector, Iaşi, Romania 2004 Formate / Moving Patterns, Kunsthalle project space, Vienna, Austria The Way the World is, Turkish Baths, Iaşi, Romania The Violence of the Image / The Image of Violence, The Young Artists’ Biennial, Bucharest, Romania Shake the Limits, Kalinderu MediaLab, Bucharest, Romania Supernova – Art for the Masses I, Studio Protokoll, Cluj, Romania Supernova – Art for the Masses II, Brukenthal Museum, Sibiu, Romania


Ciprian MureĹ&#x;an

Dog Luv

2009 Video, HD transferred to Blu-ray 30 min 25 sec, 2009 Courtesy of Plan B Gallery Cluj/Berlin After a screenplay by Saviana St\nescu Puppet maker(s), voices, interpretation and direction: Pilo Adrian Ilea Daniela Lungeanu Augustin Cosmin Pop Postproduction: Tuliu Oltean, Vlad Pascanu DSG Produced by Plan B Gallery Cluj/Berlin Thanks for the kind support of n.b.k. Berlin


Dog Luv - A dramatic text by Saviana Stanescu

DOG LUV

A dramatic text by Saviana St\nescu Characters: DOG 1 (D1) DOG 2 (D2) DOG 3 (D3) DOG 4 (D4) MADDOG (M)

Dogs’ Guide to Mankind’s History of Torture, Interrogation and Execution Maddog is a sort of teacher; he stands in front of the other dogs and will conduct them in reciting various forms of torture and execution.

MADDOG (M)

Listen to me, dogs! If we want to understand the Humans, we’ve got to see them at their lowest. Evil – as they call it – is what we’re studying today. That rotten reptile barking in people’s souls, making them do bad things to each other. Well, that’s kind of a Christian interpretation. The snake and all that shit. Notice that when they talk about Evil or milder forms of unpleasant attributes, they like to use animal terms: snake, pig, cow, monkey, bull, rat, and, last but definitely not least – dog and bitch. Us. They have a very simple understanding of us. We are either their pets – and they overwhelm us with sweet patronising love - or devils – if we show any form of rebellion and independence. That thing about “dog is man’s best friend” – I don’t know… That’s why we have to learn to understand human behaviour better, so that we can maintain some degree of independent thinking and planning. Got it?

The seductiveness of the interval

M

Bastinado – a length of bamboo.

slowly. “To feel he’s dying.”

Did you like it? (Dogs nod) Did you see what people are capable of doing? To us and to each other?

MADDOG

D2

ALL

The hole in a monk’s neck, with a chain

Booooo!

M

Do you understand why we need to learn about them and their everlasting relationship to Evil?

ALL Yes!

ALL

Do you see how their history helps us understand what we are to expect in this life as dogs?

ALL Yes!

M

Are you committed to achieving Dog Enlightenment? To seeing that the backwards spelling of DOG as GOD is not completely arbitrary?

ALL

ALL

Dog - God! Dog – God! Dog – God!

M

M

Yes, Maddog. Good. Excellent. Together we are strong!

ALL

Strong!

MADDOG

We’ve all seen the “1001 Dalmatians” research material. They succeeded because they acted together, in solidarity!

ALL

Solidarity!

M

We’ve also watched “The Lady and the Tramp” together. That’s a negative example of how a rebellious spirit can be tamed and trapped into domesticity and induced class behaviour.

Are you ready to learn more? To get closer to Godhood? To follow me?

Stoning.

M

D3

ALL

(applauding) Dog Love!

-30-

D3

Good thing they didn’t send their dogs too.

Until the monastery had amassed enough alms to atone for his sin

Crucifixion.

D4

Fornication. It was for monks guilty of fornication.

Dogs laugh.

Dogs laugh.

MADDOG

MADDOG

Stop it! This is serious. What’s the Chinese version of the European pillory?

D4

Cangue, tcha, kea

MADDOG

Good. Go on!

D1

The Romans boiled Christians in oil.

D2

Boiling in oil or water. Crucifixion. Stoning.

D1

D1

D1

And the man was led naked through the streets

M

Enough. Now let’s sum up what you’ve learned about Mankind’s history. Sit down. (they sit) Good. So… Methods of torture, interrogation and execution. From early civilisations to the present day. Off you go.

He stopped when the man’s brain was putrefied and “disrespected” him with his stench. The Vikings were cruel too. They sent their slaves to the pyre with their masters, to accompany them into the spirit world.

D2

Not only Christians.

Yes! Maddog! Maddog! Maddog!

D2

We started out easy, with silly Disney movies, but your last homework was to watch a tough one. That was a good movie, wasn’t it? (Dogs nod) Painful dogfights and disturbing killings… (Dogs nod) Well, that’s called a reality check. It got me thinking. I hope it got you thinking too. (Dogs nod) But the American title is inaccurate. “Life is a Bitch.” Such a truism. Look at the original title: “Amores Perros.” Bitch Love. Or Dog Love. Or Love’s Dogs. Where is the Love in the American title?

D4

ALL

ALL

Solidarity!

What else?

D1 D3

The Greeks’ Brazen Bull!

You disappoint me. Show some respect for pain and suffering.

D4

I’m sorry Maddog but humans are really crazy. In a funny kind of way. Cause they act crazy against each other, it’s not like they fight with other species, or when they fight for a bitch, or for territory. They just enjoy violence for its own sake. They like to see people suffering. And that’s kind of funny. Cause they act against themselves.

MADDOG

Yes, they’re self-destructive but that plays to our advantage. So go on. The list is far from complete. You’re still in the first millennium.

D4

Maddog will grow increasingly silent and pale, looking like he’s suffering, tortured by the dogs’ words

D3

D1

A brass bull with a door. The accused is forced in and a fire is lit beneath the bull’s belly. Pipes inside the bull convert the man’s cries of agony into music.

MADDOG

Gallows.

D2

The druids’ Wicker Man.

D4

The Greeks were kind of inventive, weren’t they? Tell me more about the Romans.

D1

Gladiators!

Giant wood and straw cages built in the shape of a man, filled with people and animals before being set on fire.

D2

D2

Slaves and prisoners of war were turned into gladiators and made to fight in an arena.

D4

Roman Torture. Slow death in China. Kneeling on chains. Whipping of buttocks. Dogs laugh.

MADDOG

It’s not funny! What did they use in China?

D3

D1

D3

Caligula was the cruellest king.

D4

He ordered a gladiator to be clamped with irons and left to die

-31-

D3

The Bog Bodies.

D1

End of First Millennium. The Hindu tradition of Suttee – wife put to death on her deceased husband’s funeral pyre.

D3

Abolished in India in 1829.


Dog Luv - A dramatic text by Saviana Stanescu

D4

The Aztecs punishing Spanish Conquistadors. Cutting out the victim’s beating heart.

D1

Dogs increase the rhythm in which they deliver their lines.

D1

Hanged, drawn, quartered.

Middle Ages. Torture gets more sophisticated. It’s meant to increase the suffering of the human victim.

D2

D2

Suspended in metal cages.

Execution by axe and chopping block.

D3

Several blows necessary cause the cutting edge wasn’t sharp enough.

D1

Swordsmen were better.

D2

Anne Boleyn chose that when she was sentenced to death for high treason against her husband King Henry VIII.

D3

But that method was rare.

D4

The guillotine was the most frequent!

D1

Hanging too. If you weren’t an aristocrat dog.

D4

Or cat! Dogs laugh. They look at Maddog, he doesn’t say anything but shakes his head. The dogs stop laughing.

D1

Tyburn fairs. Festivals of Death.

D3

Entertainment. Booze. Songs. Ballads. Sonnets.

D4

“Hurrah, you dogs, for hangin’, the feelings for to excite, I could ha’ throttled Bill that moment, with delight.”

D1

Gallows Humour.

D4

Humans are funny.

MADDOG

This is not about being funny or not. What do you think I’m doing here – a stand-up comedy show? Shame on you! (to D4) Don’t you dare smirk! Go on! Faster!

Decapitated.

D3

D4

The seductiveness of the interval

D4

Slavery.

D2

Flogging.

Dracula! Nah. Vlad the Impaler.

D4

D1

D2

D3

MADDOG

Enforced Silence for scolding women. Bridle or brank.

D1

Crushing to death.

Mazzatello, garrotte, wheel.

D3

D3

Witch Hunts. Burning at the stake.

Then a small blade was added to the garrotte. For efficiency.

D4

Water torture was the most efficient.

D1

D4

Depriving them of sleep, food and drink until they admitted their guilt as a witch.

D2

The Salem trial in America.

Funnelling water down a human’s throat.

D3

D2

The Hole. Solitary confinement with no food and water.

D4

The gaol.

D4

Boiled to death. We’ve covered that.

D3

D2

Clapped in irons.

Amputation. Before the invention of anaesthetic. Dogs giggle briefly and stop. Mad dog remains silent.

D3

Chained.

D2

Head under a bell.

D4

Running the gauntlet.

D4

D1

Mutilated for libel.

Put into asylums.

D2

D2

Branding.

MADDOG

The letters and their meaning?

D3

B for Blasphemy. F for Fray-maker. M for Manslaughter.

D2

P for Perjurer. R for Rogue. S for Slave.

D4

SL for Seditious Libeller. SS for Sower of Sedition. T for Thief.

D1

The treadmill. Shin scrapers. To improve discipline.

D3

Sending the convicts to Australia.

D4

Or Devil’s Island.

D1

Penal colonies.

D2

Hulks.

D3

Hanging behind closed doors.

D4

The Pillory.

D2

Whipping in medieval England.

D3

Impaling in Walachia.

-32-

Lynching.

D3

The rack in Spain. The Inquisition.

Burning at the stake.

D2

The Iron maiden in England. An upright coffin with spikes inside.

D4

The Gibbet.

D1

Yeah, a new world. No more public executions.

D1

“Tongue o’ fire” for pirates.

D2

Beheading. The last public executions.

D4

The last days of the guillotine.

D3

The use of the blade finally abolished in France in 1981.

D2

The Electric chair.

D1

on so many things.

D2

He knows so many things.

D2

Whatever inspired fear.

D3

Waterboarding.

D3

He’s a waste of time. I’m not doing my homework next time.

Tough-looking dogs.

D2

D4

The dogs start smelling each other’s genitals.

D2

I’m not showing up next time. I’m out of here. Are you guys coming?

Sexual humiliation.

They start acting like they’re in heat.

D1

Lines of prisoners masturbating. On a soldier’s birthday.

D1

D4

D2

Concentration camps. Hitler.

D3

Gulags.

D2

Stalin.

D1

Ethnic cleansing.

D3

Genocide.

D2

War.

D3

Suicide bombers.

D4

Explosive necklaces.

D2

Lethal Injection.

D3

Death row.

D4

He’s not better than us.

D4

D3

He is our leader.

D3

Abu Ghraib.

The Holocaust.

D1

Yeah, self-appointed.

D3

D4

The Gas chamber.

I don’t know…

Plus we’ve already learned a lot from him.

D3

Prisoners’ in dog leashes. Women’s underwear on heads. Simulating fellatio.

D2

He’s obsessed with the humans. men’s

D3

Human pyramids of naked bodies.

MADDOG

Enough! I’ve had enough. I’m sick of the history of mankind. I want to be alone. No more barking, no more snarling, no more growling. No more humans around me. No more dogs. No more dog smells. No more human odours. No more household garbage. No more leftovers. Nothing. Nobody. Just me. God. (beat) You’re dismissed. See you next time… in the next world.

D2

I don’t really care about the humans.

D4

Who cares about the humans?! We’ve got enough on our plate as dogs.

D1

He’s a wise guy. Really smart.

D3

So? He’s human-smart. He’s one of them. They start growling.

D4

I say… we get rid of him.

He exits. The Dogs are confused.

D3

D1

D2

D2

D1

D3

D4

I’m with you! That’s a bit… extreme.

D2

What’s got into him?

D4

He’s sick.

D3

He’s mad.

D1

Then why did we do all he asked us?

D2

D3

D3

D4

D4 (menacingly, to D1 and D2)

D4

D1

D3 (reluctantly)

Dead man walking. Yeah, good movie! Firing squad Dictator Ceausescu’s death. Saddam was hanged. State-sponsored torture. Tying victims to bed frames.

He’s one of us. He’s our teacher!

D4

That was stupid of us. To listen to a Maddog. He’s just tired. He’s been working

-33-

I’ve got nothing to learn from him. And he puts crazy ideas into your brains.

D3

Let’s kill him. They start snarling. Are you with us or against us? OK.


Dog Luv - A dramatic text by Saviana Stanescu

The seductiveness of the interval

D3(to D1)

D1

Talk, dog!

D1

D2

Pig!

D4

No doubt about that. Look at his face. The way his mouth sucks in the air. He’s hiding something.

D3

D3

It’s better to see less people. 6 maximum.

D4

Are you comfortable? Do you need anything?

D3

D1

Yeah, less is more.

He looks all right.

D2

D2

What about you, dog? What’s got into you? Are you with us? Or against us? They’re going to kill him anyway.

D1

We missed you.

Does he?

D2

D3

D1

Then you’re against us. (to D4) He’s against us.

D4

D2

D4

D4

Two. One. Zero. D3 and D4 attack D1. He puts up a fight but loses. He’s dead. D3 and D4 drag his body offstage. D2 goes after them. Maddog enters.

MADDOG

Dog Luv. Amorres Perros. He dances a Maddog dance. The others can join him. And kill him. Or not.

Dogs’ Playground 02: OPERATIONAL INFO Maddog is on the rack. The Ds enter with cocktail glasses in their hands. They’re in a relaxed cocktail-party mood. M has duct tape over his mouth.

D1

Good morning!

It’s time. Oh, yeah! D1 rips off the duct tape from M’s mouth. D1, D2, D3 and D4 start torturing Maddog.

D1

Scumbag!

D2 D3

Piece of shit!

D1

You’re guilty, aren’t you?

MADDOG

Of course he is guilty.

D3

He wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t guilty.

Everyone has something to confess.

D3

There’s no mistake. We don’t do mistakes. That was the wrong thing to say.

D4

He’s one of them.

D3

He’s a motherfuckin’ witch. Look at him. He has that witch-face. Scary. How do you like the rack, witch?

D4

Shut the fuck up! Of course he’s a serial killer. He kills us with his freakin’ silence. We worked on him for like 16 hours and nothing. This fuckin’ sadist won’t talk.

D3

The rack is fuckin’ old-fashioned. Let’s wish him a Merry Christmas!

D4

(to M) See, it’s good to have no choices. Fewer headaches. You have a choice, bitch: Talk or die! M can’t breathe; he’s almost dying.

He couldn’t talk now even if he wanted to.

D3

He will talk.

D4

Confess!

D1

He’s a terrorist!

D3

D4

-34-

He’s dead.

D4

What?

D3

D3

Everyday is Christmas for our “little princess.”

D3

Merry Christmas, sweetie!

D1

Bring his present! D3 and D2 bring a beautifully wrapped gift. They make M open it and inside it torture tools are revealed. A staple gun and cellophane. M is all wrapped up in cellophane. He’s struggling, he can’t breathe, he writhes.

Are you thirsty, dog?

D4

I hate the way you suck in the air. You’ve no idea how annoying you are.

D1

You’ll never meet anyone if you behave like that.

D4

Won’t you stop it? He kicks M.

D2

You’re going to kill him.

D3

(to D4) And how was your speeddating thing yesterday?

D4

Oh, OK. 30 minutes, 30 people.

Who the fuck do you think you are, dying on us like this!?

D4

Terrorist! Suicide fucking bomber! Criminal! Thief! Paedophile! You crossed the border, you crossed the fuckin’ border! You’re a traitor to the Eternal Grand National Assembly of the Great Democratic People’s Republic of DOGMACHINA. You’re a dead dog, baby. We’ll put you in a nice black plastic bag – too nice for you, scumbag! – and it’s the garbage hole for you.

D3

So?

D1

Who said we wanted operable intelligence?

D2

Of course he is.

He will.

D3

He’s here. He’s a criminal. Period.

D3

D2

D3

A criminal.

He’s not breathing any more.

D3 and D4 check on Maddog. They start punching him.

The Ds have a casual conversation. They get drinks.

D4

D1

D4

D2

Was he involved in the…?

D4

Excellent idea! But… it’s June (insert month here)…

D3

He’s on the black list.

D2

D1

D1

He won’t talk if he’s dead, we won’t get any operable intelligence.

D3

Is everything OK?

D4

D2

Maddog moans, in pain.

He’s a thief.

How was your night?

Of course you have something to confess.

Talk!

You little fuck! Confess!

Yeah, I get all stressed and angry and shit.

D1

D2

He was just asking about you.

Let us do our job, OK?! You’re a pussy.

But he’s not a witch?!

D4

D3

D3

D1

Guilty of what?

I hate having too many choices. It gives me a headache.

Nah… Look at him, he’s sucking the cellophane! Like it was a baby bottle.

Is he a serial killer?

Is he one of those – what do they call them…?

Confess!

D1

D4

D3

D1

D2

You’re killing him.

Fewer choices, more chances to find someone.

D1

Maybe we should uncover his mouth.

Probably.

Talk!

D4

D2

D2

D3

D3

(much weaker) What? What to confess? I have nothing …

We’ve got to break him. It’s been too long.

D3

Is he one of them?

Talk!

MADDOG

D3

D4

I haven’t done anything wrong. Believe me. I’m here by mistake. I have nothing to confess.

D1

D4

Confess!

We’re just softening him up. He’ll talk.

D3

They operate the rack, more pain, Maddog is moaning.

Criminal!

Fuckin’ terrorist!

D2

What are you thinking, douchebag?! Now! Tell me what’s going through your fuckin’ head right now!

MADDOG (in pain)

Of course.

D2

No, I’m not!

D4 kicks Maddog.

Shall we?

D3

D1

They get some distance from Maddog.

He does.

You have five seconds to change your mind. One. Two. Three. He’s with us!

Look at you, you’ve already pissed on yourself.

D4

I won’t be an accomplice to murder.

You filthy piece of shit.

Can’t remember their faces.

D4 D2

That’s what we’ve been hired for.

D3

-35-

Your new friends, starving worms and little dirty bugs, will eat you.

D4

Cheers! To your death!

D3

To your contribution to the food chain!


Dog Luv - A dramatic text by Saviana Stanescu

The seductiveness of the interval

Dogs’ Playground 03: DOG LOVE

D2

NADIA

Maddog is the referee for a dogfight.

D4

INS 2

D2

NADIA

D4

INS 1

A big sign: LOVE - DOGMACHINA STYLE D1 holds D2 and makes him/her fight and D3 holds D4 and makes him/her fight.

When, now?

INS 1

No. Yes!

Yes, before I kill you. Or I kill you.

Have you ever met his sister’s brother-in-law’s mother?

Were you working under the table? Yes. No!

Let’s not argue now. Just BEFORE.

D2

So… you dated Speed-dating?

D4

No! Yes.

OK. How are we going to do this?

intermittently?

INS 2

INS 2

D1

I don’t….

INS 1

D4

D1/D3

NADIA

When did he have his first crush on a girl?

D2

D2/D4 (attacking the other)

INS 2

Did the girl wear braces?

If I don’t eat yours first!

D1/D3 Fight!

D4

Before the tongue-business, I have to tell you something.

D2

Say it.

D4

I don’t know…

D2

We ain’t got time to not know.

D1/D3 Fight!

D4

I love you.

D2

Well, that’s unfortunate. Given the circumstances.

D4

Do you love me?

D1/D3 Fight!

D4

Do you?

D2

I do!

Dogs’ Playground 04: Green-card Marriage

NADIA

One of the dogs – preferably a young woman - acts the part of Nadia, the other two that of the INS officers.

What did his parents say?

The remaining dogs act like they’re taking notes.

INS 1

Have you ever been convicted of a felony in your country or in Dogmachina?

NADIA No.

Have you ever plotted crimes against The Democratic Republic of Dogmachina?

NADIA Never.

INS 1

D4

NADIA

I guess so.

God, no!

D4

Have you ever made plans to overthrow the Eternal Grand National Assembly of the Great Democratic People’s Republic of Dogmachina?

D2

No!

D4

So, did you meet your husband here?

D1/D3

Fight damn it! We don’t have time to guess. I do. I do love you. Will you marry me?

NADIA INS 2

NADIA

They … What’s name?

his

mother’s

maiden

INS 1

He… we…

INS 1

When did he have his first erection?

Did you actually have a wedding? Do you actually have a husband? I don’t think she has a husband.

INS 1

She doesn’t have a husband!

INS 2

Where is your husband?

INS 1

What is his name?

INS 2

Your husband’s name?

NADIA I…

INS 1

To relax.

NADIA faints. Dogs’ Playground 05 – a little futuristic torture

INS 1

INS 1

INS 2

INS 2

NADIA

They bring a flower up close to his nose.

INS 1

INS 1

D2

INS 2

INS 2

D1

What’s his favourite beer? What’s his favourite TV show?

What deodorant? (The actors can ask more weird questions, they can change them every night)

The wedding! Did you have a wedding?

When exactly did he say something about your dress?

NADIA INS 1

You didn’t wear a dress?

NADIA

Pants?

INS 1

INS 1

NADIA

What salad dressing does he like? He doesn’t eat salad! He doesn’t eat.

INS 2 INS 1

Pants!?

Smell this flower!

Thanks. He increases the volume. D1 is in pain. D3 kisses D1.

I love you.

D1

D1 (his voice is weaker)

D1 is forced to smell the flower. He’s tortured by the smell. D2 inserts a tape in a tape recorder. Birds chirping.

D2

Are you making fun of us?

D2

We love you.

Smell it!

INS 1

Can I make a phone call?

You will pay for this! You’re fired! Both of you!

D2

D3

D1

D1

What?!

No!

NADIA

D1 grows increasingly agitated.

D3

I… didn’t…

Does he eat hotdogs with mustard or ketchup? He doesn’t eat hotdogs!

D1 - a corporate businessman with inexpressive eyes is tied to a chair. D2 and D3 – both in business suits are torturing him.

Yes!

What did he say about your dress?

Stop that noise! I can’t take that noise… I’ll give you a raise! I’ll give you a 5000 raise!

D2

Name!

NADIA

What’s the name of his first pet?

D1

What do you want then?!

INS 1 / INS 2

NADIA

The ceremony?

To relax.

D1

Name!

INS 1

What was the ceremony like?

D2

We don’t need your money.

INS 2

INS 2

What’s his grandmother’s hobby?

What did I do to you? Why do you need to torture me? I’m a loyal citizen of Dogmachina! I run a successful business! I’m on the board of 23 non-profits! I own a sports team! What do you want from me?

D3

Name!

INS 2

NADIA

-36-

INS 1

When did you two have sex for the first time?

INS 1

INS 2

What was her bra size?

INS 2

What toothpaste does he use?

That won’t stop me from killing you.

D2

INS 1

His…

INS 2

INS 2

When did he have sex for the first time?

No!

What’s his mother’s bra size?

Have you ever taken part in terrorist activities in your country or in Dogmachina?

But you love me.

INS 1

So it was more like a business arrangement?

Let’s see if you like this better. He inserts another tape. Ocean waves. Very relaxing.

INS 2

Yes. No!

A trick?

INS 1

INS 2

Fight!

D3

Turn it off! Please!

NADIA

You say, “I do” and I say, “I do.” We say it together, at the same time.

I’ll make you eat your tongue!

INS 1

INS 2

D2 and D4 are about to fight.

Were you a mail-order bride?

D1

Is that a joke?

Have you ever met his sister’s brother-in-law’s mother-in-law?

What elementary school did your husband go to?

NADIA

INS 2

Don’t … Please, don’t.

D2

Relax.

D3

Relax. D3 brings the flower closer to D1’s nose. He plays with the flower against D1’s nose.

Stop that! They’re poor little birds. Mockingbirds.

-37-

D1 can’t breathe anymore. He faints. Or dies. Who knows.


The seductiveness of the interval

Catrin Lundqvist

Stefan Constantinescu. , A Child of the Revolution

In 1968, the year of Ştefan Constantinescu’s birth, revolts began in both East and West. In Romania, however, a deceptive calm prevailed, despite Nicolae Ceauşescu’s sharp criticism of the Red Army’s invasion of Czechoslovakia after the Prague Spring. Ştefan Constantinescu belongs to a generation that has chosen to work with pictures from the mass media and public archives. In his narrative art, which is both descriptive and personal, he treats the wounds created by history in his native land. The artistic aesthetics is a mixture of documentary film dogmas and social-realist propagandistic expression, to which he adds his personal handwriting. The artist succeeds in finding a balance between opposing methods of creating historically interesting documents, with a personal nerve that makes his art authentically vibrant. He has chosen narrative in order to communicate his own stories, and in them no one will fail to notice the statement that human suffering and joy are linked to prevailing political circumstances. Because of the Iron Curtain, the intensive waves of revolt from the West never reached the vast majority of the populace in the Romanian capital. It would be more than two decades before the horrors perpetrated by the Ceauşescu regime were fully exposed. The man himself would have to be toppled, executed by his own people, before his excesses and repressive scorn became public. In the same year as Ştefan Constantinescu was born, the Romanian state began to manufacture the people’s car, the Dacia, under licence from Renault. This is a coincidence that may seem aleatory, but it has definitely coloured Ştefan Constantinescu’s art. Dacia 1300 - My Generation (2003) is a documentary film and a book in honour of the car, but it also deals with the economic, social, and political questions that followed in the wake of the car producer, while tracing, in parallel, the artist’s personal history.

-41-


The seductiveness of the interval

Ştefan Constantinescu The Golden Age for Children installation, Botkyrka konsthall 2008 Stockholm, Sweden

The Golden Age for Children 1989, Romania’s revolutionary year and the date of Ceauşescu’s fall, coincided with the twenty-first year of Ştefan Constantinescu’s life. In a recently published book entitled The Golden Age for Children (2009), Ştefan Constantinescu describes his childhood. On the first spread, Ştefan, aged six months, pops up. His head is steady and his gaze is directed straight at the camera lens. Alternating with his family photographs, a portrait of Bucharest and Romania at the time builds up, with food queues, the earthquake, compulsory relocation of people, and – of course – the Dacia! On the spread there are informative texts in a schoolbook style. In connection with the inauguration of Nicolae Ceauşescu as president in 1974 we find the text: “Did you know that … on the occasion of the election of Ceauşescu as president, artist Salvador Dalí addressed a telegram to him, which was published in the Romanian Communist Party newspaper Scînteia (The Spark)? The text in the telegram was: ‘I profoundly appreciate your historic act of inaugurating the use of the presidential sceptre. Yours respectfully, Salvador Dalí.’” Salvador Dalí was fascinated with authority. He exploited political situations, acted out his stances, and used both the media and other actors to confirm his image of himself as an icon. Without any further comparison, Ştefan Constantinescu’s attitude to politics and the media is also inclined towards theatrical staging. But, in his case, he uses political history as a stage set for his stories about people’s lives, be they about migration, political repression, or nostalgic memories of childhood. Unlike the uninhibited Dalí, Ştefan Constantinescu does not enact; on the contrary: his talents are turned inwards, towards a self-reflexive, intimate theatre. But for him too, politics is a stage for his artistic career and he acts both with and against it when he formulates his art and thus his place in the history of art. Towards the end of the book Ceauşescu waves to us from the historical pho-

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Ştefan Constantinescu The Golden Age for Children pop-up book 2008 Courtesy of the artist

Ştefan Constantinescu The Golden Age for Children (detail) pop-up book 2008 Courtesy of the artist < page 42


Catrin Lundqvist - Stefan Constantinescu. A Child of the Revolution

tograph in which, wearing a fur hat and coat, he meets “his” people for the last time. When you pull the little tab at the side of the photograph, the waving Ceauşescu is replaced by a picture of Ceauşescu’s capture, as he is emerging from the armoured vehicle that has brought him to his execution. With the little tab that changes the content of the picture, he is transformed into a sad puppet, waving goodbye to life. In the book humour is juxtaposed with the fateful weight of the drama, preparing the way for audience catharsis.

Troleibuzul 92 Ştefan Constantinescu’s art always contains a statement derived from reality. The latest work in his output is a short, fictional film with the working title Troleibuzul 92, which the artist has scripted and directed. This is the first short film in a series of at least 5 films describing universal situations between men and women. In the series the narrator holds the male position of the drama, whilst the woman is in the background. Troleibuzul 92, which at the moment of writing is in production ready to be shown in the Romanian pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale, is based on an event that the artist experienced during a trolleybus journey in Bucharest. He was surrounded by several other passengers, and he and the others in the trolleybus could not avoid hearing a very angry man talking on his mobile phone. The man makes repeated calls to his wife or girlfriend. He threatens to finish her off, calls her a whore, and says that he is not only going to kill her but her brother too. The threats are provoked by jealousy. He has been struck by the poisoned arrow of jealousy and is bleeding like a wounded animal. In his painful anxiety the adrenalin is pumping, his ego is being crushed, but he still has not lost his will to survive. She is going to die instead, the same as everything else that reminds him of her – so that he can live again!

Ştefan Constantinescu Troleibuzul 92 (making of) 2009 RED transferred to Blu-ray 8 min Courtesy of the artist In association with IASPIS

“Tell me, you fucking slag! Who were you talking to? Tell me – who were you talking to? I’m getting off now to take a cab. I’ll be there in ten minutes. I’ll thrash you ’til you tell, drench you in blood, I will. Is your brother there? Tell him to get out, or I’ll chop him into tiny pieces, your grandmother, too. Tell them to get out. If I catch them, they’re dead. I’m getting off the bus now. I’m coming to get you. I’ll be there in 10 minutes. If I catch them home, I’ll flay them alive. I told you to stop crying, you’re getting on my wick. (…) Tell me – who were you talking to? Shut your gob! Didn’t you hear me tell you to shut up?! Tell me – who were you talking to? I’ll be there in five minutes! Tell me – who were you talking to? Stop crying, you bint, you’re getting on my

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The seductiveness of the interval

wick. Are you listening? Stop crying! Do you hear me?” The text is like a rap: a torrent of words larded with obscenities, repeated with variations. The only thing missing in the comparison is the social critique. But the text also resembles scanned verse where the rhythm consists of the man’s aggressive nagging and the tense silence that arises when he shuts up for a moment. After a while, however, he is back at square one to resume his aggressive outbursts with renewed energy. Ştefan Constantinescu has described the short film Troleibuzul 92, as a drama from reality, in which the roles of the man and the woman are symbols of the frustration that exists in the whole of Romanian society – a society which, according to Ştefan Constantinescu, consists of an undermined everyday life that can blow up any moment.

The passage to Sweden via Romania The Passage, a video about three men who fled from Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973 only to end up in Ceauşescu’s Romania, is a sad story. Many Chileans who escaped from the repression came to Romania as the first step on their journey, since it was one of the countries that opened its arms to the political refugees. One of them, Pedro Ramires, ended up in Ia[i in the north-east of the country, where he was quite happy. But, as for so many other Chileans, Romania was just a stop on the passage to the promised land of Sweden. Pedro later moved to Stockholm, and in the video he tells of his longing to get back to Romania where, despite severe hardship, he felt a stronger sense of community than in the cold backwater in the north. The story of Pedro Ramires, who, of the three, is the character we get to know the best, is a piece of contemporary history, showing how political oppression and migration can affect an individual’s entire life. Ştefan Constantinescu, like Pedro Ramires in The Passage (2005), has himself made the trip from Romania to Sweden. The work Nordic Lights (2006), which uses photographs and text, is about Vällingby, the place where Ştefan Constantinescu now lives. Vällingby was built in the 1950s and is a so-called ideal suburb of Stockholm, created in the youth of the social democratic era. Nordic Lights is a work with references to the romantic nature painters who exploited the high, distinct light that Scandinavia is known for. The same light that, on a sunny afternoon or shining obliquely on a summer’s evening, becomes romantically captivating. In Ştefan Constantinescu’s portrayal of light it is winter and the snow is lying cold around houses and on paths. In the windows of the high-rise buildings and at the entrance to the metro, the light shines like stars in the cold evening. The Nordic light has been electrified and the suburb seems as desolate and fateful as an alien planet. The work includes a diary in which the artist describes everyday events and

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The seductiveness of the interval

thoughts and moves between everything from how many spam e-mails he receives each day to how difficult it is to readjust to Stockholm whenever he returns from a visit to Romania. And he notes that Bucharest does not feel more like home to him than Stockholm. He visits the job centre for artists, where his contact helps him to find his way through the bureaucratic rules, and he takes his son to the skating rink since he wants to be a good father, although he himself does not find skating in the least bit fun.

Ĺ&#x17E;tefan Constantinescu Nordic Lights 2006 photography Courtesy of the artist

Portrayals of Stockholm The everyday melancholy amidst the modernistic apartment blocks of Vällingby is a portrayal of present-day life and an observation of an artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s reality on the outskirts of Stockholm in the 21st century. It is tempting to make a comparison with another man who portrayed Stockholm, August Strindberg. In the novel The Red Room from 1879, the young Strindberg discusses politics and ideals. The authors and artists who meet in the Red Room at the venerable Berns Salonger Restaurant in the centre of Stockholm are searching for a way to combine their art with their political ideals and the grim reality of life. Strindberg communicates with the reader through his observing alter ego, Arvid Falk, who provides his realistic descriptions of the city and its social structure. Strindberg portrays a reality which resembles that described

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Catrin Lundqvist - Stefan Constantinescu. A Child of the Revolution

by Ştefan Constantinescu. Although more than a century has passed, much is still the same. August Strindberg was primarily a novelist and playwright, but he was also a painter and photographer. Ştefan Constantinescu is primarily a visual artist and his texts are not independent works, but are written to interact with the photographs. In the 21st-century manner, he talks in the first person present tense. The pictures and the texts expose themselves in their nakedness, like the bare, modernistic buildings in Vällingby. In Strindberg’s The Red Room the descriptions are realistic accounts, both those of the appearance of the city and those of Arvid Falk’s idealistic reflections. The novel was hated by the bourgeoisie of the day but was widely read among the lower classes. Visual art seldom reaches the broad strata of society, but Ştefan Constantinescu’s art, like Strindberg’s literature, has a general validity that would touch and engage many more people were the circumstances for art in society different. Ştefan Constantinescu is heading into a new phase in his art. He is leaving documentation behind and moving towards fictitious neo-realism; he is returning to painting, and he dreams of working in the solitude of the studio. My comparison between Ştefan Constantinescu and the two giants, Dalí and Strindberg, is justified when it comes to the discussion of artistic attitudes to politics and social issues, but perhaps the comparison is also applicable to the artist’s role in society. Ştefan Constantinescu’s motive forces are powerful and persistent. He is a classical romantic artist’s soul, and it is with great precision and serious presence that he occupies more and more of the important stages in the palaces and pavilions of art.

Catrin Lundqvist has been a curator at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm since 2006, where she also held the same position between 2000 and 2004. She has been the curator of several exhibitions at the Moderna Museet and other institutions. In 2005-2006, she was curator of public art at the Uppsala Art Museum, Sweden. At the Moderna Museet she is currently working on a film programme for the forthcoming Dalí exhibition, Dalí featuring Francesco Vezzoli by curator John Peter Nilsson. As an independent curator in Azerbaijan, she has processed long-lived public art alongside six artists from the Nordic countries for five cultural houses in Baku. Her fascination with contemporary Romanian art has led her to curate a collaborative exhibition with artists Cristina David (Bucharest) and Anna Nyberg (Stockholm), entitled Visual Playgrounds, at the Romanian Cultural Institute of Stockholm (25 April - 28 August 2009), and she is planning a touring exhibition with the art of {tefan Constantinescu (Bucharest/Stockholm), featuring his new paintings and the artist’s book The Golden Age for Children.

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The seductiveness of the interval

EXUBERANTIA suspended, 2009 “Licking the surface, scratching the wounds.” A conversation between Andrea Faciu and Angelika Nollert

Angelica Nollert: EXUBERANTIA suspended is the title of your work for the Romanian Pavilion; it means “Suspended Exuberance.” This lexical combination seems idiosyncratic, not only because a Latin noun features an English adjective, but also because this combination of terms is not self-explanatory and, initially, neither does it point to your installation. This installation came into existence for the in-situ construction in the Pavilion. It consists of a rectangular space, on whose roof a garden is laid out. Inside the space, there is a water cistern, an irrigation system and a sound installation, while the garden itself only becomes visible if you climb the staircase that leads to a little platform. Is this garden the matter of “Suspended Exuberance”? Andrea Faciu: Yes, indeed, but in fact the title of the project has its origins in the idea of a larger installation consisting of three different routes leading to three different gardens. I imagined each of them as having its own features, the first being a perfect, beautiful flowerbed, with a slogan inside it composed of flowers, the second revealing itself as a fruit and vegetable garden concealing old, antique guns, and the third being a deserted, windswept area. These three different stations were designed in such a way that viewers would pass through a corridor consisting of a wooden structure, clay, and sandbags, similar to a dugout, in order to reach a certain point, where they would be able to climb a staircase, to squeeze their upper body through a hole and experience the gardens. I liked the idea of being constricted, searching for a way out, confronting the option of a revelation.

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Andrea Faciu Human Flags 2005-2008 different series, b&w photography from family album (Romania, ca 1974), digitally inserted handwriting, own text, print on textile, Courtesy of the artist < page 50


A conversation between Andrea Faciu and Angelika Nollert

The seductiveness of the interval

I understand EXUBERANTIA suspended as an ongoing project. For The Seductiveness of the Interval and the whole project within the Romanian Pavilion, I pretty much reduced the scale of the work due to the specifics of the project. I decided to build the garden on the roof of “my” space, situated in the middle of the structure as a whole, and to use the opportunity in order to create a sound collage that would fit in with the installation as a whole. As you can see, the combination of terms which I have used for the title of my project is quite open to interpretation: it not only says “EXUBERANTIA,” for exuberance, abundance and surfeit, but also it defines a status quo which oscillates between the positivity of wishful thinking and the negativity that is the other side of the coin called “seduction.” What about “suspended?” On the one hand, it has simply a physical, spatial connotation, that of hanging down from somewhere, of being positioned on top, and on the other hand it describes the state of waiting for something to happen, which could be either at any moment or never. Neither of the words can exist or be used in terms of objectivity, because they both insinuate an existence between extremes.

Andrea Faciu Touching the City, No 1 (Ia[i, Romania) 2007 video 13 min. 25 sec. ongoing project Courtesy of the artist

Angelica Nollert: Your works are often shaped by your own biography, fragments of memory, and retrospection. In these ongoing projects, you refer to imagery from your childhood, the imagery of mass rallies in your home country, decked with flowers, that of political activities becoming celebratory and glorious through the use of the wellorganised embellishment. Now, you contrast this political instrumentalisation of superficial beauty, whose presence the viewer cannot elude, with a freely growing garden, which can be seen merely via a narrow access. Vision and visibility being two subjects, they gain in your work a parallel dimension in the hearing and the sound of voices, musical elements, and noises. What kind of retrospection and aesthetics form the basis of this sound collage? Andrea Faciu: At the beginning of the work, I set out from the idea of a garden as an analogy to the visual part of the installation, and both myself and Guillaume Blondeau – a great musician living in Munich, a friend with whom I am working right now on the sound collage – started to imagine a kind of audible garden. There were moments when we intended to find out what roots, what the struggle of young, sprouting plants might sound like. During the working process, I drifted more and more towards the soundscape of an imagined city illustrating a human garden. I had a vision of it, and now we are creating it. Noises, musical passages, voices whispering, speaking, and shouting generate a “prudent” confusion, touching different strings of the viewer’s perception. The entire composition reflects, at a certain level, my own comprehension of the society I grew up in, a society whose many faces are in uninterrupted flux. And what I can often see is that wildness and disorder have to accomplish daily life and at the same time replace any kind of coherence we should better support in order to break with stereotypical thinking and operating.

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Angelica Nollert: Your reading of Die Wand / The Wall (1963) by writer Marlen Haushofer absorbed you emphatically. This utopian novel describes the life of a woman who is abruptly cut off from the outside world and from civilisation by an invisible wall. The protagonist finds herself shifted into virgin, untried nature and tries to survive therein. Is this state of existence, ranging between critique and conciliation, inherent within the imagery of your garden as “Suspended Exuberance?” Andrea Faciu: Yes and no. It is a question of assessment value. “My” little garden on the roof is merely a garden on a roof. And this mere garden on the roof could be any garden on any roof. First of all, the very high degree of introspection you can find embedded in this novel in a very keen and objective way is hard to hit. While I was reading it three years ago, I literally lost my heart to it, because it is simultaneously so simple and so rich in all kinds of concomitant sensations. On every page, you find the same person thinking and acting in a world, being jostled and bloated by her own feelings and thoughts, because there is nobody else, or being petrified and empty, a state which is not acceptable at all, unless you want to die. And the world outside is mere nature, with some traces of the civilisation that evidently existed before, relics. I regard it as a kind of experiment, a process whereby an individual becomes an individual. And doing all this work is the same. The story was not a source for it. I suddenly remembered its overall feel a

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Andrea Faciu Intimacy is the way to grow 2006 video and textual installation, in the frame of Ars Viva 2006/07 Narration, Oktogon der Hochschule der Künste Dresden Courtesy of the artist


The seductiveness of the interval

few weeks ago and perceived its subconscious impact on my own purpose: the state of existence between critique and conciliation. Angelica Nollert: One of your works displays on a picture window one of your own texts, in red letters: “Intimacy is the way to grow.” Privacy, intimacy and, in the figurative sense, humanity reveal themselves as basic principles of growth. Is the untouched garden a model / paradigm / archetype for the progression of the future? What happens if the garden doesn’t grow or even shrinks? Andrea Faciu: “Tai frunza la cîini…” In Romanian this means “I’m cutting leaves for dogs,” I’m wasting my time, with nothing to do… This is a dark horse within the whole constellation, and of course it is taken into consideration. In other words, the ongoing project comes into existence by means of all the required capacities, materials, workmanship, it doesn’t merely consist of an extroverted idea and its final completion as the visual result, and which, to top it all off, gets exhibited. In itself it includes a whole process, lots of planning, research, changes, in order to get an ideal option on how to build a functioning “living” structure – at this point, I want to express my gratitude to Igor Vučić for his flexibility and strictness, the work will reflect them, no matter what – and, most importantly to me, lots of human dedication. And, of course, it implies handling nature to a certain degree, and working with it as though with a companion. All these aspects go to make up the whole, and if one fails or cannot be provided, you quickly have to find other methods to keep the cogwheels turning. Or else let it go and change the concept. This is the paradigm for progression. Angelica Nollert: Motion is a quintessential element in your artistic work. In many of your video works the camera follows you walking or driving. It is your own rhythm which provides the orientation and the celerity / pace for the audience. Here in Venice, the public is invited, or even demanded to cover a route within the preset space, conducting a search for their own aim. What is important for you as regards the active viewer?

Andrea Faciu As long as 2005 video 2 min. 58 sec. b&w photographies from family album, music & voice by Guillaume Blondeau Courtesy of the artist

Andrea Faciu: The assessment of value. The open-mindedness. And to please! Pay attention, it’s all about making worlds, nothing is done until the end, everything is in the flow. Angelica Nollert: Your videos, photo-collages and installations are in equal measure characterised by the use of image and text or language. Many times, words and phrases are used in different / various languages. Could the particular sound of a language become more important than its content? You once referred to an “acoustic sculpture” as a “non-existent sculpture.” Andrea Faciu: Just think of little kids in their beds. Every story or fairytale they hear can acquire a sculptural dimension, it is a mental, intuitive material, and listening to it they can build their own worlds. I cannot decide what could or even should be more important: the sound of a language or the meaning of words. What I can say is that the

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Andrea Faciu Not afraid of stupidity and unknowledge / Don’t swim in your own soup / Diving for dear life, when we could be diving for pearls / Pearls’n soup 2007 installation, tape on wall Periferic 7 Biennial / Social Processes, Former Turkish Bath, Ia[i, Romania Courtesy of the artist < page 54


The seductiveness of the interval

sense of hearing is by nature the first to be activated in the case of normal functioning, awaking your consciousness and your imagination. Therefore, non-existing forms, but formative experiences. Content and sound are not comparable to each other, what you say is one thing, but how you say it can move mountains. Or make them explode. And understanding the words doesn’t necessarily mean that you have got the idea. We live in a world that requires more and more sensibility, more attention not only to meanings, but also to voices, to who is addressing us. This is the stream leading to more communication, to the will to experience and to know more, to ask and to answer, to find out… I appreciate films that are subtitled more than ones that are dubbed. They not only enable you to hear and even learn a foreign language, but also to comprehend the direct link between content, sound and, this time, original behaviour. Angelica Nollert: Your first works originate from approximately 1999. Regarding their evolution, one is astonished about the plurality of your projects, with regard to their number and contents. Your topics revolve around questions of existence and fugacity, of topology and time, of determination and meaning. Many of your works are distinguished by a great poetry. Notwithstanding this, they exhibit within their intensity and minimalism their own radicalness. Do you perceive your works, which also consistently pick out national features as a central theme, as having a political character? Andrea Faciu: This March, as I was flying to Bucharest, I experienced a very minor and in a way funny episode, which had a kind of devastating impact on me. And I mean it very seriously, because I took it as a paradigm. I was sitting quite at the back of the plane, and in front of me there were sitting three young people, two guys and a girl. At a certain moment, I realised that a little plastic covering had detached itself and was hanging to one side over the girl’s head, and so I gave her a pat on the back and pointed at it. She turned to me and said, “Yes, I know, but it was like that already,” and I was amazed and simply showed her how to put it back using only one finger. Finally, she did it. It’s not my interest to be political in the proper sense of the word, or to be anything else in order to satisfy any expectations, in my works I am acting, as you put it, in a poetic and minimalist way, as a form of expression. In fact, my perception and understanding of human and social realities, among these also being language, on which I keep an

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Andrea Faciu Reminder / Unique Security Area 2008 sculptural installation, steel, textual and video installation, in the frame of FAVORITEN 08, Kunstbau - Städtisches Museum im Lenbachhaus, Munich Courtesy of the artist

Andrea Faciu Intimacy is the way to grow 2006 installation Courtesy of the artist < page 56


A conversation between Andrea Faciu and Angelika Nollert

Andrea Faciu Actuality of Being 2005 b&w photographies from family album (Romania, until 1990), digitally inserted writing, own text, print on foamalux Courtesy of the artist

eye at a more focused level, conduce more and more to a functioning and a body of work which is characterised by socio-historical features, not excluding present and future. For me, politics implies a kind of imposed way of thinking and behaviour. Thus, I am struggling against that “…but it was like this” or “…is like that,” against this INERT force of disinterest and inaction. And that should be everybody’s business. We should walk along this road with the capacity and the will to learn, and that should be taught and learned, too.

Angelika Nollert studied art history, archaeology and German philology in Würzburg and Münster, gaining her doctorate in 1997. She has worked on exhibition projects at various museums, including the Münster sculpture projects (Skulptur Projekte) in 1997. Between 1997 and 2000, she was curator of the Portikus in Frankfurt/Main. In 2001, she took over project management of the Documenta11 event in Kassel. Between 2002 and 2007, she was the visual arts project manager for the Siemens Arts Programme in Munich. Since 2007 she has been director of the New Museum for Art and Design in Nuremberg. She has given numerous educational and informative lectures and published many articles and books, particularly on contemporary art.

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The seductiveness of the interval

Andrei State

The Democratic Device. The Art of Ciprian Muresan

Viewed as a whole, the art of Ciprian Mureşan allows itself to be organised along a number of thematic lines, with systematisation offering not so much a code to decipher its significations as much as the possibility to capture a unity of meaning. Of course, the artist’s work exceeds any framework in which it might be placed, with each individual work inviting new interpretations and different contextualisations. In order to get a sense of the whole, however, we may assemble a number of component parts, and thereby determine its structure and peculiarities. A first series of works is made up of what might be called paraphrases of contemporary art. Leap into the Void – After Three Seconds (2004) highlights, at a distance of almost half a century, the impossibility of modernist art becoming anything other than a chapter in the history of art. From this point of view, the work of Yves Klein imposes itself as the aesthetic point of reference par excellence, the supposedly liberating artistic leap being taken to its ultimate consequences and reduced to its empirical result: a collapse lacking in any heroism or tragedy, a mere sundry item in the order of life. The video works 3D Rubliov (2004) and Un Chien Andalou (2004) can be framed within the same tendency to remodel classicised art: the vertical that infuses Tarkovsky’s film is horizontalised like a video game, with the spiritual movement

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Ciprian Mureşan 3D Rubliov 2004 DVD-PAL, 4 min. 33 sec. Courtesy of Nicodim Gallery Los Angeles, Plan B Gallery Cluj/Berlin


The seductiveness of the interval

the Russian director intended to instil being transformed into an immanent plane, where any trace of transcendence is of itself eliminated; and a famous sequence from a work by Buñuel and Dalí is surprisingly reconstituted, with the artist intervening in the history of cinematography through an act that is definitively super-realist. The sculpture The End of the Five-Year Plan (2004) operates at a different level, substituting the figure of the Pope struck by a meteorite (from the controversial piece by Maurizzio Cattelan) with that of the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Analogously to the Italian “original,” Ciprian Mureşan’s “replica” lends itself to various interpretive approaches, the most ready to hand referring to an interrogation of the relationship between the institution of the Church and its (not always honourable) history, or to a thematisation of the explosion of nature or the divine into man’s quotidian existence and religious experience, not to mention a throwing into relief of the tensions between faith and knowledge in a society in which religion occupies an ever more ambiguous place. Beyond all the generalities enunciated, however, a key to understanding might be provided to us by the title of the work itself: the end of the fiveyear plan does not represent the close of a period of (surpassing) material production, which the former communist regime ideologically deducted on the back of a populace that was sooner hostile, but rather it signifies the sole possibility for astral, therefore violent, closure of a regime of the lie, of which the Romanian Orthodox Church was and continues to be part. Situated in a somewhat similar category of dialogue with contemporary art, the video work 4’33” (2008) transposes the John Cage “acoustic” onto a different horizon. Shifted from the concert hall into an inoperative factory, artistic convention’s moments of silence gradually come to reveal a sense of the real: just as the music without sound erupted, interrupting by a few moments of silence, the (historic) flux of sounds, in order to make audible the sounds of life, in the same way (East-European) communism no longer signifies, in current history, anything more than the huge heap of its own abandoned means of production, a sign of the failure of these countries to elude reality: capitalism. The problematics of the last two works opens up another thematic series, in which the ideological forms of our world are dealt with. The drawing Romanian Blood (2004) refers to a very precise context, that of the town in which the artist lives and works, and where refoldings of ethnic identity, understood as the very raison d’être of the national community, are responded to in an unusual and ironic way: if, in order genuinely to be radical, difference of blood must be perceptibly marked, then the final step in the process of individuation and, at the

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Ciprian Mureşan Leap Into the Void - After 3 seconds 2004 photography courtesy of the artist < page 62

Ciprian Mureşan 4’33’’ 2008 DVD-PAL, 4 min. 33 sec. Courtesy of Andreiana Mihail Gallery Bucharest

Ciprian Mureşan Romanian Blood 2004 drawing courtesy of the artist


The seductiveness of the interval

same time, identification with a community of blood is to cut one’s veins. The revving of another motor of native identity is achieved by Ciprian Mureşan in a series of photographs entitled Soldiers (2004), recently supplemented with the video work Untitled (Soldiers) (2009). According to all the latest opinion polls, besides the Church, the Army is the most trusted institution in the eyes of most Romanians. In a country where the legal system and parliament are perceived as cradles of corruption, it seems rather curious how, in spite of the countless scandals that have propelled the Army onto the front pages of the newspapers, trust in this institution has managed to remain standing. One of the reasons would seem also to be society’s duplicitous awareness, inasmuch as the fact that not much remains of much-invoked military glory is something that society is perfectly aware of. Consequently, the two things in question reflect the distance that separates the imaginary construct from banal reality: thus, the phantasms of pointless mobilisation disintegrate once they are brought face to face with scenes of somnolent demobilisation (of soldiers killing time) or with the unfolding of derisory re-mobilisation (of soldiers who, in an exactly recreated deployment, spend their fighting force peeling potatoes). The interrogation, by means of a short-circuit, of the ideological premises of society finds its emblematic expression in the work Communism Never Happened (2007), where the black letters, cut out of the vinyl of disks that recorded the glorification of real communism, abbreviate the paradox of the history of the last decades. A paradox is neither true nor false; for this reason, the logical (as well as historical) indeterminacy

Ciprian Mureşan Communism Never Happened 2006 Courtesy of the artist and Plan B Gallery Cluj/Berlin Photo Bartha Loránd < page 64

into which the artist inserts his statement necessarily also materialises its opposite: negation. Thus, communism is (once more) reduced, in Europe, to its initial state, that of a spectre – neither dead nor alive, for some a past that will not pass, for others a future that will not come. The video work Ceauşescu’s Portrait (2008), produced together with painter Adrian Ghenie, plumbs the connections and complicities between art and ideology. The detached attitude of the painter, attentive only to formal criteria and interested only in reproducing them, regardless of content, re-opens the discussion regarding the role of art in society. Capturing the birth process of an “image of evil,” the work has in view not so much the past that no one wishes to assume as much

Ciprian Mureşan and Adrian Ghenie Ceauşescu’s Portrait 2008 DVD-PAL, 11 min. Plan B Gallery Cluj/Berlin Nicodim Gallery Los Angeles and Andreiana Mihail Gallery Bucharest

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Andrei State - The Democratic Device. The Art of Ciprian Muresan

as the unfolding present, integrally assumed by all. In the same way as it then responded to the interpellations of the moment, contributing to the edification of the personality cult of “the most beloved son of the people,” art now moulds itself to the imperatives of the epoch, legitimising the state of affairs, albeit, of course, “critically” in other words, with a clean conscience. Also elaborated in collaboration, this time with philosopher Alex Cistelecan, Cipollino (2008) centres on an investigation of ideological cultural production from a different angle. Using as a visual and textual base a Soviet children’s book, also imported into the Romanian language, the work seems to pose a single question: is childhood an ideologically created “object,” or a “subject” created by ideology? Without giving any unequivocal answer, it does, however, evoke a final creative series, which I shall outline below.

Ciprian Mureşan Untitled (Stanca) 2006 DVD PAL 17 sec., loop Courtesy of Plan B Gallery Cluj/Berlin, Prometeo Gallery Milan

Although all the agents in the works here rounded up are children, they introduce us into a space of social signs, rather than into a ludic universe. When, for a few seconds, a child very seriously imitates an extremely brutal gesture – see Untitled (Stanca) (2006) – we ought immediately to discover how the child has come to reproduce it and how such abnormal gestures have become so normal. It is at the boundary between normal and abnormal that the following two video works also tread. Untitled (Vlad) (2006) documents the religious knowledge of a boy who, like all Romanian schoolboys of his age, studies the subject as a compulsory discipline at school. The film, almost ten minutes in length, presents a monologue about Christianity, in which platitude and fantasy combine to give birth to an affect of inevitable perplexity, managing to insinuate the idea that mere public presence no longer confers upon religion or education any ascendency over other shaping forces. Untitled (Laces) (2006) shows the attempt by the same child to tie his shoelaces as “correctly” and “nicely” as possible, with the finale unleashing, through the equivocality of success, puzzlement: have we watched a demonstration (of clumsiness)

Ciprian Mureşan Choose… 2005 DVD-PAL, 54 sec. Courtesy of Plan B Gallery Cluj/ Berlin, Prometeo Gallery Milan

or a lesson (about the learning process)? In a short video, Choose… (2005), by mixing together in one glass the two best-known soft drinks,

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The seductiveness of the interval

the boy solves, through undifferentiated consumption, the problem of loyalty to one or other of the brands. Thus, excess appears as the only possible way of avoiding the trap of a prefabricated identity. The work Rhinoceros (2006), which enacts certain passages from Eugène Ionesco’s play, depicts the way in which high art is received today, spontaneously. The rough visual construction, in which a number of children read various lines, records the puzzlement, then the boredom, and finally the exhaustion of the children, for whom playing theatre

is continuously undermined by their incomprehension of words incapable of conveying any meaning to them. From a somewhat more inclusive perspective, the works of Ciprian Mureşan perhaps ought not to be separated and delimited so strictly. Avoiding the sedentariness of a pre-defined typology, they cannot be forced to come to meet expectations, and the permanent attempt to defy automatisms of interpretation is also evident in the two works presented this year at the Venice Biennale. In Auto-da-Fé (2008), the artist deconstructs and then reconstructs, in one hundred and fifty four photographs, a passage from a novel by Elias Canetti, by segmenting the narrative into sentences, phrases or words – each inscribed within a different urban locus, each inscription functioning autonomously – causing the viewer to experience the fragmentation of meaning, but also its plural reinstatement, through the change of environment. If at first sight the artist’s intentions indicate a fulfilment through dissolution of literary discourse – the powerlessness to maintain in superimposition objectivity and subjectivity – in a second phase, the work brings to light something else: the “abstract” message testifies to the very failure of the theory of recreating a praxis today.

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Ciprian Mureşan Rhinoceros 2006 25 min DVD PAL Courtesy of Nicodim Gallery Los Angeles, Prometeo Gallery Milan


Andrei State - The Democratic Device. The Art of Ciprian Muresan

Currently in preparation, Dog Luv (2009) adapts for puppet theatre a dramatic text by Saviana St\nescu, but hijacking the conventions of the genre, and the work becomes relevant in particular as a producer of visibility: in the sequence of words whereby human and animal progressively fuse, the image in the penumbra hides nothing, but rather makes everything perceptible, intelligible. More than to any movement, the art of Ciprian Mureşan can be subsumed to a function – the intervention in order to cut out spaces of freedom, relativising the boundaries between art and the real; it might also be called a democratic device.

Ciprian Mureşan preparatory drawings for DOG LUV 2009 Courtesy of the artist After a screenplay by Saviana St\nescu

Andrei State (b. 1979) is a Doctor in Philosophy (2009). His doctoral thesis was on the theological-political foundations of modernity in the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries. He has taught seminars on the Theory of Knowledge (2003-2009) and the History of Modern Philosophy (2007-2008) at the “Babeş-Bolyai” University in Cluj. Between 2006 and 2008, he was an editor for the IDEA arts + society magazine. He currently co-ordinates a series on the philosophy of history for Tact Publishing House, and is a member of the Protokoll platform. His research interests include the history and theory of modernity, and post-communist ideological discourses.

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studioBASAR


The seductiveness of the interval

Mirela Duculescu

Consuming Disruptive Worlds

The “Seductiveness of the Interval” project, which represents Romania at the 2009 Venice Art Biennale, brings into discussion the physical and conceptual relationship between spectatorship and the notion of the exhibition. Using means specific to theatrical art, the fine line of demarcation between architecture, design and art is perceived by an audience engaged in exhibitional objecthood. The authors of the artworks, whose means of expression are contemporary media (video, documentary film, installation), interact with the authors of the architecture and the author of the project’s curatorial concept in order to bring into artistic play a new author, an author with a creative potential, a participant in the life of the exhibition: the spectator. They make use of space, light, sound and the pavilion itself, in its capacity as an architectural object, in order to question and inform a dimension of the exhibition that eludes control, that of the theatrically engaged audience.

studioBASAR preparatory model for the exhibition design The Seductiveness of the Interval Romanian Pavilion Venice Art Biennial 2009 < page 70-74 >

The intentionality of architects Alex Axinte and Cristi Borcan of studioBASAR and of curator Alina {erban addresses itself to an audience that traverses a box-like structure on a human scale, a physical route dotted with narrative rooms, in which artistic events occur. Having absorbed the interior of the structure, the spectator becomes a captive of and actor in the spectacle. How and by whom is the story of the exhibition told? To whom is it told and why does it deserve to be narrated? It is a question of the politics of power and exhibitional narrative, which employs a specifically western discourse. The art exhibition surpasses its traditional function, practices of display and the politics of spectatorship. The exhi-

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The seductiveness of the interval

Mirela Duculescu - Consuming Disruptive Worlds

bition claims autonomy for itself as a coherent theatrical play with a set-design architecture and elements of language.

Theatrical stage design and spectatorship The exhibitional object is positioned in formal relation, as well as in terms of spatial tension, with the classically influenced, rationalist pavilion built by Italian architect Brenno Del Giudice in 1938.1 The perceptible nuances of white and the degree of freedom assumed by the exhibitional box/site determine a relationship of tension between the two built objects: the host pavilion, perceived as a general space, and the drawer-like structure, which takes account of site specificity. The studioBASAR architectural group has created, almost on the actual scale of the imposing, fascist-inspired pavilion, a monolithic box that incorporates a network of spaces and slices of life, in which the spectator is caught up, thrown and transported by means of video projections, installations and dia-projections into various worlds, spaces and times. In this situation, the architectural object, in its quality as conceptual vehicle and heterotopic2 decorum, resonates with the artefacts and ensures the audience’s traversal. The dimensions and purely physi-

cal characteristics of the object (the ensemble, the texture of the materials, the combinations, colour, lighting design) become important actors who tell their own story beyond the intentionality of the artists. The diachrony of the narrative rooms synchronises with the physical existence of the exhibitional object. Paradoxically, the physical qualities of the object generate values and emotions that double with a new dimension of stage design, that

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The Romanian Pavilion is one of a series of pavilions assigned to Greece, the former Yugoslavia, Poland, and, exceptionally, the city of Venice itself, and built by Venetian architect Del Giudice in the period 1932-1938, in the ideological context of the totalitarian state ruled by Benito Mussolini. Begun in 1898, according to the pattern of the Universal Fairs, the world exhibition had various dimensions (film, music, theatre, the visual arts, etc.) and was syncopated in its manifestation. The first world exhibition of architecture took place in 1980. Romania first participated at the Venice Biennale in 1992, on the occasion of the international architecture exhibition. 1

of the receptacle and exhibitional site. This is the generative motor that sets in motion the heterotopic system experienced by the audience. The object is an architectural construct, a convention situated at the boundary between the reallife world of the pavilion and the imaginary world of the alveoli/rooms with their fictional life. The imperceptible limit between life and art, between real and imaginary, between the palpable and the theatrical prop, rests in the power of the spectator. The latter preserves the dimension of audience and is guided through various narrative strata in order to discover his dual hypostasis – that of beneficiary viewer of the catharsis and that of actor in heterotopic worlds. The theatricality of the architectural object is revealed in the thing by procedures specific to the world of the theatre – interval, lighting and light fittings to match, the notion of construction and convention, the deus ex machina. The self-supporting monolith becomes the physical stage and conceptual décor for diverse worlds inhabited by the viewer’s experience. The spectator encounters the specificity of the architectural object, which acts as a functional frame in order to concentrate the spectator’s attention on looking inside. Looking is understanding. The exhibition object in the form of a structure with alveoli (i.e. narrative rooms) recalls a recurrent theme of the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale.3 The idea of structure, this time as a box with full walls, makes a comeback and offers its audience a space of existence and manifestation in the Romanian Pavilion at the 2009 Venice Art Biennale. The architects of stuIn 2008, Romania, Russia, the Matthew Ritchie Studio and the Herzog & dioBASAR have imagined a monolithic receptacle, de Meuron & Ai Weiwei team, and the with its own life and itinerary, which changes the auexhibit in the Italian pavilion played with the notion of a site specific instaldience’s perception of the flow of time, of temporal lation/structure, in various conceptual formulae, to illustrate the theme Out and spatial intervals, of sound and image, interventhere: Architecture beyond Building, ing in the classic route of an exhibition. The inner formulated by Aaron Betsky. It was a biennale in which the boundary time of the exhibition and the pre-selected route, between architecture, design and art moved into a fuzzy area, a biennale in which offers no way back, but merely opens windows which subjects such as poverty, social of perception toward other worlds, are occupied by responsibility and the crisis of resources were decanted. “rooms” in which separate artistic experiences unfold (films in an urban or cinema setting, dia-projections, a garden installation which one cannot see, but which insidiously murmurs and which one discovers at the end). The traversal of these stage-prop intervals, each with its own life, prompts the spectator to retrospective introspection. The viewer thereby discovers in himself the dual hypostasis of witness and participant in the life of the exhibition. At the end of the “play” in five acts, conceived according to the pattern of a crestomathy using objects, placed on stage by a supreme puppet master, the viewer becomes witness to his own relationship to the world of the exhibition. As if in a play where the boundary between real and imaginary is revealed at the close, the spectator lucidly contemplates the worlds through which he has voyaged. 3

In this essay, I refer to Foucault’s notion of heterotopia as a utopian original mixture and juxtaposition of real places which are “simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.” The garden, which, in this project, is present thanks to Andreea Faciu’s “EXUBERANTIA suspended” installation, is an example of heterotopic space. According to Foucault, some of the principles that govern heterotopias refer to the capacity “of juxtaposing in a single real place several spaces, several sites that are in themselves incompatible. Thus it is that the theatre brings onto the rectangle of the stage, one after the other, a whole series of places that are foreign to one another...” and to the idea that “Heterotopias are most often linked to slices in time-which is to say that they open onto what might be termed, for the sake of symmetry, heterochronies. The heterotopia begins to function at full capacity when men arrive at a sort of absolute break with their traditional time...” See Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” trans. Jay Miskowiec, Diacritcs 6.1 (Spring 1986): 22-27. 2

The staircase, an essential element in the exhibitional discourse, is endowed with the conceptual qualities of a deus ex machina. The spectator achieves his own

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The seductiveness of the interval

Mirela Duculescu - Consuming Disruptive Worlds

Gazing at the interval from inside out dimension of actor and can observe detachedly the object traversed. Captured, the spectator “reads” the object, which is turned inside out, in a space flooded with light, comprehending the details of projection. The staircase is the element of surprise that seals the dénouement of the narrative through which the viewer passes. The staircase unveils the illusion and reveals, from a real perspective, the inverted plane of the architectural composition. Now, the intervals qua open spaces come to light, in comparison with the closed-space narrative intervals. The relationship established between the spectator-viewer and the narrative elements revealed by the artworks present in each room is mediated by the spatial reality suggested by the built object. It is a reality with a utopian dimension, made up of an accumulation of other realities, experienced by the gaze of the viewer, who agrees to play a part in the utopian drama. It requires two principal actors Here I use the notion of “inference,” to enact the drama: the exhibition-maker(s) and an which is drawn from literature and audience that makes its own inferences.4 To some ex- confers a special role upon the reader: audience is usually content to tent, the artists, architects and curator assign a utopi- “the accept the main lines and to fill in an dimension to the exhibition site (space, time, ma- the interstices with information from its ordinary life experience, both of terials, image and sound), which tells a credible story the physical and moral (cultural) The power of inference has a using conventional discourse (i.e. that of the theatre). universe. special role in narrative structure.” See Theatrical convention is jointly agreed upon, and the Seymour Chatman, “Towards a Theory of Narrative,” New Literary History 6 illusion of a quasi-real exhibitional site is complete. (1975) 295-318. 4

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What is the interval? Originally, in Roman architecture, the intervallum was the physical, measurable distance between two palisades (valla). Time and history have conferred upon the word interval complex notions connected to temporal signification (linear or non-linear, such as a flashback), sound (harmonic or horizontal), three-dimensional space (void of decoration and accessories, depersonalised). The interval in theatre also has the meaning of a break, an intermission, or a passage between two moments, scenes, acts, as well as withdrawal of the actor from the stage and of the audience from the auditorium. The interval is an essential part of the conventions of theatrical art, which grants a respite to those involved before picking up the narrative thread once more. The interval is a conceptual actor on the exhibition stage; it is a figure of style used by a curator in order to create a heterotopic system, between the palisade of the real and that of the imaginary, and to prompt the audience/actor to introspection. In short, the notion of the interval is complex and

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The seductiveness of the interval

has multiple dimensions (temporal, acoustic, spatial, lighting) and meanings (the distance between two palisades, at an etymological level, a physical passage, in architecture, an open/closed interval in mathematics; a break in a theatrical performance, etc.) explored by an audience which is also an actor, with everything culminating in the ladder (which plays the role of a deus-ex-machina mechanism, unleashing the dénouement in classical theatrical narrative). The role played by the interval as actor is that of an exterior world which transports the audience/actor toward itself. The spatially uniform and aesthetically neutral passages between the “heterotopic” drawers are represented by spaces voided of decoration and meaning, similar to the breaks in a theatrical performance. It is precisely their lack of immediately visible signification and their identification with the idea of a void that transforms them into spatial intervals, whose role is to determine the spectator to concentrate upon himself and upon a personal “reading” of the exhibition. The interval-spaces play a role Marcel Duchamp, “The Creative Act in the traversal of the exhibitional stage, even if they (1957),” in Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson, eds., The Writings of Marcel are not personalised with their own décor and acces- Duchamp (New York: Da Capo, 1989) 5 sories. The artistic coefficient of the spectator/actor is 138-40. See Manfred Jahn, “Narratology: provided by his involvement in an understanding of A Guide to the Theory of Narrative,” the exhibitional heterotopy. The transitional passage, English Department, (University of 2005) 1 April 2009 intervals voided of decoration, recall the notion of Cologne, www.uni-koeln.de “emptiness” or silence. From the perspective of John White also theorises the idea of narCage, silence (a musical interval without sound) has rative becoming problematic only when people want “to give to real events an artistic meaning because it gives the audience the the form of story” in order to serve the freedom to think and to intervene creatively, confer- purpose of moralising judgments. See Hayden White, “The Value of Narrativring upon them that artistic coefficient of which Marcel ity in the Representation of Reality,” Duchamp speaks. The architectural object, although Critical Inquiry 7 (1980) 5-27. based upon a conceptual construct, is real from the physical point of view. The artistic “contribution” of the viewer is purely emotional and conceptual. 5

6

7

The relationship between the audience and the homodiegetic and heterodiegetic space6 accentuates the feeling of theatricality. In a homodiegetic narrative, implying a similar time (i.e. the inner time of the exhibition), the story is “told” by a (homodiegetic) narrator, curator Alina Şerban and studioBASAR, in this instance. In a heterodiegetic narrative, implying a different time, the story is “told” by (heterodiegetic) narrators, artists Ştefan Constantinescu, Ciprian Mureşan and Andreea Faciu, in this case, who are not present as characters in the story. The theatrical representation offers intervals of void spaces and intervals of time, in which nothing apparently happens, and which are left to the viewer to engage with and interpret. The structures of space are not necessarily the same as the structures of fictional and non-fictional narratives. The spatial interval is part of a heterotopy, making the connection between art (fiction or a play within a play) and life (reality), which is revealed at the end, regardless of the degree of decoration. As Hayden White has observed there is a distinction between discourse and narrative, which offers a subtle rendering of pastness. White has argued that it is not the past as history that is the story, but rather the fictional contribution of historians, in this case the artists who “tell” us what the “past” was about.7

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The seductiveness of the interval

What the audience understands in the end is what kind of fictional reality has been put on stage (i.e. the “inside-out” monolithic object and “void” intervals versus “opaque” narrative rooms); it understands In this case, the exhibition structure, its narrative itinerary and the void inthat it has been temporally and spatially guided by terstices conceived by the architects, is stage design. The feeling is one of a carnivalesque similar to a constructed display object (e.g., a museum building), playing with dimension unleashed by the mechanism of the ladthe notion of time, art and spectatorship. For instance, it recalls the context der and combined with the perception of pre-conof the Dutch Groninger Museum. ceived theatrical direction that brooks no opposition. Resulting from collaboration between architects, designers and visual artists, It is a power relation in which the audience creatively the new postmodern Dutch Groninger Museum is made up of a number of submits to the authority of the exhibition. Theatrivolumes, as many nuclei encapsulating cal convention is respected, but the condition of the different narratives. The museum can be read as a text to be decoded by the spectator/actor is surpassed. The curator and archiviewer. It is conceived as a work of art, as a museum qua Gesamtkunstwerk, tects cause a shift from production to consumption which offers the “pleasure of the archiof the exhibition, and then from production to intext,” to paraphrase Roland Barthes’s famous article. See Charles Jenks, “The terpretation, challenging the assumption of what an Pleasure of the Architext,” Alessandro & Francesco Mendini, Philippe Starck, exhibition is and completing the creation of the exMichele de Lucchi, Coop Himmelbhibitional site qua Gesamtkunstwerk.8 Ultimately, the lau in Groningen (Groningen, the Netherlands: Groninger Museum, onlooker becomes an actor, a listener, a creatively 1996) 9-11. interpretive “reader” and explorer of spaces. The exhibition’s inner specificity is fully investigated and successfully revealed by means of the heterotopic engagement of the viewer’s gaze. 8

The practices of spectatorship within the exhibition’s objecthood (the theatrical object qua site of display) problematises and valorises the architectural interstices, revealing further resistance to theatricality. The exhibition’s inner specificity is thus simultaneously utopian and heterotopic. The exhibition’s physical form is an architectural construct made up of inverted real places and employing theatrical devices. studioBasar is an architectural office established in 2006 in Bucharest by Alex Axinte (b. 1979 Ploie[ti) and Cristi Borcan (b.1979 Ploie[ti). studioBASAR is a ’”search and rescue” team, acting as an agent of architectural observation and intervention. studioBASAR developed “search and rescue” (SAR): CITY method, as a strategic survey turned into an action program, investigating the dynamics of the modern city. SAR: CITY is a collection of certain chapters of analysis and diagnosis, run and tested in the urban environment. The aim of these chapters is to go public and draw attention to marginal topics such as banality, improvisation or illegality as a part of the dynamic system of contemporary urban culture.

Mirela Duculescu (born 1972) lives and works in Bucharest. Having gained a Degree in the Theory and History of Art from the National University of Art in Bucharest (2000), she took a Master of Arts Degree in the History of Art, Design and Visual Culture at Alberta University (2008), Canada, with a dissertation on democratic design in the Cold War Period. She has organised cultural events for the Romanian Order of Architects (2003-2006), worked as editor-in-chief of DeSIGN Bulletin (2002-2003) and published numerous articles and essays for journals in her field. She was vicecommissioner of the Romanian Pavilion at the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale. Currently, Mirela is an associate lecturer in the Faculty of Interior Architecture at the Ion Mincu University of Architecture, Bucharest, where she teaches a course on concepts in design.

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Alistair Ian Blyth

Notes towards a Metaxylogy

The Interval is the metaphysical space between the eternal world of Forms and the perishable world of perceptible things, between the noumenal and the phenomenal, between the immanent and the transcendent, between Being and becoming. It is the mystical medium which enables communication between the higher and the lower regions of the spirit. It is the eschatological liminal space between heaven and hell. It is the neutral, morally ambivalent intermediate zone between good and evil. When we speak of the metaphysics of the Interval we are, however, using a term whose primary meaning could not be more mundanely material. For, the interval is a dead metaphor that originates in the earthworks of Roman military architecture. The intervallum was literally that which lay between two lines of stakes (a vallum, or palisaded entrenchment); it was the space between the ramparts of a legionary camp. In Greek, however, “the interval” is abstract from the outset, referring to spatial or temporal relation rather than to any definite physical space. It is τὸ μεταξύ, the metaxy, a substantival use of the compound adverb/ preposition μεταξύ (“in the midst of,” from μετά “between” and ξύν “together with”), used of place (“between”) and time (“between-whiles,” “meanwhile”). In grammar, τὸ μεταξύ is the name for the neuter gender, the class of declensions that are neither masculine nor feminine. Derived from μεταξύ, the noun metaxytês (ἡ μεταξύτης) is another term for the diastema (τὸ διάστημα – “space between”), or interval in music. In the sixth century A.D., the Greek philosophical scholiasts of the late Roman period, for example Olympiodorus Philosophus, who wrote commentaries on Plato and Aristotle, coined the term metaxylogia (μεταξυλογία) to refer to a digression, an intermediate passage within a text, a temporary lapse from the main subject. The text that follows might therefore also be named a metaxylogy, in the sense that it is a digression in between texts arising from the Seductiveness of the Interval exhibition installed within the space of the Romanian Pavilion at this year’s Venice Art Biennale, but also in the sense that it is a discourse, a logos concerning the Interval, or metaxy. In the singular, τὸ μεταξύ does not occur as such in the extant works of Plato, although Aristotle (Metaphysics, 987b) reports that his teacher admitted an “in-


between” (μεταξύ) class of things, in the interval between things perceptible to the senses (τὰ αἰσθητά) and the Forms, or Ideas (τὰ εἴδη), knowable by the mind; these are the objects of mathematics, eternal and immutable like the Forms, but unlike them multiple. The interval is therefore necessarily a space of multiplicity, participating in both the immutability of the eternal and the plurality of the temporal. Indeed, it is as a neuter plural (τὰ μεταξύ), referring to “intermediate” or “in-between things”, that the metaxy occurs in Plato’s Gorgias (468a), where Socrates discovers through dialogue with Polus that there is a neutral class of things, qualities, states and actions which are neither good nor bad (τὰ μήτε ἀγαθὰ μήτε κακά). While our actions may in themselves be neutral or intermediate (Socrates gives the examples of sitting, walking, and running), we always act in pursuit of the good, however. Even evil actions are committed for the sake of the good; they are evil as a result of their agents’ perverted understanding, whereby the Good and the Truth become obnubilated in the soul. Similarly, in the Neoplatonist philosophy of Plotinus, the metaxy occurs with the masculine plural definite article: men are οἱ μεταξύ (“the in-between ones”), in the middle place between gods and beasts (Enneads, III, 8, 10-11). Just as the earth lies in the middle point of the heavens, so man is suspended between god and beast, matter and spirit, time and eternity, corruption and perfection. This position is not, however, one of inertia, but rather one of continual tension: caught between the lower and upper strata of the cosmic order, man alternately inclines towards both (ῥέπει ἐπ᾽ ἄμφω). Whereas for Plotinus man is the interval, the middle term between lower and higher, between beasts and gods, with a shift of metaphysical perspective man himself might become the lower term, with a further interval opening up between him and the gods. Likewise, the earth, instead of being the middle point, might equally be seen as the lowest point on a vertical scale at whose pinnacle are situated the heavens. In a dialogue entitled On the Obsolescence of the Oracles, by Platonist philosopher Plutarch, we learn (the speaker at this point in the text is Cleombrotus) that there is an interval between earth and moon (μεταξὺ γῆς καὶ σελήνης). Far from being void, this interval is filled with air (ἀήρ, “(lower) air”, as opposed to αἰθήρ, the “upper air,” “aether,” or “heaven”), which, were it removed, would destroy the consociation (κοινωνία) of the universe. The lower air is also the abode of the intermediate race of daimons (δαιμόνων γένος), whose function is interpretative, hermeneutic, and without whom man would either be severed from the gods altogether or subAngels form the subject matter of recent work by Romanian thinker ject to the confusion of unmediated contact with them aAndrei Pleşu, Despre îngeri (On Angels) (De defectu oraculorum, 416e-f). According to Jewish (Bucharest, Humanitas, 2003), a comprehensive treatise of “angelology,” philosopher Philo of Alexandria (De somniis, I, 141), which also sets forth a “philosophy of on the other hand, the daimons of the philosophers the interval.” In Latin, the verb interpretari is related are, in fact, the “angels” of “the divine word” (ὁ ἱερὸς to the noun interpres, originally the λόγος) of Hebrew scripture, intermediaries of the In- agent between (inter) the prices (pretia) a buyer and seller, in other words a terval, who convey back and forth (διαγγέλλουσι) of broker, and by extension the interpreter the exhortations of the Father to His children and the or translator of language. It is in this sense that the hermeneutic activity of wants of the children to the Father.1 the denizens of the Interval might be 2 The plastic image of this traffic or commerce be- called “commerce.” 1

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tween the world above and that below, which occurs within the ambi-directional space of the Interval, is, of course, the ladder. Philo of Alexandria, in his commentary on Jacob’s vision of the ladder (Genesis, 28:12), says that κλῖμαξ (“ladder”) is a figurative name for ἀήρ, whose base (βάσις) is the earth and whose top (κορυφή) is heaven (De somniis, I, 134). Furthermore, just as the universe is, figuratively, a ladder, or interval, so too is the soul. Here, the foot of the ladder is sense perception, corresponding to the earthly element, while the top is the mind, the nous (νοῦς), corresponding to the heavenly element (De somniis, I, 146). Like the angels, the words of God move up and down the entire length of this ladder, reaching down through the interval to draw the mortal mind upward. The mind’s ascent of the ladder is an arduous undertaking, an exertion of the soul that Philo names ascesis (ἄσκησις, “exercise, training, practice”). The ascent is not continuous, but rather oscillates, with the practiser/ascetic alternately gaining and losing height, now wakeful, now asleep, pulled in opposite directions by the better and the worse (De somniis, I, 150-152). The practisers thus dwell in the interval; they are “midway between extremes” (μεθόριοι τῶν ἄκρων). At the topmost extreme dwell the wise, who have always striven for the heights, and at the bottommost extreme dwell the wicked, who have ever made dying and corruption their practice. Man’s condition as one of “those-in-between,” pulled between good and evil, inclining now toward base perdition, now toward the transcendent, is conditional upon his existence within time, within becoming. For those in Hades or Olympus, in hell or heaven, which exist outside of time, further change is impossible, however. Yet even at this eschatological level there is an interval, an intermediate state that is neither good nor evil, wisdom nor wickedness, hell nor heaven, angel nor devil. According to a mediaeval popular tradition, traces of which can also be found in the legend of the Voyage of St Brendan, there was a third, neutral faction of angels during the revolt in Heaven, who were neither for God nor His enemy, Lucifer. These angels were cast out of Heaven, but rejected by Hell. Instead, they dwell in the interval between the two eschatological planes, an indeterminate zone that is neither good nor evil. In the Divina Commedia of Dante, they are to be found in the vestibule or threshold of Hell, among those who are neither dead nor alive, “the sect of caitiffs, hateful to God and to His enemies” (“la setta dei cattivi, / a Dio spiacenti ed a’ nemici sui” – Inferno, 3, 62-63). The interval as threshold is also the locus of a peculiar, intermediate genre of literature, the σπουδογέλοιον or joco-serium (“serious-jesting” or “jesting-serious” – ser’yozno-smekhovoy), whose history is traced by Mikhail Bakhtin in Chapter Four of Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. The genre springs from the tradition of the Socratic dialogue, of which, apart from Xenophon, Plato is the only extant exponent. In itself a discursive form of the interval, a polyphonic intermediation whereby latent truth and knowledge are brought to birth by the participating speakers, or “ideologues,” as Bakhtin names them, the σπουδογέλοιον is an eschatological “dialogue on the threshold” (Schwellendialog, or dialog na poroge, in Russian) that takes place in the interval between earth and underworld or between earth and heaven. One of the most famous classical examples is Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis (“Pumpkinification”), a parodic apotheosis, in which the Emperor Claudius, having given up the ghost via the back passage, is turned


away from the gates of Olympus. The chief protagonist of the serious-jesting eschatological dialogue on the threshold is, however, Menippus of Gadara, a third-century B.C. Cynic philosopher of Phoenician origin, who is said to have been the originator of this literary genre, known also as “Menippean Satire,” although none of his writings are extant. (In Lives of Eminent Philosophers (6, 101), Diogenes Laertius reports that Menippus composed, among other writings, a Νέκυια, or Journey to the Underworld.) Menippus, as satirical ideologue of the Interval, is the central character in a number of dialogues by Lucian of Samosata, all of which take place on the threshold between worlds: for example, the Icaromenippus, in which the Cynic fashions himself wings and flies to heaven to discover the (less than flattering) truth about the gods; and the Necyia, possibly inspired by the lost writings of the Gadarene, in which he descends to Hades to mock at the miserable fate of kings and millionaires in the afterlife. The σπουδογέλοιον continues as a distinct, recognisable genre until as late as the seventeenth century, a fine example being the monumental anthology Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Socraticae Joco-Seriae (Amphitheatre of Jesting-Serious Socratic Wisdom), published by Caspar Dornavius in 1619. The Amphitheatrum contains liminal, intermediate texts, ambiguously situated between high and low, which treat derisory subjects in a grandiloquent way, or which are simultaneously scholastic and absurd, such as the Disquisitio Physiologica de Pilis (Physiological Disquisition on Hair) by Joannes Tardinus, which painstakingly exhausts all the philosophical, theological, historical, geographical, medical and scientific possibilities of the subject, or the De Peditu eiusque Speciebus, Crepitu et Visio, Discursus Methodicus, In Theses digestus (On Farting and its Species, Crackling and Stench, Methodical Discourse, Arranged in Theses), by the pseudonymous Buldrianus Sclopetarius, a mock philological, historical, scientific and even musicological tract whose title speaks for itself. In conclusion, as a space of tension between two static extremes, it is only the existence of the metaxy that enables the possibility of ambi-directional movement, thereby creating a medium of communication. The metaxy can also be ambivalent – Bakhtin would say “carnivalesque” – abolishing and merging hierarchical opposites. And hence the seductiveness of the metaxylogical. Alistair Ian Blyth (born 1970, Sunderland, England) studied at Cambridge University (BA) and Durham University (MA). After working as a teacher in Siberia, he settled in Bucharest in 1999, where he now works as a translator. His translations include An Intellectual History of Cannibalism by C\talin Avramescu (Princeton University Press, 2009), the novel Little Fingers by Filip Florian (Houghton Mifflin-Harcourt, 2009), the novel Our Circus Presents: by Lucian Dan Teodorovici (Dalkey Archive Press, 2009), The Becoming within Being (Treatise on Ontology) by Constantin Noica (Marquette University Press, 2009), Auntie Varvara’s Clients by Stelian T\nase (Spuyten Duyvil, 2007), and Vasco da Gama and Other Pohems by Gellu Naum (Humanitas, 2007), among others.


The seductiveness of the interval

Mieke Bal

Setting the Stage: The Subject Mise-en-scene

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I often find that although I am working on an idea without knowing exactly what it is I think, I am engaged in thinking an idea struggling to have me think it. - Christopher Bollas2 The idea, here, starts thus: I like video. I don’t quite know what it is that keeps me riveted, every time I enter a dark gallery space and images begin to flicker in front of me, or around me, but I feel unable to leave This essay was derived from fragments of the chapters “Performance and the dark room. It isn’t knowledge. Nor is it a sense of Performativity” and “Mise-en-scène” in standing opposite an object of study. Often, I know Mieke Bal, Travelling Concepts in the Humanities: A Rough Guide (Toronto, nothing of the artist’s work, nor am I knowledge2002). It was first published in Peter Pakesch, ed., Videodreams: Zwischen able enough about the technology to understand the Cinematischem und Theatralischem–Beimplications of the use of the medium. Perhaps for tween the Cinematic and the Theatrical (Cologne, 2004) 28–49. that lack of knowledge I am subjected to its magic. Christopher Bollas, The Shadow of the It always seems that an important cultural statement Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought is being made; a position proposed that makes ‘art’ Known (New York, 1987) 10. seem incredibly important. I love the mechanism of the loop. Each time the round of any number of minutes is over, I tell myself: “One more time.” And it is invariably during one of those repetitions that I become sensitized, because of the repeated seeing, to the theatricality of what happens on the screen(s) in relation to the narrative setting. Theatre, light, and riveting: might they have an intrinsic relationship to each other? And is that the “message” of video installations? This is when my academic identity kicks in, and I begin to think about what it means to “perform” a play or dance in an age of the theoretical over-extension of the concept of the performative. 1

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Performing Performance, for me, was initially just a word, performativity a theoretical concept. Performance - the unique execution of a work - is of a different order than performativity, an aspect of a word - or work - that does what it says. Hence,

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The seductiveness of the interval

performance is not to performativity what matter is to materiality, the concrete to the abstract, or the object term to the theoretical term. Although derived from the same verb, “to perform,” as soon as they become concepts the two words are no longer connected. So, I thought, let’s not confuse them. But keeping them apart isn’t easy either. Performance - playing a role, dancing, singing, executing a piece of music - is unthinkable without memory. How can one play a part, a role, without memorizing the part or score, without rehearsing the gestures, the mimic, and the diction that fit the role, make it available for understanding? Even improvisation requires memorization of the structure that sustains it. Performance connects the past of the writing or thinking to the present of the experience of the work. So why, then, is performance art considered a break with predictability and put forward as unique in its alleged performativity? Moreover, if memory itself is, by definition, a re-enactment, and in that sense, which concerns the performative aspect of that re-enactment, the two are connected, after all. So, what’s the difference? Performativity, at least in Austin’s conception of it, is allegedly the unique occurrence of an act in the here-and-now. In speech-act theory, it is the moment when known words detach themselves from both their sleep in dictionaries and people’s linguistic competence, to be launched as weapons or seductions, exercising their weight, striking force, and charm in the present only, between singular subjects. Here, memory would only stand in the way of the success of performing, to be swatted away like a fly. But, as we have learned since then, performativity misses its effectivity if the act is not cushioned in a culture that remembers what that act can do. In the face of video installations, I sense a great difference between the two terms. But, as soon “Binary terror” is the term Rebecca Schneider uses to theorize the many as I try to put my finger on it, it melts away. So how ways performance art made the body explicit. Cf. Rebecca Schneider, The to avoid both confusion and the “binary terror” that Explicit Body in Performance (New York, overstretches difference?3 1997) 12–42. In this essay, I wish to connect the strong sensation I have in front of, or inside, video installations, to my academic investment in the clarity of concepts. I want to overcome confusion as well as binary terror to understand what such installations can tell us about the connection between these two much-used concepts and the implications of that connection for a cultural aesthetic socially important for today. Both terms have gained great currency in cultural studies. Here, I will attempt to deploy the two concepts to bring to the surface what remains hidden as long as they are kept separate. I will begin with a discussion of the commonsense “use-value” of both: the interaction between performance, on the one hand, as the skilled and thoughtful production of, say, a spectacle based on the memorization of a score or an idea by performers, and performativity, on the other, as “the act itself,” in a unique present, where memory plays its tricks. Performativity is doing something; performance is acting out. Among memory’s toys a particularly relevant one is time. Time is where subjectivity is produced: over time, in time, with time. While theoretical in thrust, the argument I seek to make, in all its simplicity, is contradictory to theorizing as such, for it opposes objectifying discourse and the very possibility of “theory” as distinct from “practice.” I contend that video installation is uniquely suited to

develop such an argument. Indeed, in the kind of video installations I have in mind, performance is foregrounded as the tool of performativity. This results in a hyperbolic theatricality that, it appears, sticks in my bodily memory. But, as Malcolm Bowie wrote about the Lacanian bar between signifier and signified, this severance, this bar separating the two symbols is itself more than a symbol: it is the pictorial enactment of a necessary and irremovable cleavage between them.4 (Bowie 1987:110) Irreducible, like Lacan’s bar, this severance, enacted in any separate discussion of the two concepts, produces a conceptual abyss that is both necessary and untenable. If maintained, this abyss keeps conceptions of recent and contemporary performance Malcolm Bowie, Freud, Proust and based on improvisation naïve, and conceptions of Lacan: Theory as Fiction (Cambridge, 1987) 110. performativity, philosophical, but analytically unhelpful. The recent memory boom and the awareness that Johathan Culler, “The Performative,” in The Literary in Theory (Stanford, memory itself is a form of performativity call for a 2007) 137–65. bridge between the two concepts. Both concepts have already been extensively generalized, deprived of their theoretical neatness, and brought to bear on a great variety of cultural practices. Jonathan Culler traces the travel of the concept of the performative, from philosophy in the fifties, through literature in the eighties, to gender studies in the nineties, and back to philosophy today.5 During this journey, performativity - of a rather special category of words allowing special utterances that “do” rather than state things - became, first, generalized, to stand for an aspect of any utterance: that aspect of an utterance as act. Generalizing further on the basis of the iterability on which all language-use depends, not performativity but its “standard” other constativity - became a special case of generalized performativity. But, generalization, itself a useful way of unfixing rigid categories by stretching their boundaries, calls for new orderings. The next step - already in Austin’s founding text - was to analyze the always potentially performative utterances into aspects. This move, from categorization to analysis of each item, is representative of the move from a scientistic to an analytic approach to culture. In the case of performativity, the analytical use of the concept facilitated a shift in focus, from the illocutionary act of performing speaking, to the perlocutionary act of achieving the speech act, of securing its effect. This shift makes it possible to extend the domain of the performative from language, one category of cultural phenomena, to all sorts of events that happen, because someone does them, in the cultural domain. The decisive move in this double shift (from category to analytical concept and from agency to effect) has been Derrida’s insistence on the necessary repetition of language. This “citationality” enables and surrounds See J. L. Austin, How to Do Things each speech act. Austin explicitly excluded literature With Words (Cambridge, 1975); Jacques Derrida, “Signature, Event, from the analysis because literary speech acts are not Context,” in id., Limited Inc., ed. Gerald Graff, trans. Jeffrey Mehlman and “serious.” Derrida, on the other hand, shifting the foSamuel Weber (Evanston, 1988) 1–12; cus from the speaker’s intention to the social convenand Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity tions that guarantee the very possibility of performing (New York, 1990), and id., Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of speech acts, made the iterability or citationality of any “Sex” (New York, 1993). For a short language-use the standard, thereby subordinating inversion of this debate, the introduction to Butler (1993) is very useful. dividual intention to social convention.6 From an origi-

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nating, founding act performed by a willing, intentional subject, performativity becomes the instance of an endless process of repetition; a repetition involving similarity and difference, and therefore relativizing and enabling social change and subjects’ interventions, in other words, agency. Convention, then, rather than diluting it, enables agency. This is what it means to live together in a social environment.

literary or cultural studies - has at least been a key to breaking open the dogma of intentionalism because of its need to incorporate citationality, performance, on the other hand, while stuck in the aesthetic of judgments of beauty, has not traveled far enough to meet its sibling, and to join the efforts to undermine the individualist ideology that subtends both concepts. Where can we look for a way out of this dilemma? Because video installation so strongly and inevitably engages the viewer, while this art form does not require, or even solicit the desire for knowledge about the artist, the work’s making, or its artistic genealogy, vided opens a way out of this dual obsession with intention and judgment of beauty. Instead, its emphatic theatricality invites the viewer to “play a part” - to perform. The image framed as theatricalized, the image mise-en-scène will turn out to be the site of this cultural generosity. Play-acting thus becomes the act where performance and performativity interact without merging. The primary problem of a separation of performance from performativity is its abstraction from a more complex sense of temporality, the one that can only be understood against a background of citationality as cultural memory. Instead of reiterating such a forgetting of complex time, I argue that the key aspects of the two concepts at hand, performance and performativity, are indispensable to making each other effective as analytical tools. Theatricality can be a bridge that respects difference without binary terror. While the viewer performs the inarticulate act of looking, glued to an image she may or may not understand as figurative, the relationship between words, sounds, light, and images that underlies theatre comes to the fore as the bridge between performance and performativity. The point here has to do with the double meaning of the verb “moving.” Its productive ambiguity stages the theoretical point I am trying to make here about performance meeting performativity on the site and under the direction of memory.

But, let me go back to words. Although the “natural” noun to indicate the occurrence of performativity would be performance, this noun has developed into a concept in an entirely different context, with conventions of its own. The home of the word performance is not the philosophy of lanPhilip A. Alperson, “Performance,” in Michael Kelly, ed., Encyclopedia of Aesguage, but aesthetics. Most commonly, a performance thetics, vol. 3 (New York and Oxford, 1998) 464–66, here 464. is the execution of a range of “artistic making and doing.”7 As a word, we use it frequently. We talk about The journal Performance Studies betokens this moment. Primarily devoted performances - of a concert, or an opera or play - for to performance, it often publishes papers in which performativity is also which we buy a ticket, and we praise or criticize a discussed. performance by an actor or musician. The travel this Butler 1990 (see note 6). concept has undertaken is from a criticism of cultural events in non-academic reviews to a specialized art form that foregrounded the incidental, non-iterable, one-time event over the durable work of art: performance art. Although both terms are often used and discussed, and a tendency to use them interchangeably points to the theoretical ‘fashion’ enjoyed by the idea of the performative, they are rarely discussed together. In fact, performance became an interdisciplinary academic area of analysis at the very moment when the distinction began to lose its neatness, a neatness that was achieved, mainly, through mutual exclusion.8 But the combined discussion of both tends to remain limited to an unreflected interchange. Culler mentions performance briefly when he evokes the misunderstanding in the reception of Butler’s performativity theory of sex and gender,9 which took that theory as implying a theatrical performance.10 (Culler 2000:59) Critics were outraged by the idea that gender is something you can easily shed. Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory: Butler addressed that misconception emphatically in A Very Short Introduction (New York, her next book11 and explained the difference between 2000) 59. gender in terms of performance and performativity. Judith Butler 1993 (see note 6). The difference, significantly, hinges on the crux Culler I use interchangeably the two terms, so effectively identified in the shift achieved by Deriterability—the possibility and necessity of repetition—and citationality—the rida, from intention and singularity to convention and subsequent sense in which every utterance by necessity cites others. iterability. This shift undermines the individualistic, voluntaristic assumptions of intentionalism. Austin’s insistence on intention and seriousness as the conditions of the collapse of speech and action in speech-act theory maintains these assumptions. Hence, the need for Derrida’s insistence on iterability.12 The systematic separation of the two concepts of performance and performativity performs in itself, so to speak, a reconfirmation of intention. Their confusion performs a denial of singular agency and hence, of responsibility. But, whereas performativity - thanks to its travels back and forth between philosophy and 7

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Physical movement is literalized, has become a conceptualizing metaphor of moving as affect. The achrony, or rather the “heterochrony,” produced between the words and the images, the voice and the machine-sound, with the non-figurative and the figurative images remaining mutually See Hans-Thiess Lehmann, “Time Structures/Time Sculpture: On Some present within one another, is congenial to theatrical Theatrical Forms at the End of the attempts in contemporary mise-en-scène to produce Twentieth Century,” Theaterschrift 12 (1997) 29–47. apparently empty time.13 Heterochrony, the rhythm of video installation, characterizes memory. Slow, or fast; unfolding in real time or exasperatingly detailing time in the temporal equivalent of the close-up, time often becomes an actor in its own right. In this sense, video installation as an artistic genre is a theoretical object. It “theorizes” memory by offering a figuration of it as heterochrony. What video installation solicits is a particular kind of seeing, visual and imaginative - as food for thought, a kind of thought-seeing that engages the body. I see it as a cultural practice of art beyond what traditional art history and philosophy can recognize. Far from discussing ideas in language, video installations put ideas out for us to see, and to connect with, as our own “unthought known.” And in the process they put us inside these thought-images. Between private dream 13

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The seductiveness of the interval

and public scene, the image happens. Known yet outside of our thought, the image, in whatever medium or shape, launches a travel in the area between subject and collective, which, for want of a better word, we call “culture.” It is also a domain where narrativity and visuality are not in opposition.

art says, art is theatre, or it is not. Rather than standing for a disingenuous, inauthentic subjectivity that parades as authentic, theatricality is the production of the subject; its staging. In this sense the concept of mise-en-scène sets the stage for the performance of performativity, and, in turn, for the staging of subjectivity. Far from being a worldly activity that adds a margin of pleasure to “serious” life, the theatricality that mise-en-scène entails is perhaps the most profound manifestation of the cultural life that exists between private and public, or between individual and collective subjectivity. The question of video installation is the location and temporality of this strong effect that I impute to the staging of subjectivity. The mediating term, I wish to submit here, is “dream.”

Staging For this reason, I take theatricality extremely seriously - as a “form,” “medium,” or “practice” (none of these words is adequate) in which the object of cultural analysis performs a meeting between (aesthetic) My thoughts regarding theatricality are greatly inspired by conversations art(ifice) and (social) reality. The concept that mediates with my colleague Maaike Bleeker. See between all these false polarities, is the one that sumher book on vision in the theatre, The Locus of Looking: Dissecting Visuality in marizes what theatricality most essentially is: mise-enthe Theatre (London, 2008). scène.14 14

Let’s suppose, for a moment, that mise-en-scène is this: the materialization of a text—word and score, to be performed - in a form accessible for public, collective reception; a mediation between a play and the multiple public, each individual in it; an artistic organization of the space in which the play is set; an arranging of a limited and delimited section of real time and space. As a result of all this arranging, a differently delimited section of fictional time and space can accommodate the fictional activities of the actors, performing their roles to build a plot. Even if, as happens frequently in video installation, that plot never materializes, only remains as the absence the installation hints at. The subject of this activity - the (stage) director - makes a work of art. Her tools: time, space, light. Her activities: the projection of dramatic and musical writing into a particular chronotopos; coordination; the highlighting of some meanings over others; a keying of text and Mostly from Patrice Pavis, Dictionary score in between performers and pubof the Theatre: Terms, Concepts and Analysis (Toronto, 1998) esp. 361–68. lic. Sometimes “totalizing;” always, to use a term I prefer, mise-en-pièce(s). I Hans-Thiess Lehmann, “From Logos to Landscape: Text in Contemporary am just plucking this from dictionaries Dramaturgy,” Performance Research 2.1 (1997) 55–60. I prefer to leave of theatre terms.15 Or, to speak with undecided - indeed, insist on the unHans-Thiess Lehmann, a mediation decidability of - the distinction between phenomenology and semiotics implied from logos to landscape.16 in this formulation, which is mine, not Lehmann’s. The activity of mise-en-scène makes for a revolutionary intervention, turning words that lead to the formation of abstract meanings caught in a centripetal cultural tragedy, into a spectacle receptive to the turmoil of liberated meanings, variously attached to concrete, visible, and audible phenomena and signs. What can the point of a concept like mise-en-scène be for a cultural analysis of video installation? Borrowed from theatre, mise-en-scène indicates the overall artistic activity whose results will shelter and foster the performance, which, by definition, is unique. But in video installation, where the performance on the stage may sometimes be barely articulated, it is primarily the viewer who is caught up on the stage, and must perform. This enactment by the audience, this performance in performativity, is the only way the artwork can actually not only be but also do, work. In this sense, video 15

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Dreaming In spite of everything that has been thought out between 1900 and 2000, it is still Freud’s Traumdeutung that makes staging subjectivity plausible as a mediation between private/public and individual/collective. Not because psychoanalysis must remain the uniquely privileged theory of subjectivity, but because it is the domain of dreams that I am attracted to when I think about what mise-en-scène does to subjectivity, and it is video installation that has, The authors refer to Freud and Breuer’s study of Anna O. in their semi- more than any other art form, a dreamlike quality in nal article, reworked and republished, on fantasy. Jean Laplanche and Jeanits very performativity. To put this another way: I am inBaptiste Pontalis, Fantasme Originaire: terested in the way mise-en-scène, as artistic practice, Fantasmes des Origines, Origines du Fantasme (Paris,1985) 11. can be brought into more than just a metaphorical Samuel Weber, The Legend of Freud connection with what Jean Laplanche and Jean-Bap(Minneapolis, 1982). The title of Wetiste Pontalis take as their starting point for a revisionist ber’s book invokes these two aspects in the ambiguity of the noun “legend,” inquiry into fantasy: the imaginary self-production as indicating not only the legendary status of Freud, but also, the mythical, hence, “private theater.”17 public, and historical status of dreams As Samuel Weber, among others, has argued, among on the one hand, and the legend’s readability - the legend as directions the different mechanisms of censorship in the dream, for decoding - on the other. the important but difficult concept of “considerations of representability” (Rücksicht auf Darstellbarkeit) is both a visualizing device and a tool for making the resulting image “public,” that is, readable.18 Precisely because it is such a public event, yet envelops its viewers so totally, video installation can challenge the element “private” in Laplanche and Pontalis’ phrase. And, by extension, it challenges the privacy of psychoanalysis as a practice, thus securing its relevance as a theory for art analysis in a cultural perspective. My goal is to probe the potential of the concept of mise-en-scène as a tool for a kind of cultural analysis that overcomes the still-open gap between social and psychoanalytical criticism, and between public and private concerns. To this effect I would like to look at what dreams, as they transform words into images, can tell us about staging, and what staging can tell us about dreams. 17

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Let me tell you a story at this point. One day, a woman in her mid-thirties, a busy professional married with two children, had a dream. Neither she nor anyone else appeared in it. The dream was simply a landscape: a beach illuminated by a blistering sun. The colours of the sand, the blue sky, and the turquoise-blue sea

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Mieke Bal - Setting the Stage: The Subject Mise-en-scène

The seductiveness of the interval

were intense compared with the colour of the real North Sea beach where she normally went, but otherwise, nothing indicated this was a different beach. There was a flag, bright green, with a nuance of dark turquoise, and of yellow, orange, and perhaps red; each colour occupied a field in the horizontally divided flag. Waving majestically in the breeze, the flag came closer, slowly taking over the field of vision. It kept moving. This was the second dream the woman had had in a few days’ time in which colour intensity and sand played the leading roles. In her earlier one, she had dreamt of dunes, also in an intense sandy colour, bordered with waving dune grass, grayish-green. There, the sand had suddenly started to move, lifted by the wind, coming closer to the picture plane, before settling into the slow-down movement typical of dreams. At that point the dreamer realized the sand would engulf her, but it was not at all frightening. It was vaguely exciting, and she was holding her breath - although again, she didn’t appear in the dream. In both dreams, the dreamer herself was not a character. The stage was empty of human presence. Nor was she the director. In both, upon waking, she had the sense the dream was meant for her, and that it was good. The first dream had left her breathless and stimulated; the second had made her feel happy, and slightly anxious. After the first dream, she had quickly realized it was giving her advice. The relevant day-rest (Tagesreste) was not hard to find. She was teaching a class at the time, a group of extremely bright and enthusiastic students with whom she had great interaction, as if they were real, intimate friends. The session she was preparing when she had the dream concerned an introduction to psychoanalysis as literary theory. The class had been very enthusiastic up to that point, but this week’s topic had annoyed the two women preparing a presentation for it. They harbored the usual resistance to psychoanalysis. The dream, empty of subjects, was cautioning her to take the students’ resistance seriously. The sand, she felt, was a danger, but one she could cope with, a coping that would enrich her. The intensity of the sand and the colours of the grass stood for the gratifyingly high quality of the course, and motivated her to be careful to maintain the high level. The dream was the empty stage of the as-yet empty time slot of the class, and was welcoming, not rejecting, her. The second dream occurred a day after an exceptionally painful meeting between faculty and students. During the meeting, she had sat facing a row of students, one of whom was wearing a white shirt with vividly coloured stripes. The student had been looking at her with concern and sympathy. It didn’t take the dreamer long - although it scared the wits out of her - to realize that the colour fields of the flag corresponded with those of the young man’s shirt. In coming forward, the colours, as a metonym for the man, meant literally, that he was coming on to her, although his “real” behavior indicated nothing of the sort. More frightening still, the happy tones of the dream I am emphasizing, of course, the indicated to her that she welcomed his advances. The elements that recur in Freud’s “Interpretation of Dreams,” New Introductory dream revealed something. It used synaesthetic sense Lectures on Psychoanalysis, ed. and impressions as well as linguistic wordplay to perform trans. James Strachey (New York, 1982). In this book, incidentally, the its revelation.19 actual analyses of dreams begin with These dreams are here theoretical objects through a mise-en-scène. Freud is careful to locate his day-rests. which to connect mise-en-scène with psychoanalysis.

This discipline, as the science of the “unthought known,” is indispensable for the move I am making here as a field that supplies the image of mise-en-scène with a raison d’être beyond theatre alone. But let me emphasize right away, with reference to the two dreams here, that this extension does not imply an invasion of the disciplinary study of theatre, opera, and other scenically grounded cultural expressions by psychoanalytically based interpretations. Nor does it entail a theoretical imposition on artistic practices. Instead, I am arguing for a travel of the concept of mise-en-scène from practice to theory, or from artistic practice to academic analysis; as a methodological montage. I am maintaining, therefore, that mise-en-scène, usually conceived of as a theatrical issue of dramaturgy and performance production, can be taken as a theoretical concept, as a tool, for the semiotic analysis of cultural practices outside of theatre and opera, and especially in video installation. As a concept, mise-en-scène provides an internal connection between narrative, still, visual imagery, and psychoanalysis, the latter which is seen here as the theory par excellence of the formation of subjectivity but in need of a cultural basis beyond the individual. I will suggest that it can be useful - indeed, revealing - to speak of an aesthetic of mise-en-scène in enabling us to understand specific effects in a great variety of semiotic practices, ranging from everyday life to high art.

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19

The two dreams of our young woman help spell this out. They were stages set for the semiotic benefit of the dreamer. Their revealing effect - in both cases, actually of great help in the two decisions the dreamer subsequently made - turned them into signifying events. More specifically, the meanings they were able to produce depended on a mapping of relationships that were different from the ones implied in the traditional communication model, where a sender conveys meaning to a receiver, who is presumable passive. In these dreams, something altogether different happens. While, as a dreamer, the woman was absent on the scene, it was her subjectivity that was staged in - and as a result, changed by - the dreams. This effect was produced by a semiotic that can only be analyzed in terms of mise-en-scène. These two dreams resemble many a video installation. Neither of the dreams seemed particularly spectacular at first, except for their affect of spectacular intensity; nor did they harbor a clear narrativity. No events took place, no characters appeared. But our dreamer was not the director; she was only the spectator, although she was at its centre. In this specific way, I contend, these dreams were analogous to video installation. There was no plot, at least not one recognizable as such, because it was not culturally encoded according to one of Barthes’ See Roland Barthes, S/Z, trans. codes, for example, the “proairetic” code in S/Z. This Richard Miller (New York, 1975). For a idiosyncratic term refers to acquired cultural models clear and quick introduction to Barthes, see Jonathan Culler, Roland Barthes within which spectators, readers, or listeners integrate (New York, 1983), 84. The last two exare meant to remind the reader details so as to form coherent plot sequences, such as amples of the historical specificity of such stock “falling in love,” “growing up,” “hold-up,” or “train plot elements. robbery.”20 20


The seductiveness of the interval

Mieke Bal - Setting the Stage: The Subject Mise-en-scène

Storytelling Narrativity junkies such as myself might overlook the profound narrativity of these two dreams and consider the spectacle itself as only a stage set, a prelude to the narrative to come. Only colours and sensations “happened,” moved, moved her. Yet the importance of the colours was signified by their intensity, as was the affective impact. Literal, physical movement signified figurative, emotional movement, in the way metaphors have been literalized in baroque and contemporary literature. Racine, in Phèdre, literalizes the Baroque cliché feu, fire, for passion, by making it consume and kill the On this aspect of Duras’ work, see Lia van de Biezenbos, Fantasmes protagonist. Marguerite Duras literalizes metaphors in Maternels dans l’Oeuvre de Marguerite Duras: Dialogue entre Duras et Freud conjunction with punning, e.g. mer/mère in Agatha; (Amsterdam and Atlanta, 1995). the suicide follows the passage of the “coupeur d’eau” For an extensive argument in favor in “Le coupeur d’eau,” who cuts off the female proof this use, see Teri Reynolds, Case Studies in Cognitive Metaphor and tagonist from the water indispensable to life.21 Interdisciplinary Analysis: Physics, Both writers thus visualize their language the way Biology, Narrative, Ph.D. diss. (Columbia University, New York, 2000). dreamers do. They offer words-as-concepts: words that merge their old abstract meanings into new, concrete, visual ones, to form a concept that is rather like a theoretical object. This transformation of words into images can, of course, also happen between one text and another, or between a linguistic text and a graphic text. It is in a plea for this category of conceptualization that I would offer mise-en-scène as an analytical tool. To mark the difference between such strongly concrete concepts, or rather, their concretizing use, and more abstract ones, but also, to emphasize the concrete quality of all concepts, I propose the term “conceptual metaphor.”22 21

22

The movement in the two dreams, then, stood for, signified, affect on the dreamer, through movement as sign and literalization as code. And the absent subject undergoing the affect was like the non-indifferent spectator, whose subjectivity was staged in a risky interface between fiction and psychic reality. These two elements make these dreams specific cases of mise-en-scène. Moving forward, the props—the sand in the first dream, the flag in the second dream—produced the only movement. That movement distinguished the tableau from a still image, say, from a painting or a photograph. In traditional terminology, this could be called the incipient narrativity of the scenes. It is this aspect that video installation foregrounds; and it is this that makes that artistic genre so eminently theatrical, without being theatre. We can see how the narrativity is not just incipient but A structuralist concept at the core, “actant” refers to a class of figures fully deployed. The landscape was both stage and standing in a fixed relationship to the function or predicate that defines a figure, that is, actant, albeit not an anthropomorphic plot. The possibility of a narrativity one.23 But the movement, both literal and figurative, structured through non-anthropomorphic actants is, precisely, the point of duplicated the narrativity as impact on the onlooker, Greimas’ concept. See, in particular, his concrete lesson on the application in both dreams coming so close that it was on the of his theory. Algirdas Julien Greimas, verge of overwhelming the dreamer, nearly, but not Maupassant: The Semiotics of Text, Practical Lessons, trans. Paul Perron quite, pulling her inside the occurrence. Enough to let (Amsterdam and Philadelphia, 1976). her subjectivity be influenced, not enough to violently attack it. In this sense, these were post-structuralist dreams- say, Lacanian - and 23

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a bit more.24 In fact, the dreamer was acutely aware of the telling quality of her dreams. She wasn’t doing the telling; she was its addressee. But more than that: it was also telling her, not only as indirect, but also as direct object, and this, again, in the two senses that mimeisthai’s object, mimesis, indicates perforce.25 The dreams were literally telling her something, with insistence. But whereas they did not explicitly tell - they were in the business of showing, As a shortcut and, more importantly, revision and extension of Lacan’s according to the old opposition between telling and notion of subjectivity as culturally emsee Silverman’s brilliant study showing - neither did they only show. As in video in- bedded, on the subject. Kaja Silverman, The stallation, there was no fourth wall between stage and Threshold of the Visible World (New York, 1996). onlooker. She felt very strongly implicated, although All the secrets of this enigmatic there was no moment when she stepped out on stage. concept, mimesis, that has led so The dream “told” her something by “showing” some- many critics astray, are revealed and resolved in Dupont-Roc and Lallot’s thing else, something about and regarding her.26 And, twenty pages of brilliant commentary. Dupont-Roc and Jean Lallot, the site of the encounter between the two semiotic Roselyne La poétique: Aristote, trans. and annot. acts of telling and showing, the site of impact - what Roselyne Dupont-Roc and Jean Lallot, with an introduction by Tzvetan TodoAristotle would have called catharsis - invisible in the rov (Paris, 1980) 43–63. dream, was located in the body of the dreamer. Hence For the importance of the double the strong visual sensation of the colours, the excite- sense of regarding as “looking at” and “concerning,” see Georges Didiment, the happiness she felt at being “impacted,” so to Huberman, Ce que nous voyons, ce qui speak. And this, I think, is what keeps me riveted when nous regarde (Paris, 1992). Exhibition 2MOVE, curated by Mieke I am immersed in a video installation. 24

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Bal and Miguel Ángel HernándezNavarro, Murcia Cultural, Spain, March–May 2007; Zuiderzeemuseum, Enkhuizen, September 2007–Janaury 2008 in the Stenersen Museet in Oslo (Norway), and in both the Solstice Arts Centre, Navan, County Meath (Ireland) and Belfast Exposed, Belfast (Northern Ireland). See the catalogue accompanying the exhibition: Mieke Bal and Miguel Ángel Hernández-Navarro, Estéticas migratórias / Migratie + video (2007-2008). Jesús Segura, Expired, 2002. Video installation, loop, color and sound, 2 min.

Sand Colour

After hijacking dreams to theorize art works let me know take an art work and hijack it for further theorizing the dream. In an exhibition I am co-curating, we are seeking to mobilize art works for a somewhat utopian, imagination-based view of current social life in what we call “migratory culture.” The exhibition articulates video and migration together as two mutually illuminating and enriching forms of movement. Jesús Segura is one of the artists in the exhibition whose work never tires me. I can look for hours and the relentless repetition becomes only more riveting. In his video Expired (2002) water, for a change, is not blue; it is transparent. And below it, light brown sand—the same colour that played such a crucial part in the woman’s dreams.27 Sand-colour over-layered with clear transparency is the primary colour of this piece. With somewhere in the frame, a patch of white. The video shows a white doll’s head or mask that seems to float passively and at the same time, it seems to fight to avoid drowning, to stay alive. Or it is our looking that wants to look it into ongoing life, is it our look that shrinks away when the water overtakes the head, exhales when it re-surfaces? The foam of seawater reaching land embraces the head at the last moment when formlessness takes the shape of thin arms. That’s all; the loop starts again. The waving seawater moves back and forth, the head near-drowns and re-surfaces, never quite drowns, never quite reaches land. In spite of the pessimistic title - Expired - there is hope. The title

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Mieke Bal - Setting the Stage: The Subject Mise-en-scène

The seductiveness of the interval

starts to refer to something else: the expiration date on an untenable policy - the one briefly indicated as “fortress Europe.”

The movements of migration as a social, and of video images as an artistic phenomenon; those are the two forms of movement that the exhibition 2MOVE seeks to articulate together, in ever-changing interaction, much like that between the watery lines and the sculptural head in Expired. Different from monographic, historical, or thematic exhibitions, this show fails to deliver the unity we have learned to expect. That is its brief; no unity. The twenty-two artists each contribute something to what, together with the visitors, 2MOVE is to become: a double, and in the end, self-multiplying movement. Expired unwittingly became the emblem piece of that performative agency of montage that video installation uniquely enables. There were no rebus-like riddles, no image-words, to “translate” in the dreams, only sensations. The dreams were doing, acting, performing. But doesn’t performing need a subject designated to do the act? Christopher Bollas’ “unthought known” seems to offer an analogy to this performance in the following explanation of that phrase, which serves as the epigraph to this chapter: “I often find that although I am working on an idea without knowing exactly what it is I think, I am engaged in thinking an idea struggling to have me think it.”28 The point I would like to extend here to the theoretical value of Bollas 1987 (see note 2) 10. mise-en-scène as a key to video installation, including I insist on this to avoid the misunthat I am advocating a the passive voice of that phrase, is the complete merg- derstanding return to individualism. To phrase it ing of subject into object, and of object - props, things differently: doing justice to “the private” or to the individual dimension of sub- into subjects acting, and into acting subjects. In vid- jectivity is a political issue. But, as the aspects of identity politics eo, things act, the subject undergoes the action, and problematic have unwittingly demonstrated, this can the power of the object achieves a dreamlike quality, only be politically effective on condition that the dimension of “the public” which is, nonetheless, the result of conscious - if not is equally fully involved. Hence the significance of mise-en-scène necessarily aware - artistic agency. As concrete, mate- symbolic for my argument. For a more extensive rial, and public, as soliciting a receptivity to dreaming, argument, see Bal 2007 (see note 1). fantasy, and the willing suspension of disbelief, staging reconciles the private and the public without diminishing the powerful “specialization” of either. In other words, the dreaming that occurs on, or through, the stage, is both extremely private and extremely public - to the mutual benefit of both dimensions of subjective existence.29

Let me take this work for a moment and turning an “autonomous work of art” into an emblem of an exhibition that post-dates it. Like the methodological montage of the bridge between performance and performativity, then between art and dream and art theory and psychoanalysis, Expired is extremely precise in what it intimates for our understanding of what in the exhibition catalogue we have termed “the migratory” in contemporary culture. Water is so often the way along which migrants reach Europe. As is well known, this process is life-threatening, a danger we see the doll’s head in Expired to be immersed in. The sand colour, along with the transparency and the white, articulate shapes that “say” the following. The question is if the outpost of the land will or will not, stretch out its arms to save them. This is uncertain, every time again. Even the changed colour is meaningful. At first sight we move from cliché blue to realistic beige, geographically, from open sea to the coast; area of entrance or rejection, life or death. But as a notion, colour is also a feature of the changing culture that becomes more “colourful.” Finally, the video loop—the recurrence of the same series of images relentlessly continuous, in spite of the possibility to imagine - or should I say: to image - ever-new and changing stories to fill the images in, can be seen as the imagination of large numbers of people arriving, all with their own stories that make up who they are - all similar yet different; iterable but not to be merged. But Expired is, in the first place, a work of video art. As such it forbids us to say that it is ‘about’ migration. True enough: the head is only a thing, an abandoned or lost toy; the waving water, advancing and withdrawing, the sand showing through and disappearing, is a natural phenomenon yielding a beautiful series of images, accompanied by the haunting soft sound we know so well but need to learn to hear again. The loop provides a rhythm of equally soft movement, a visual nursery rhyme repeated until the child sleeps - or the visitor continues, walks into the exhibition, her expectations already inflected by this first encounter with a work that is not “about” migration but sets the agenda for a reflection on migratory aesthetics. The subtle colour scheme of beige, white and transparent shades, in ever-changing combinations and sequences, yet constant, yields moving patches and lines, paintings and drawings. The very concept or non-concept of the show qua exhibition stands for migratory aesthetics: a moving, growing collection of artifacts put together so as to speak to one another whatever their artistic languages: rather than a pre-determined idea of the concept, the undetermined nature of the meaning was the principle. Like the dreams, there was, at the beginning, an “unthought known.” Two strangers were brought together: the migratory of contemporary culture; the video-graphic of contemporary art. Their common ground was movement.

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Acting But, lest my point be taken too literally - stage as physical stage - let me complicate the issue further. Although requiring some form of spatial materiality, this function of mise-en-scène as embodying the other in relation to whom subjectivity becomes possible, can in turn be given active shape - staged - by figurative means such as characters. These are stand-ins, not for narrative actants but for the stage on which subjectivity, itself the actant, can come to be. In this function, they solicit a particular kind of identification that is an important element in my engagement with video installation. This is a form of identification “outside myself,” what Kaja Silverman has termed heteropathic. It is what constitutes, I submit, the staging of subjectivity. Such heteropathic identification can be, often is, socially productive, in that it wrenches the subject outside of herself, enticing her to go out and meet the other on their ground. It is through such identification

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Mieke Bal - Setting the Stage: The Subject Mise-en-scène

The seductiveness of the interval

that the retrospective possibility of “becoming” is mise-en-scène - in the utterly private fantasy, set in the utterly public arena of museum space. In The Pleasure of the Text, Barthes uses the word “seduction” in virtually the same sense when he calls seduction “the staging of an appearance-disappearance.”30 Video installation, with its combination of immersion and tantalizingly unfinished figuration and narrativity, uses the dialectic Roland Barthes, Pleasure of the Text, trans. Richard Miller (New York, between visibility and invisibility to seduce the viewer 1975) 19. into a kind of active, willful surrender. In her brilliant revision of Austin’s theory of performativity as it had been watered down since it was first conceived, Shoshana Felman uses the speech act of seduction as her key example, as her theoretical object. Confronted Mieke Bal, Death and Dissymmetry: with the gendered violence that lies so closely conThe Politics of Coherence in the Book of Judges (Chicago, 1988). tiguous to seduction, I argued, in Death and Dissymmetry,31 that the starry role of this example is a bit frivolous, optimistic, lighthearted. I am inclined now, not to reject seduction as a key example but rather to revise the meaning of the speech act of seduction itself. This brings us back to the performativity at the heart of theatricality. Without prejudging the sweet, violent, or bitter-sweet implications of seduction as an act, I see it here as the mise-en-scène of the moment when subjectivity emerges within social interaction. Appearing and disappearing, the event relentlessly reiterated in Expired, is also the right phrase to characterize theatricality; a shorthand or minimal summary of staging. So far, I have tried to treat separately those elements of mise-en-scène that turn it into a conceptual tool, in an attempt to understand how artists can offer effective forms of an aesthetic of staging subjectivity beyond the private/public divide. These elements are bound up with unorthodox forms of narrativity as well as with unusual forms of visuality. Both narrative and visual coherence are rejected. In all cases, representation gives way to presentation. In linguistic terms, third-person discourse recedes in favor of first/second-person interactivity. This integration of an unfulfilled promise of narrativity with the ungraspable visuality of images that appear, briefly flicker, and disappear or, conversely, that linger beyond the endurance of a patience shaped by pr-ordained temporality, is, perhaps, the most characteristic aspect of video installation. This brings me to the last aspect that video installation embodies and that accounts for its enduring appeal: its moving quality, in the double sense of the word.

to the stage, its director, and its actors, props, time-frame and what-have-you, in ways that make the term “aesthetic” operative without an excessive appeal to metaphoricity, at least in the traditional sense of that term. In his theatricalization of the dream, Bollas phrases his theory using all the terms I have brought to bear on mise-en-scène:

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In the two dreams, literal movement is either staged or implied, standing, for the figurative sense of moving as affect. I am concerned primarily with the way in which a theory of dreams - psychoanalytically based and hence primarily geared towards the private domain of the individual - is fundamentally a theory of staging. This is so because it breaks affect open to the public domain. The artifice of dream work in this kind of mise-en-scène provides video installations with a dreamlike quality that wrenches the visitors out of their confinement within the drab reality of everyday life. These are images, and mise-en-scène is their primary mode of operation. The resulting dreaminess, far from making viewers passive, opens their imagination up for new beliefs, new ideas, and new acts. Christopher Bollas claims that the dreamer is positioned in the dream, in relation

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I regard the dream as a fiction constructed by a unique aesthetic: the transformation of the subject into his thought, specifically, the placing of the self into an alBollas 1987 (see note 2) 64; legory of desire and dread that is fashioned by the ego.32 32

my emphasis.

His insistence that the ego, not the subject, “directs” the play, has specific relevance in the context of a discussion on mise-en-scène. The ego is, indeed, “other” to the subject. This alone makes subjectivity theatrical. The subject cannot take hold of, grasp, or confine the ego. We can now see, in a somewhat more literal sense, how and why the sleeper is both the subject of the dreams - the dreamer as well as the subject-matter - and emphatically not the dreams’ subject: not its narrator, its director, or its writer/painter. This reworked theory, incidentally, offers strong support to the anti-intentionalist position as more adequate for the practice of, specifically, cultural analysis. As an artistic practice, mise-en-scène is one of many techniques that engages the viewer in an aesthetic experience. As a concept, it refers to something more adequately indicated as a cultural practice. This practice involves us every day, but more acutely so in confrontation with situations that frame-freeze, so to speak, the mise-en-scène itself, as a cultural moment in which routine is slowed down, self-awareness is increased, and satisfaction is gained from going outside ourselves. Theatricality, offering a fictional realm of experiment and dreaming precisely because of its artificiality, remains a productive frame to think cultural practice as a social binding of subjects whose subjectivity remains unassaulted. It offers interactive images of that binding. In a generous endorsement of the willful suspension of authority that is required by the staging of subjectivity in a cultural merging of individuality, video installation is so absorbing because it gives authorship over to the viewer. Through such installations, the full cultural importance of mise-en-scène as a staging of subjectivity is itself the object being staged. This is how a concept taken from a specialized practice becomes a searchlight that illuminates what is powerfully cultural about the practices we study. At the beginning of this essay I wrote that mise-en-scène is a materialization of text in a form that is accessible for public, collective reception; a mediation between a play and the multiple public - to which I added: each individual in it. I would now like to rehearse that earlier, specialized, and practice-oriented definition as if it were a theory of dreams. The artistic organization of the space in which the play is set - the dream itself arranges a limited and delimited section of real time and space (read: time and space that belongs inalienably to the subject, and to which the subject inalienably belongs) so that a differently delimited section of fictional time and space can accommodate the fictional activities of the “actors” - in the cases studied here, props and the stage itself - performing their roles to build a plot.

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Mieke Bal - Setting the Stage: The Subject Mise-en-scène

Housing Which discipline should house this kind of analysis? Art history, the warden of installation art? Or theatre studies, whose practitioners know the specialized language and the practice’s history? Film and media studies, where the technology mobilized in video belongs? “House” as noun evokes the world of privacy into which the subject is born, only to be thrust out into the world so that he or she can live. But the reflection, leaning on the practice, will always spill over, from the house into that larger world we call, for lack of a more precise term, culture. No “natural” house, then, but a public stage where subjects can meet. Even of this image of interdisciplinarity, video installation is the most characteristic image, or conceptual metaphor. On stage, and between stage and audience, the roles of player and director are shuttled back and forth. Perhaps, and perhaps not, the viewer can grasp some element or aspect of the subjectivity being put forth in that unsettling setting. No one is master in “his” own house, wrote Freud, famously, in his over-interpreted phrase. I am not interested in adding to that interpretive activity. I propose to take this image-metaphor at face-value, so that the dreamer, or viewer alone and together in this dark but public space, is no other than the id that dislodged the self-confident, Cartesian subject from the Freudian house. Mise-en-scène as cultural activity and artistic practice offers us a conceptual tool with which to both endorse the consequences of this negativity wholeheartedly and enjoy the “beauty” of its ongoing probing in the various mises-en-scène that the various art practices of our culture offer. This is a post-humanist view of subjectivity, but one that reaffirms the subject’s importance; one that, in a post-baroque sense, believes in miracles - as long as these can come up with a subject ex machina.

Mieke Bal, a cultural theorist and critic, is Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences Professor (KNAW). She is based at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), University of Amsterdam. Her areas of interest range from biblical and classical antiquity to 17th century and contemporary art and modern literature, feminism and migratory culture. Her many books include A Mieke Bal Reader (2006), Travelling Concepts in the Humanities (2002) and Narratology (3d edition in press). Mieke Bal is also a video-artist, her experimental documentaries on migration include A Thousand and One Days; Colony and the installation Nothing is Missing. Her work is exhibited internationally. Occasionally she acts as an independent curator. www.miekebal.org

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The seductiveness of the interval

Erika Fischer-Lichte

Introduction: Theatricality: A Key Concept in Theatre and Cultural Studies

At the Theatre Historiography Symposium, held during the 1993 Helsinki IFTR/FIRT Conference, a specific term came into circulation which infiltrated and permeated the discussion to such an extent that it appeared to adopt the position and function of a key term in theatre historiography: “theatricality.” This was no great surprise, however. For the symposium set out to consider two basic issues: first, to examine the application of analytic strategies from other disciplines to theatre history and, secondly, to identify the distinctive features of theatre history as a single discipline. Both concerns are closely related to the concept of theatricality. In the search for analytic strategies recently developed in other disciplines, theatre historians and theoreticians find themselves confronted with a puzzling situation. Many studies in philosophy and psychology, in anthropology, ethnology and sociology, in political, historical and communication sciences, in cultural semiotics, in the history of art and literature employ the concept of theatre as a heuristic model to a wide extent. Foucault conceived a “Theatrum philosophicum;” Lyotard observed “the philosophical and political stage;” Baudrillard studied “the stage of the body.” Clifford Geertz explored the “theatre state Bali;” Paul Zumthor declared the performance of narrators in In the seventeenth century, when the metaphorical use of the term theatre oral cultures to be “theatre;” Ferdinand Mount inveswas most widespread, a series of books flooded Europe which used the term in tigated the “Theatre of Politics;” Hayden White exvery similar ways to those found today plained “historical realism as tragedy;” Richard van in cultural studies as, for example, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1570), Theatrum Dulmen analysed the history of tribunal practice and Europaeum (1627 ff.), Theatrum Cometicum (1681), Theatrum poenarum, penal ritual as a “Theatre of Terror; culture.” The list suppliciorum et executiorum criminalium can be continued ad infinitum.1 (1693-7). 1

Such generally metaphorical usage of the term “theatre” and other related terms in different disciplines which deal with cultural studies in the broadest sense of the word is not a recent development. It already occurs in the works of Sigmund Freud, Marcel Mauss, Michel Leiris and Henri Lefèbvre - to name a few of the

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The seductiveness of the interval

Erika Fischer-Lichte - Introduction: Theatricality

most significant - and, from the 1960s onwards, in quite a number of sociological studies, among which the most prominent are Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), Interaction Ritual (1967), Frame-Analysis (1974) and Guy Debord’s La Société du Spectacle (1967). From the late 1970s, however, the dissemination of “theatre” not only as a metaphor, but as a specific cultural model in different disciplines has increased to such an extent that nowadays it seems to be the most widespread heuristic model in cultural studies. Thus theatre historians searching for new analytic tools and strategies in other disciplines are referred back to their own field, which is the second aspect addressed in the symposium. For, in order to be able to delineate the distinctive features of theatre history as a discipline, a certain consensus regarding the object whose so-called history is being explored and written up must be reached. Yet there is no reason to assume that such a consensus actually exists. Historians, in particular, are well aware of the fact that the term “theatre” is culturally and historically determined and that, within Western culture from the sixteenth century, the concept of theatre has constantly changed. Accordingly, the term “theatre” has been applied to quite different cultural, social and political events, just as it has been employed as a purely aesthetic term in the narrowest sense of the word. At times, different uses of the term competed with each other. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the avant-garde movements promoted two quite different uses and meanings of the term “theatre.” On the one hand, they restricted it to a particular art form which, as Craig explained, was defined by its very material as essentially different from the material of any other art form. On the other hand, the same movements claimed to close the gap between art and life and to fuse theatre and reality. This demand resulted in a considerable expansion of the concept “theatre.” The term was gradually transferred to the most divergent fields. In the end, it was applied to signify any kind of exhibitory, demonstrative, or spectacular event including performance by circus artists, jugglers, clowns, entertainers; dadaist and surrealist “happenings” which took place in streets, cafés, parliaments, and other public places, May Day celebrations, rallies, meetings, union sport days, Party conventions and so on. In the 1960s and 1970s, the rediscovery of a so-called “ritual theatre” as well as a newly developing performance culture resulted in an even wider range of meanings of the term “theatre.” Wherever a person exhibited her/ himself, someone else, or something to the gaze of others, the Helmar Schramm, “Theatralitat und Vorstudien zur Begriffsterm “theatre” was applied. Not only did this “enor- Offentlichkeit. geschichte von ‘Theater’,“ ed. Karlheinz mous activation of the semantic field theatre”2 blur the Barck et al. Asthetische Grundbegriffe. zu einem historischen Worterboundaries and transitions between the many meta- Studien buch (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1990) phorical uses of the term; it also caused a consider- 206. able expansion of the field of theatre studies. 2

challenges of the symposium, resembles a painting by Escher, or something which Hofstadter calls a “strange loop:” setting out on a journey to other disciplines in search of new analytic tools, the theatre historian returns to the home field. In the attempt to delineate the discipline from all the others by clearly defining its object and by drawing strict boundaries around its field, the theatre historian is forced to transgress borderlines to many adjacent fields and ends up dispersed over a vast area whose diverse segments are claimed and occupied by other disciplines. It would seem wise, therefore, to avoid the trap of such a dilemma right from the start. In this respect, the introduction of the term “theatricality” appears to be a potentially useful strategy. The concept of theatricality (théâtralité, Theatralität; teatral’nost) was first developed in the context of manifestos and proclamations made by avant-garde movements at the beginning of this century. In accordance with the twofold principal meanings of the term “theatre” which they promoted, the concept was articulated and used in two basically different formulations. Georg Fuchs in Die Revolution des Theaters (1909) was the first to advocate a re-theatricalization of theatre (rethéâtraliser le théâtre; Retheatralisierung des Theaters) and he insisted on considering theatre as a specific art form. His aim was to identify clear criteria by which theatre may be distinguished from other art forms. It also interprets theatricality as the sum total of materials or sign systems used in a theatrical performance beyond the literary text of the drama which define the theatrical performance as such: movements, voice, sounds, music, light, colour, and so on. Nikolai Evreinov’s formulation in his article Apologija teatral’nost3 (1908; Apologia of Theatricality) embraces a broad concept of theatre which defines theatricality outside the frame and scope of theatre as an art See Tony Pearson articles on Evreinov form or even theatre as a social institution. In order in Theatre Research International 12.2 to be able to construct a precise and comprehensive (Summer 1987): 147-67, “Evreinov and Pirandello: Twin Apostles of Theatrical- definition, Evreinov explored highly diverse disciplines ity” and 17.1 (Spring 1992): 26-38, “Evreinov and Pirandello: Two Theatri- such as sociology, ethology, history of criminal justice, calists in Search of the Main Thing.” political and cultural history and psychology. His aim was to reveal the workings and basic function of theatricality in each of these fields and in this respect, he might be regarded as a precursor to today’s scholars of cultural studies. Evreinov’s efforts led him to define theatricality as a preaesthetic instinct. Although this definition appears too broad and too general to allow any useful application - just as Fuchs’ definition seems too narrow – it must be emphasized that Evreinov was the first to recognize and pose the problem of how, in what respect, and to what extent the concept of theatre can be identified and applied as a cultural model beyond a purely metaphorical use of the term. 3

Thus, the situation in which theatre historians find themselves when facing the

In the field of theatre studies, it was only in the 1970s that discussion of theatricality was taken up again – without reference to Evreinov, however. In her pioneering study, Theatricality (1972), Elisabeth Burns proceeds from the assumption that the concept of theatre is historically and culturally determined.

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Therefore, she argues, theatricality cannot be defined as a particular mode of behaviour or expression, for it does not depend on “degrees of demonstrativeness” (p.2). Instead, Burns suggests, it is “determined by a particular view point” and, accordingly, she defines it as “a mode of perception” (p. 13). It is the particular perspective which determines whether a situation will be regarded as theatrical or non-theatrical. By modifying Goffman’s concept of framing and referring to Brecht’s technique of making gestures quotable, Burns strives to delineate the factors that determine and shape the mode of perception which she locates in social conventions. Insofar as these conventions are not developed within the theatre alone but also in culture in general, she proposes a history of theatre which is to be realized as a history of perception and its social and cultural conditions.

in a given culture. For, obviously, no mode of behaviour and expression can be defined as theatrical per se. Accordingly, in Die Toten als die Macht der Lebenden (The Dead as the Power of the Living,1986), Fiebach embarks on a project to define and analyze theatricality in different epochs of different African cultures as a particular mode of communication which foregrounds the body as the main means of presenting a role and self-presentation.

Although today some of her arguments, hypotheses and results may seem outdated or, at least arguable in the light of some recent studies on the history of perception in Western culture, Burns must be given credit for having shown a viable way of explaining theatricality as the common denominator of theatre and culture, or as the focus in which both intersect and coincide, in her definition of it as a mode of perception. More recent scholars who deal with the question of theatricality agree, in principle, with Burns inasmuch as she insists on the historicity and cultural determination of the concept of theatre. However, they do not all share her conclu4 Joachim Fiebach, “Brecht’s ‘Stras- sions. Joachim Fiebach (1978), for example, refers senszene’. Versuch uber die Reichweite to Brecht’s Straßenszene (Street Scene) to argue that eines Theatermodells,“ Weimarer Beitrage 2 (1978): 123-47. the definition of Literature theatricality must be based on the consideration that it is not only a mode of perception but also a mode of behavior and expression. 4

In his Arbeitsjournal (6 December 1940) Brecht writes: As a result of the explorations undertaken in the STREET SCENE, one should describe all other kinds of similar everyday theatre; discover every moment where theatre is part of life, in the world of erotica, business, politics, law, religion, and so on. one should study the theatrical element in customs and rites; I’ve already worked a little on the fascist theatricalization of politics. but alongside this, one should also study the everyday theatre that the individual performs with no audience, the secret “play.” in this Bertolt Brecht, Arbeitsjournal 1 way, one would encompass the most elemental need (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1973): 204. for aesthetic expression.5

The concept of theatricality in the 1970s also gained a certain prominence in theatre semiotics, despite its very different contexts and functions. At the risk of over-simplication, two principal directions can be identified which, in a way, can be related to the concepts put forward by Fuchs and Evreinov, although they do not refer to them directly. In his Dictionnaire du Theatre Patrice Pavis compiles definitions which aim to represent “lés éléments indispensables à tout phénomène thèâtral” (p. 397). Pavis proceeds from a narrow, purely aesthetic concept of theatre. Consequently, theatricality is defined as “ce qui, dans la representation ou dans le texte dramatique, est specifiquement theatral” (p. 395) or, approaching Fuchs’s understanding, la “théâtralité s’oppose à la littérature, au théâtre du texte, aux moyens écrits, aux dialogues et même parfois à la narrativité et à la ‘dramaticité’ d’une fable logiquement construite” (p. 396). Since these definitions are based on the narrow concept of theatre as an art form only, they may, for the purpose of this discussion, be left aside. In The Semiotics of Theatre I have defined theatricality by referring to the particular relationship between the signs brought forth by and the semiotic processes being performed within different cultural systems, on the one hand, and theatrical signs and sign processes, on the other. I have argued that in a certain sense, theatre involves the “doubling up” of the culture in which it is played: the signs engendered by theatre denote the signs produced by the corresponding cultural systems. Theatrical signs are therefore always signs of signs.

Given the premise that the concept of theatre is historically and culturally determined on the one hand, and taking Brecht’s ideas on everyday theatre, on the other, Fiebach concludes that there can be no single criterion for a general definition of theatricality beyond the fact that it is a process of production whose product is “consumed” and which vanishes within the process of being produced. In order to comprehend and define theatricality as a mode of behavior and expression, it must be described and analyzed in terms of a particular epoch

This has two important consequences. First, since theatre produces signs using heterogeneous material which can, in principle, be identical to the material of any cultural system, the human being and its total environment may function as theatrical signs in their specific material quality. Secondly, however, whilst human beings and the objects of their environment in every culture always exist in certain communicative, practical and situative contexts which do not permit a human being to be replaced by another or by an object at random or vice versa, mobility is the prevailing feature in the case of the human body and the objects from its surroundings which they are used as theatrical signs. Here, a human body can indeed be replaced by another body or even an object, and an object can be replaced by another random object or a human body because in their capacity as theatrical signs, they can signify one another. The material existence

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of the human body is not of interest to the theatre because of its uniqueness or its specific functionality alone, but foremost in terms of its ability to be used as a sign of sign.

The following four papers, which were originally presented at the Helsinki Symposium, are a response to this challenge.7 With the exception of They proceed, however, from different perspectives. Helmar Schramm’s article which was specially written for Schramm focuses on the correlation between the history of thethis issue. atre and the history of science in Western culture, identifying traces of the theatre model in scientific discourse from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. He seeks to uncover the analogous structure which he identifies working in the conceptualization and stylization of three important cultural factors - perception, movement and language - in the scientific as well as the theatrical discourse. Thus, he proposes a new approach to theatre history, widening its scope considerably.

Accordingly, theatricality may be defined as a particular mode of using signs or as a particular kind of semiotic process in which particular signs (human beings and objects of their environment) are employed as signs of signs - by their producers, or their recipients. Thus a shift of the dominance within the semiotic functions determines when theatricality appears. When the semiotic function of using signs as signs of signs in a behavioural, situational or communication process is perceived and received as dominant, the behavioural, situational or communication process may be regarded as theatrical. Moreover, since this shift of the dominant is not an objective given but depends on certain pragmatic conditions, “theatricality” in the end, appears to be no more than a floating signifier in an endless communication process. This is to say that the term theatricality necessarily remains diffuse; as a concept it becomes indistinct, if not void. Helmar Schramm has drawn some conclusions which open up new perspectives on the use and function of theatricality at the intersection of theatre and cultural studies. In Preliminary Studies Towards a History of the Concept of Theatre (1990)6 he sets out to construct three different frames of reference to investigate historical material on the concept of theatre: 1) theatre as a metaSee note 2. phorical model; 2) theatre as a rhetoric medium; 3) theatre as an autonomous art. Schramm underlines that such frames of reference are not to be applied in succession, as for example, 1) the seventeenth century, 2) the eighteenth century and 3) the nineteenth century; rather all three are often found to co-exist, overlap, compete or even contradict each other in writings of the same period, depending on the kind of discourse dealing with theatre. His exploration and evaluation of a huge body of thoroughly diverse and multifaceted historic material leads to the conclusion that theatricality may be understood and defined simply as an element functioning in different discourses within a range of disciplines that are devoted to cultural studies such as sociology, ethnology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, the historical sciences, art history, cultural semiotics and so on, as well as theatre studies. The notion of theatricality depends on the respective discourse as to what kinds of cultural, social, political events and processes are regarded and addressed as theatrical and what kind of arguments are used to show the existence and functioning of theatricality in everyday life.

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Therefore, it seems a potentially fruitful approach to examine the use, function and meaning of “theatre” in different discourses when dealing with the relationship of theatre history (or theatre studies in general) to other disciplines and with the circulation of terms, concepts, theories and methods between them.

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Marvin Carlson enquires into the use of “theatre” in philosophical discourse taking, as his example, some writings of Bruce Wilshire. He suggests that the reasons for Wilshire’s failure to achieve his aim of establishing a clearly defined field of ethical philosophy is because he uses “theatre” as a model of activities which are distinct from any activities in “real life.” Wilshire’s argument stems from a very narrow concept of theatre whose historical and cultural limits can easily be demonstrated and challenged by any theatre historian. In his examination of the function of “theatre” in the discourse of art historians, Michael Quinn analyses the opposition between “theatricality” and “authenticity” as the driving force dominating the discourse. In line with Carlson’s conclusions, Quinn argues that either the restricted range, lofty ideological constructions or other shortcomings of the discourse under investigation are caused, at least to a considerable extent, by reference to a very narrow concept of theatre. A wide field opens up for a promising collaboration between theatre history and other disciplines. My contribution tests the range of theatricality as an interdisciplinary element in the theatrical discourse. With reference to Reinhardt’s production of Sumurun (1910) and its reception in Berlin and New York, particular theatrical devices are related to some fundamental cultural changes in perception and meaning generating, and this correlation is discussed in the light of radical constructivism, highlighting theatricality as the capacity of constructing reality. The publication of these four articles is intended to stimulate and intensify a lively debate on theatricality, to encourage and celebrate a fascinating experiment which has brought about an unconventional collaboration of disciplines and the beginning of a fruitful cross-fertilization between the fields of theatre history and other disciplines.

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Erika Fischer-Lichte - Introduction: Theatricality

Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Erika Fischer-Lichte is professor of Theatre Studies at the Freie Universitaet Berlin. From 1995 to 1999 she was President of the International Federation for Theatre Research. She is a member of the Academia Europaea, the Academy of Sciences at Goettingen, and the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, and also holds the chair of the Institute for Advanced Studies on Interweaving Performance Cultures.She has published widely in the fields of aesthetics, theory of literature, art, and theatre, in particular on semiotics and performativity, theatre history, and contemporary theatre. Among her numerous publications are The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics (2008, German 2004), Theatre, Sacrifice, Ritual. Exploring Forms of Political Theatre (2005), History of European Drama and Theatre (2002, German 1990), The Show and the Gaze of Theatre: A European Perspective (1997), The Semiotics of Theatre (1992, German 1983), and The Dramatic Touch of Difference: Theatre, Own and Foreign (1990).

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The seductiveness of the interval

Katalin Timár

Hello. Excuse me. Can you tell me where I am? On the Dynamics of Signifying Practices in the Exhibition Hello. Excuse me. Can you tell me where I am? In our country, we send pictures of people speaking our sign language into Outer Space. We are speaking out sign language in these pictures. […] do you think They will read our signs? In our country, Goodbye looks just like Hello. Laurie Anderson: United States, 1984

In 1972 (and subsequently in 1973) a golden plaque was sent into space on board the Pioneer 10 spacecraft. The plaque was meant to contain information about mankind, the solar system, the trajectory of the spacecraft, etc., in the form of pictograms for extraterrestrials to find, decipher and thereby gain knowledge about human existence on Earth. The plaque with its selection of information and mode of representation immediately became the target of serious criticism. Interestingly enough, some of these criticisms meant to attack the way in which the male and female figures were depicted – that they were naked, too naturalistic, and obscene. More importantly, however, comments were made to assess critically the approach to the selection of information and even the very existence of the plaque itself, which used a human sign system and mode of pictorial representation that were “natural” not even to “mankind” but only to people familiar with scientific imagery. It seems to me that the blind spot with which the designers of the plaque proceeded is exactly the source of the story’s long term popularity – for an “outside eye” lacking the necessary scientific knowledge, it is easy to

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see the plaque’s failure to understand the basic premises of sign systems. The plaque somehow naively believes in the possibility of conveying an “anthropomorphic” image of the signifying practices of human culture.

terms since they both are sign systems. When we, as visitors, enter the exhibition space, we enter a situation that is already organised along certain highly structured categories and codes (some theorists even call it a ritual).2 These categories and codes limit “the possibilities for action (both See e.g. Krzysztof Pomian and Carol verbal and physical), […] the world so organized […] Duncan. will be perceived as normal. […] a normal context is Stanley Fish, “Normal Circumstances and Other Special Cases,” 288, in: Is just the special context you happen to be in, although There a Text in This Class?, 268-92. essay was originally published in it will not be recognized as special because so long as This Critical Inquiry 4.4 (Summer 1978): you were in it whatever it permits you to see will seem 625-44. obvious and inescapable.”3 2

Another reason why I, personally, find this historical moment fascinating is that the plaque possesses another naïve belief in the possibility of an “Outer Space,” in the sense of a realm beyond ours where not only our sign system would work exactly in the same way as it works here on Earth but where, paradoxically, reading signs can be suspended, too. As if the readers of those signs on the plaque were “out of space,” out of a situation, in a kind of no-man’s land, not even in a context of their own. Is it, indeed, possible to be “out of space,” to exist – even temporarily – in an interval where one could suspend the workings of signifying practices in a semiotic sense and stop the process of interpretation even for the shortest or tiniest period of time? In what ways can we take the notion of theatricality and that of the interval as productive metaphors for exhibitions as a suspension of signification? The interval as a metaphor is also referred to by Jean-Luc Nancy as part of his theoretical dealings with communities. Nancy departs from music and provides us with a definition: “In Western music, the interval is the name for a combination of two notes played at the same time, this creating a sound that we hear as a new note. The separate notes composing the interval are still audible, but at the same time something new has installed itself between them; it comes to our ears without being reduced directly to its elements. “The interval ‘is’ nothing: it is nothing without its elements, and still it is something different from its ele1 Jean-Luc Nancy and Laurens ten Kate, ments. It ‘is’ in the way of an event.” For Nancy, the “Cum’ … revisited: Preliminaries to metaphor of the interval is instrumental in arguing for Thinking the Interval,” In: eds. E. Ziarek & H. Oosterling, Intermedialities, (New the inoperative character and “precarious nature” of York: Continuum, 2007). communities in contemporary society from a fundamentally sceptical position, a position that nevertheless attaches value to the existence of communities and its loss. In my view, it is possible to retain an operative understanding of communities from a performative and semiotic perspective which, in a convoluted manner, leads us back to the status of the interval as a metaphor for exhibitions. In this framework and in relation to contemporary art, community can be understood as the temporally constituted group of spectators who, according to a semiotic approach, function as an “interpretive community,” to use Stanley Fish’s term. 1

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This means that the codes of the white cube have become so widespread and obvious that they are naturalised to the extent that most people do not recognise them as codes but as “the” ideal realisation of a code-free environment and neutral background for the presentation of works of art. Yet it is exactly on the promotion of neutrality that the white cube trades, and successfully manages to mask. To come back to the conjunction of “contextual curating” and spectatorship, the former endeavours to create a temporal community which shares – to use Matthew Hills’ term – a “semiotic solidarity” among Mentioned by Henry Jenkins, Fans, and Gamers: Exploring its members, no matter how utopian this may sound.4 Bloggers, Participatory Culture, (New York Univ. There is a political aspect to emphasising contextual- Press: New York and London, 2006) ity these days that can be taken as a conscious move 156. away from the approach to exhibition making which relies on the well-known context of the white cube. Even if in some cases this white cube takes the shape – but never the symbolic function – of a factory or other previously existing institutions (such as a post office), where I of course take institution as a symbolic entity and not as a building. In my view, when an exhibition aims at the employment of a participatory approach to visitors and to communities, this decision is informed by explicit or implicit political considerations on the part of the curators and is based on a political need to empower the spectators by the application of various methodological tools that do not exclusively belong to the realm of art but often to other areas of social communication. I am aware of the element of naïveté and utopianism in this proposition. 4

The idea of community in terms of how publics are constituted in the face of contemporary art exhibitions is related to the phenomena of what is known as “contextual curating,” although in my view and according to a semiotic approach to exhibition making, every act of curating and exhibition-making is contextual in a semiotic sense. I would like to argue for a reconsideration of the neutrality of the so-called “white cube” since it is not less of a context than any other context and it is not less regulated by a given set of rules than any other context. The difference between the contextual parameters of the white cube and that of a project-based and site-specific approach cannot be explained in purely semiotic

On top of all the metaphors that I have used so far, I would like to introduce yet another, taken from the field of the semiotic approach to spectators and interpretation. In his book about the theoretical foundation of the emancipation of the readers, Stanley Fish mentions the following anecdote. “On the first day of the new semester a colleague at Johns Hopkins University was approached by a student who, as it turned out, had just taken a course from me. She put to him what I think you would agree is a perfectly straightforward question: ‘Is there a text in this class?’ Responding with a confidence so perfect that he was unaware of it (although in telling the story, he refers to this moment as ‘walking into the trap’), my colleague said, ‘Yes; it’s the Norton Anthology of Literature,’ whereupon the trap (set not by the student but by the infinite capacity of language for being ap-

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Katalin Timár - Hello. Excuse me. Stanley Fish: Is There a Text in this Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities, (Harvard Univ. Press: Cambridge, Mass. and London, England, 1980) 305. 5

propriated) was sprung: ‘No, no,’ she said, ‘I mean in this class do we believe in poems and things, or is it just us?”5

Despite all the criticism aimed at Fish’s ideas, his invaluable contribution to contemporary literary theory can be summed up as the radical emancipation of the reader in the face of the reception of works of art. Fish argued that texts – and, one might add, works of visual arts – do not have an intrinsic meaning invested in them by authorial intention, but rather meaning is always the product of an interpretation which – to a certain extent – contingently depends on the reader’s subjectivity. The element which, however, constrains the unlimited character of the signifying process, is the availability of codes and the ways in which we, as readers, choose from among these codes for the given purposes. This choice is defined partly by the context and partly by “probability” – we tend to choose the code that is the most plausible or obvious in a given context. When Fish calls this factor of probability “normal,” he means that certain circumstances occur more frequently than do others which would then elicit a different reading in their turn. “But they remain circumstances still (statistically, not inherently, normal)….6 It seems from Fish’s Fish, Normal Circumstances, account that we tend to assign a certain interpretation to op. cit., 291. (original italics) a given situation according to our experiences, which are sooner based on statistical data of probability than on any inherent and stable quality of the situation or the sign itself. 6

In addition to this, as Fish claims, there is always a “purposeful” approach to reading a priori the actual act of reading, and this also in the end affects which of the codes the reader decides to employ. One of Fish’s examples is the classroom and it is in this sense that we have to understand his anecdote about the student asking for the content of the seminar at the beginning of the semester. The classroom – or the exhibition for that matter – is, of course, just one of these easily graspable contexts which can stabilise the otherwise unstable character of any text or meaning-making practice. Fish provides us with a number of convincing examples for that process, i.e. how the shift from one context to another may change the meaning of an utterance, demonstrating that “paradoxically [this] exercise does not prove that the words can mean anything one likes, but that they always and only mean one thing, although that one thing is not always the same. The one thing they mean will be a function of the shape language already has when we come upon it in a situation, and it is the knowledge that is the context of being in a situation that will have stabilized it.”7 Fish calls this contextual operation “institutional nesting”8 by which he means that in a given situation one context is “more available” or more easily accessible than another.

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Fish, Normal Circumstances, op. cit., 275. (original italics)

His anecdote can be taken as an instance of the discrepancy between the interpretations and the “institutional nesting” of the two people taking part in that conversation, although they both belong to the educational industry and to a certain extent to the same interpretive community. For the professor, the context was first and most strongly defined by the circumstances of the first day of the semester, thus by the word “text” he understands the assigned reading materials that the seminar will discuss, and for the student the context was primarily defined by a knowledge of literary theory’s recent developments. It is interesting to note that there is an element of temporality at play with these two interpretations, since for those who are able to read the sentence “Is there a text in this class?” in this second sense, the first meaning is also available, but not the other way round. This severely limits the utopian approach to communities on the foundation of “semiotic solidarity.” It is exactly in relation to the restricted possibilities of this solidarity that I would like to come back to the spatial confines of the classroom and to make use of this metaphor’s potential once again. In his theory, Fish places a strong emphasis on the circumstantial expectations of a given temporal community. “Professors of English literature do not put things on boards unless they are to be examples of problematic or ironic or ambiguous language. Students know that because they know what it means to be in a classroom, and the categories of understanding that are the content of that knowledge will be organizing what they see before they see it. Irony and ambiguity are not properties of language but are functions of the expectations with which we approach it.”9 To translate this to the area of visual arts, and given that Fish, Normal Circumstances, op. cit., 277. visitors to exhibitions rely on the same set of expectations In my view, the possible and assumptions of the “circumstantial forces” (S. Fish) in ambiguities of signs are operation, they are either equipped with the knowledge to the characteristics that can differentiate – in a semiotic understand the ambiguities of meaning that works of art sense – between signs in the of exhibitions on the may have in that context by virtue of being displayed with context one hand, and signs outside that purpose,10 or else all this is lost on them. (According to of the context of art. Fish’s convincing arguments and to a semiotic approach to Fish, Normal Circumstances, the quality of the ambiguity of language, this quality is by op. cit., 284. no means the “natural property” of a sign, but rather it is the context which is “responsible for the ambiguity the sentence will then have.”11 If we come back to the motto of this text and to the example of the simple sign of raising one’s hand, either saying hello or saying goodbye, the question of the ambiguity of meaning comes to the fore outside of the context of art.) It is at this point and in this sense that the utopia of a temporal interpretive community falls short, and the question of political solidarity comes into operation. 9

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Fish, Is There a Text in This Class?, op. cit., 308. 8

The utopia of such a community has also been challenged and criticised by the British art critic Claire Bishop as part of her work attacking the theory of relational

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aesthetics and its practitioners. It is on behalf of the restoration of the “aesthetic qualities” of artworks that Bishop condemns what she sees as the moralising attitude of artists and curators who conceive and implement community-based projects. If we want to translate this into semiotic terms, Bishop’s intention is to defend the supremacy of the “micro-context” of the exhibition at the expense of the “macro-context” of locality. The irony and the paradoxicality of her critical position is that even if the amount of community-based projects seems to be decisively high these days, there is very little theoretical and critical analysis of them on a non-aesthetic, more transdisciplinary and social basis. This also proves, for better or worse, that the code which is the strongest, the most accessible and the most probable for the interpretive community operating in this context, is still the aesthetic one. There is a strong resonance between the theoretical approach I have outlined here and various institutional initiatives and endeavours aimed at a new understanding of participation and spectatorship in the face of recent political theories of democracy. Charles Esche, for instance, has conceived the notion of “permissiveness” in order to describe the temporary and discontinuous character of certain art projects which “take on activities that fall out of other categories.” This multifaceted approach to exhibitions is based on a constant renewal of and the practical realisation of the challenge aimed at the existing boundaries between art and the everyday, i.e. culture and its audience. According Patricia Grzonka: “Pragmatism and Creativity,” 91, to Esche, “[o]ur task in terms of alternative strategies is then, in: ed. Sarah S. King: Lucky Number Seven, exhibition to create the institutions and devices that can respond to this catalogue, SITE, (Santa Fe, permissiveness, physically creating those places, times and 2008) 90-91. meetings of possibility that the art and the society of today Quoted in Sarah Pierce A Politics of Interpretation, seem urgently to require.” This “pragmatic utopianism”12 – 2007, 162-63. (original to use Patricia Grzonka’s term – enables us to form a critical italics), in: ed. Paul O’Neill: Curating Subjects, De Appel, position requiring in its turn a more experimental approach (reprinted in London, 2007) 159-73. which is based on the disruption of “recurrent claims on aesthetics and collective representation.”13 For me personally, this pragmatism in the utopia is the element that not only needs to be reformulated time and again, but it is also in a state of deficit in terms of public debates and solidarity within the interpretive community. 12

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Katalin Timár is a curator and theorist, a doctoral candidate in Communication Studies at the University of Pécs, Hungary. She works as a curator at the Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest. Between 1999 and 2001, she was a founding member of a research group for contemporary art theory, based at the Department of Aesthetics at ELTE University, Budapest. She has served as the programme director of several international conferences and workshops. She was the curator of the Hungarian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007, which received the Golden Lion Award for best national pavilion. Her fields of interest are photography and spectatorship, including post-colonialism and gender studies. She has been the recipient of a Getty Grant (1999), a Doctoral Support Grant (CEU, 2000), and a Henry Moore Research Fellowship (2001).

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The seductiveness of the interval

Roann Barris

Empowerment and Manipulation: The Seductive Betrayal of Art

What if the goal of contemporary art is (and has been) “learning to inhabit the world in a better way”?1 Although inevitably this is a Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthettrans. Simon Pleasance and Fronza utopian question, Nicolas Bourriaud asks it less out of ics, Woods (France: Les Presses du Réel, a desire to posit a utopian agenda for art than out of 2002). a recognition that one of the defining characteristics of recent art is a rejection (by artists themselves) of the hegemonic or totalizing vision of the artist, and with it, a reassessment of both the expectations made by the art work on the viewer and a reconceptualization of the relationship between the viewer and the art work. Certainly, the notion of interaction between the viewer and art is not new; and neither is the recognition of how conditions of viewing can either enhance or suppress this interaction. But the expectation that the work of art can only be completed by the viewer, and that the viewer’s inability to do so is a sign of apathy does force a significant reevaluation of the purpose of the installation of a group of art works. Indeed, it forces those of us concerned with the creation of such spaces to reconceptualize the gallery as a theatre of commodities, more like a marketing exhibition than a museum. Because the Seductiveness of the Interval specifically centralizes questions such as these, and in particular, the question of the relationship between the real, as embodied by the spectator, and the imaginary, as embodied by the art work, in this essay I want to rehearse some of the main themes in the increased desire to treat both the artwork and the installation as theatrical spaces and the concomitant demands this desire places on the spectator. 1

The interest of artists in theatricality has a long history, and without retracing it, it will suffice to note that even Byzantine churches were not oblivious to the goal of creating a complete environment in which the religious spectacle at times merged with the political, creating a performance of liturgical politics without the use of words or even actors but entirely through the images on the walls and their symbiotic relationship to the actual rituals of the church. Think of San Vitale of Ravenna, and the inclusion of the Emperor and Empress in its splendid mosaics.

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Roann Barris - Empowerment and Manipulation: The Seductive Betrayal of Art

Of course, the role of the spectator was rather limited in such an environment, merely expected to attend the service and be transported through art to the realm of the spiritual. “Merely” is obviously an understatement but on all levels except for the spiritual this was a spectator who was visualized as someone who looks. By the 17th century, Bernini, the baroque master of religious and theatrical illusion, still conceptualized the viewer as someone whose primary activity was looking. He did, however, complicate the mental activity of the viewer by staging his art as a theatre with its own audience prior to the entrance of the real audience. Here we have only to think of the Ecstacy of St. Teresa with its box-seats for the Coronaro family, present in sculpted form as they watched the rapture and ascension of St. Teresa. But for all the emotional extravagance of baroque art, theatricality remained an implicit phenomenon until the 20th century. Artists from Watteau to Manet were clearly influenced by the theatre – Watteau in his theatrical fantasies, painting the elite as they play-acted for themselves, and Manet in his commitment to new models of vision derived from a conceptualization of seeing as something which involves more than the eye and calls for a continual reassessment on the part of the viewer. But to whatever degree artists may have departed from the earliest models of vision as something static and framed by the art work, they were always limited by the constraints of a gallery system which positioned or packed multiple art works on the walls of the salon or museum. Although challenges to this system of display came from artists who refused to show their work in the salon, they did not challenge the actual approach to exhibition practices, only the place, and then primarily for ideological reasons stemming from the artists’ opposition to the existing salon system.2 The earliest real challenges to the notion of the exhibition as a place where the viewer encounters On the ideological exhibition as a forerunner of the surrealist exhibition, art works as objects on the wall, there to be seen and/ see Lewis Kachur, Displaying the Marvelous (Cambridge, MIT Press, 2001) or ignored, came in the 1910s and 20s with the chalchapter 1. lenges posed by Russian Constructivism, Berlin Dada, and eventually Surrealism in all its forms. In Russia, the connection between theatricality and exhibitions is particularly interesting in that it worked in two directions: just as theatre was revising its notion of the role of the spectator, the designers of exhibition spaces were beginning to treat the relationship between the art works, space, and viewers as a more interactive arrangement. In both cases, the expectation was for a viewer who would be more actively engaged with the performance, whether a performance conducted by actors and stage artifacts or a performance of paintings on display, and in both cases, the precise nature of the performance had its origins in both the cinematic montage and the liminal world of the carnival. Meanwhile, this experience, in turn, reflected back into the theatre and a new understanding of how the theatre might be an exhibition of these relationships, as opposed to a site of entertainment, becoming perhaps one of the earliest attempts to use art as a means of “inhabiting the world in a new way.” These experiments, particularly in Russia, were aborted by political realities, but their lessons were enduring. 2

To take one example: if, by the mid-1920s, writers and artists such as Sergei

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Tretiakov, the poet and playwright, who, like Bertolt Brecht, was drawn to the idea of the “problem play,” and Vsevelod Meierkhold, the theatre director known for his use of constructivist stage sets and biomechanical acting, were already abandoning the art work as something descriptive of a time and place and action, preferring instead to create situations with unpredictable outcomes, in so doing they were embracing a model of art in which the artist and audience together were implicated in an intervention in real life. Meierkhold’s interest in carnival theatre is well-known, as is his interest in abandoning the traditional stage in which audience and actors are implicitly separated by an invisible wall. Hardly alone in his desire to create a more active experience for the viewer, he took it to a level which few others had reached in the 20s and in so doing, he raised questions about the degree to which the activated spectator is either empowered or controlled in a more subtle way. Likewise, at the same time, the Bauhaus and constructivist artist El Lissitsky was asking similar questions about the nature of the exhibition. Maria Gough’s analysis of Lissitsky’s designs for exhibitions in Dresden, in 1926, and Hannover, in 1927-8, suggests that whereas Brecht and Tretiakov interrupted the narrative progression of their plays in order to activate the spectator, Lissitsky “interrupted” or disoriented the spectator in order to activate the artwork. He achieved this by creating a room in which the background for each art work changed with the movement of the viewer, thereby sacrificing the stability and autonomy of the work of art in order to give both the art works and spectators a role in producing the experience of viewing art.3 See her insightful article, “ConstructivGiven the similarity of their goals, it seems almost preism Disoriented: El Lissitzky’s Dresden ordained that Meierkhold and Lissitsky would come and Hannover Demonstrationsräume,” in Nancy Perloff and Brian Reed, eds., together to work on a production of Tretiakov’s newSituating El Lissitzky: Vitebsk, Berlin, Moscow (Los Angeles, Getty Publicaest “problem” play, I Want a Child, in 1928. Just as tions, 2003) 76 - 125. the paintings in the Hannover Abstrakt Kabinet would It was not produced although the have engaged in a struggle with the wall and the viewwriter and director did receive permission to do so. Reasons for the noner to assert their autonomy, in the production of Treproduction can only be hypothesized 4 at this time. See my unpublished manu- tiakov’s play (if it had ever taken place ), the audience script, “The Constructivist Intervention would have been caught in an even more disorienting in Politics: Theater and the Empowered Spectator.” challenge. The planned production would have used a combined elliptical theatre/stage which elided seating for the audience and acting spaces, and Meierkhold planned to use scripted non-actors, called “orators” by him, to sit in the audience and act as though they were unscripted spectators spontaneously responding to the debates generated by the play. And if, from the perspective of the audience, these orators were other audience members like themselves, then the audience/performer divide would have been breached and the spectator might likewise contribute to the debate. Even unproduced, these plans have led various historians to position Meierkhold and Lissitsky on a direct 3

4

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Roann Barris - Empowerment and Manipulation: The Seductive Betrayal of Art

line with the totalitarian uses of art by Stalin, so characteristic of the 1930s.5 My own dissenting point of view is that the combination of This would seem to be the position radical stage, an experimental play, and a productaken by Christina Kiaer and Eric tion which manipulated viewers’ perceptions of the Naiman. In her Imagine No Possessions: The Socialist Object of identity of the audience and actors and in which the Russian Constructivism (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005), Kiaer refers to a actors ultimately appeared to be little more than pupstatement by Naiman asserting that “if pets was ultimately not a play at all, but an exhibition Boris Groys is correct and there is a direct line connecting the Russian avantof the new spectator. If true, would it be too farfetched garde with Stalin’s governance, that line surely runs through Meyerhold and to imagine this as another instance of the creation of I Want a Child,” 260. For Naiman’s a socialist network of desiring, with the commodity in position, see his book Sex in Public: The Incarnation of Soviet Ideology this case not an object to be bought, but a lifestyle to (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997) 109-115. emulate? Although it may be impossible to prove in this essay, I raise the question in order to raise another issue: the resemblance between theatre, exhibitions and window displays in commercial stores. 5

Window displays, whether using mannequins, live models, or solely displaying objects, must actively engage the spectator because the display must culminate in the spectator’s decision to enter the store and buy something. This performance has a role for the viewer as well as a role for the viewed object. Unlike the constructivist spectator, who became a performer by metonymical association with the actors and whose unscripted conceptual performance was instigated by the production, the performance in the window display is not complete until the spectator enters the store. Somewhat like the orators in the planned production of Tretiakov’s play, this is a performance with a scripted role for the viewer. But unlike the Russian audience, this viewer can create a different ending, an ending which challenges or defies the script. In the evolution of display windows, the earliest windows followed a model of the panorama or gallery – little more than a “moving picture” of objects, with movement coming primarily from the locomotive activity of the spectator. Ignoring the functionalism of the displayed products, the My discussion of display windows is based on: Sara K. Schneider, Vital guiding principle of these displays was a principle of Mummies/Performance Design for visual composition. Clothing displays probably carthe Show-Window Mannequin (New Haven: 1995). Quotations from Kiesler ried this to an almost anti-human extreme as they subare from 16 and 17. Extrapolations to the engaged spectator are my ordinated the clothing to interactions between space, own, and more fully developed in an shapes and colours, and by extension, subordinated earlier work of mine, “The Constructivist ‘Engaged Spectator’: A Politics of the human being – as spectator and consumer – to Reception,” Design Issues, 15.1 (1999): 31- 48. the object.6 6

Frederick Kiesler compared the display window to a “static theatre” which “dramatized the merchandise” but although he predicted future display windows which would be comparable to motion pictures, he does not seem to have commented on the change in the role of the spectator. At first, live models became central to the performance of the objects, and later, when mannequins modeled on real life took their place, the object ceased to rule over the individual. The performer in the window became dynamically engaged with the object, much as the constructivist actor dynamically interacted with the stage machinery in

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constructivist productions of the early 1920s. And as models began to demonstrate the viability of what they modeled and the ethos of the companies which designed their products, the viewer became more dynamically engaged with the display. But unlike a play or even a gallery, these scenes communicated a single narrative: a narrative of desire, and the spectators’ desire became the desire to imitate or possess the lifestyle of the model. The consumer, of course, can choose not to be a consumer, but within the theater of the store window, the only refusal he or she can make is to walk away. This right of refusal is complicated by the mannequin. Although the mannequin, seemingly a surrogate for the consumer, appears to be lifelike and familiar, it is not: it is an uncanny imposter, repulsive and fraudulent. Through the pretense of reality, the mannequin foregrounds the identity of the viewer and the difference between reality and the imaginary. It is in this respect that the spectator’s role is not fully scripted and that the model of the consumer/spectator cannot be said to be a complete reimposition of a scripted or passive spectator role, a situation which returns us to the parallel theatricality of the gallery and installation. Installation, today, refers to two things: art made to be installation art, and the installation in the museum or gallery. Although the use of one word to describe two different situations might be confusing, in this case it is actually helpful because the present installation is targeting the viewer A good introduction to some of these issues can be found in Nicolas de Olin much the same way that installation art does.7 In iveira, Nicola Oxley, and Michael Petry, Art in the New Millennium. the latter case, the audience for an installation is ex- Installation The Empire of the Senses. (London: pected to participate in a way which contravenes the Thames and Hudson, 2003). expectations of museum behavior. Traditionally, the rule of galleries, much like the store window, is that you observe. With installation art, this creates a “trap” for the spectator as she struggles to determine what she has the right to do and what rules she is willing to break. Further complicating this dilemma, in some installations, people are included to “act” as spectators, although they are part of the installation. In some cases, these hired bodies may be present in video form. But the living viewers are as isolated as the people in the projection on the wall – you stand and look at these people who may or may not be looking at you. Ultimately this confusion of boundaries is little different from the confusion which the audience would have encountered in Meierkhold’s production of I Want a Child. Perhaps it is even more enigmatic, given that the once sacrosanct space of the gallery with its firm divisions between art and the viewer has now been disrupted. When the gallery installation foregrounds this disruption, viewer and gallery alike must question both their bracketing of reality and the imaginary, and the belief that the spectator has been empowered. The lure of empowerment contains the risk of manipulation – is this the seductive betrayal of art? 7

Roann Barris is an art historian. She recently received tenure and promotion to Associate Professor of Art at Radford University in Virginia, where she has taught since 2005. The primary focus of her publications and presentations concerns Russian constructivist theatre, with a particular interest in spectator demands and the parallels between criticism of the theatre and the language of the political show trials of the 1920s. In other works she has addressed the Romanian architectural competition of 1996 (the “Bucure[ti 2000”) and, more recently, Berlin’s architectures of commemoration and memory.

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The seductiveness of the interval

Hanneke Grootenboer

Openendedness: Becoming Intimate with the Object Space is to fiction what the negative is to reflection. Michel Foucault

An exhibition space provides for an arrangement or organisation of elements to be put into a scene - it is literally a mise-en-scène and as such essentially theatrical. As Elizabeth Burns reminded us in the early 1970s, theatre, derived from the Greek theatron, is linked with perception, as it traditionally denotes a place from which one sees.1 In an exhibition space, on the contrary, the two sides of spectator and spectacle, viewer and viewed, become blurred. Divisions between foreground and background, subject and object, set and props, are not always clear demarcations, with the result that the role of the viewer becomes a free yet dubious one. One is invited to see, and to see again, asked to stop for a short while, and to move on. The unwritten rule is that the process of viewing must be ongoing. One approaches an object only to leave it behind for another, which in its turn will also be passed by. It seems that here the notion of theatricality can be understood as something essentially mobile, movable, in motion, as a space which invites the viewer not to watch from a fixed spot but to enter, even trespass upon, its terrain. In his book Theatricality as Medium (2004), Samuel Weber states, “theatricality demonstrates its subversive power when it forsakes the confines of the theatron and begins to wander.”2 Theatrical performances are staged, yet they come to pass and they Burns, Theatricality: pass away, Weber writes, not in order to disappear, but AElizabeth Study of Convention in the to take place somewhere else. In fact, such a happening Theatre and in Social Life (New York, 1972). takes place not just once, but is ongoing: a performance Samuel Weber, Theatricality as that is less a representation, a “placing before,” and more Medium (New York, 2004) 37. an exposition, a placement that is simultaneously a disJoseph Litvak, Caught in placement. This ongoing process caused by displaced the Act: Theatricality in the English representations can be characterised as being without a Nineteenth-Century Novel (University of California proper end. Perhaps Joseph Livak, writing on the English Press, 1992). novel, was right to claim that theatricality owes its value as a critical term to its open-endedness and that unlike theatre it does not denote a fixed place, but rather resists such circumscription.3 And it is this understanding of theatricality as 1

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Hanneke Grootenboer - Openendedness: Becoming Intimate with the Object

somehow ongoing, open-ended, and without any specific moment of denouement, which may be applicable to the way the viewer approaches the object displayed. The object on display offers itself to view, and though the exhibition space is, as a mise-en-scène, mapped out and controlled, it is not a public space in the strict sense of the word. Our encounter with the object that exhibits itself in the designated space has transformed its environment to prepare it for an encounter with its viewer, an encounter that can be a quiet, intimate affair. As Mieke Bal has often pointed out as regards the art of the past, as well as contemporary art, an object, when placed in a certain setting, may acquire the faculty of speech, in the sense that it may speak back at us.4 Approaching such a “telling” object slowly, and always ready to move on, we, as viewers, may listen to it, but we always remain on our guard, as though we never fully trusted This is a running thread in Bal’s impressive what exactly it is, in the ex-position of the object, oeuvre as a whole. See for instance: Quoting that makes us keep on looking. This encounter Caravaggio: Contemporary Art, Preposterous with the object can actually be quite intimate, History (University of Chicago Press, 2001). especially when it seems as if, for a fleeting moment, we were alone together with the object immediately before we move on. 4

Gaston Bachelard famously remarked that spaces such as houses, chests, and wardrobes share a quality of intimacy, as they cannot be opened by just anyone.5 Once a chest has been opened and its insides have been revealed, the outside world shrinks to the point of vanishing. We Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space: The Look at How We Experience Intimate might say that this kind of shrinking has much Classic Places (Beacon Press, 1994). to do with absorption in the scene, in the way in which peeping through a keyhole makes the outside world vanish. In Being and Nothingness, Sartre describes in great detail how a voyeur forgets himself as a viewing subject once he is fully immersed in watching, having become, so to speak, an eye. However, this kind of voyeuristic prying is not what Bachelard is after: in opening a drawer, one never intends to reveal something that should remain unseen. Instead, the act of opening allows us to enter a realm of intimacy where we can hide ourselves from the world, literally but also figuratively, in the sense of losing ourselves in thought, as opposed to the vision in which Sartre’s voyeur has become lost. An intimate place such as that created by a wardrobe or a chest is a solitary and fundamentally creative space, Bachelard writes, as it allows us to daydream, to let our thoughts drift off, or wander, for that matter. For Bachelard, objects that can be opened and closed have a secret psychological life. They actually provide us with a model of intimacy as something deepseated and intensely interior, which is separated from the outside world. In effect, our thinking has been modelled by spaces in which, or through which, thinking might take place. Indeed, space and thought continue to be modelled on one another. The deep-seatedness that we experience as lying in ourselves can be conceived by means of the interiority of a chest. There is quite a strong familiarity between, on the one hand, us opening these spaces and, on the other, the inte5

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The seductiveness of the interval

riority that we experience and claim as the deepest part of ourselves. Bachelard calls boxes and chests of drawers “subject-objects,” they are hybrid objects that become part of our subjectivity when opened. They only obtain the quality of intimacy through us, yet at the same time also for us. Whereas it is obvious that an object on display in an exhibition space cannot literally be opened, I feel that our desire as viewers to pry it open somehow, to peel back its layers in order to see more of it, or to touch it so as to bridge the gap that separates us from it, should not be disregarded. If the object, when placed on stage, appears to be so indiscreete as to speak back at us, this appeal is made for us as well as through us. Indeed, entry into an exhibition space often results in the cancellation of the outside world. Even when views out of windows are included in the exhibition space, we seem to float in a cut-off world of miseen-scène. Clearly a place for seeing and showing, it is a realm that is enclosed as much as it is open. It is a public space inasmuch as that one can be seen in it by others; yet it can be strangely intimate, indeed, it can serve as a space of daydreaming rather than of mere perception. Do we unwittingly open up part of our selves when we approach the object, bend over it, listen to it speaking back at us? Bachelard has written that ultimately man is a half-open being, opening and closing himself through language. May we say that, upon entering an exhibition space, what is opened up are effectively thoughts? The exhibition space as mise-en-scène is conditioned by a viewer who wanders around, approaching works casually, almost indifferently. This process of viewing is not defined by the arrest of movement in front of a work. Rather, we, as viewers, circle around it as though we were wary animals, sniffing around in a new terrain. However, we are invited not to hunt but to crouch. We seek not a particular object but the effect it may have on us. The space allows for a quest: we want to be affected, or interrupted. We want the object to be evocative and to entice us to leave the beaten track and wander off. Such an encounter is essentially associative or creative. Is this daydreaming? Our viewing of a work can become strangely intimate once we encounter new thoughts. We may say that what is evocative is less the object as such and more its placement in space, its ex-position in the sense of its display and our displacement. Once an object has been positioned in a room, the space starts to swarm with meaning. Display and displacement: there is an open-endedness to this wandering around that makes the space theatrical. The viewer is asked to come closer - to be pulled

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Hanneke Grootenboer - Openendedness: Becoming Intimate with the Object

away. To a certain extent, the viewer completes the work by being affected by it. S/he accepts its invitation to perceive it, but only briefly. In fact, the process of viewing always fails to reach a closure: the dénouement is forever suspended as thinking takes over perception, and the viewer turns from the work and walks away. Yet s/he may have been nourished by it in having found a space in or through which to think. For Bachelard, language bears within itself the dialectics of open and closed. Through meaning it encloses, it states, while through poetic expression, it opens up. Perhaps this is why at some point we should leave semiotics behind when seeking an encounter with a “poetic” or evocative object. As we know all too well, modes of interpretation produce discourse and meaning. However, we may actually be looking for something entirely different when becoming intimate with the object, when the outside world shrinks and an interiority opens up. We may want our encounter to become meaningful, but rather empty in the sense of generating a space, in the back of our minds, like a room into which to retire and reflect, just like Montaigne found his “small back room” in his mind where he could muse. The “theatricality” of the exhibition space has this kind of open-endedness so as to allow the viewers their “space” of associations, daydreams, reflections, thoughts, and to have them wander in an ongoing viewing process that does not wish to know its own end.

Hanneke Grootenboer is a University Lecturer in the History of Art and a Fellow of St Peter’s College at the University of Oxford. Author of The Rhetoric of Perspective: Realism and Illusionism in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Still Life and Trompe l’Oeil Painting (2005, Chicago University Press), she is currently completing Treasuring the Gaze: Intimacy and Extremity of Vision in British Eye Miniatures (forthcoming, University of Chicago Press). Her research includes projects on painting as a form of thinking, entitled The Pensive Image, and on The Face Becoming Eye, on the gaze in portraiture. Before joining the History of Art Department at the University of Oxford in 2008, Grootenboer taught at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Tulane University in New Orleans, and Columbia University in New York.

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The seductiveness of the interval

Ovidiu }ichindeleanu

Radical Politics, Art, and Theatres of Emancipation and Liberation

At midday, 1 April 2009, G-20Meltdown.org’s figure Chris Knight gave new life to the old revolutionary verse les aristocrates á la lanterne, launching a public campaign to hang bankers – in effigy. Midday is, of course, said to be an hour of passage, an hour of manifestations, or, more precisely, the hour of the manifestation of the dead or demons. At midday, daemon meridianus will bring to the living news about the dead; the message on Chris Knight’s placard read: “Eat the Bankers.” In interviews he added his “hope” that real bankers hanging from lampposts “won’t actually have to happen.” As an anarchist, Chris Knight thus subverted a (meanwhile) Marxist call, making himself the target for all kinds of rebukes, from being a bloodthirsty instigator to having transformed revolution into theatre, the real thing into a joke, very aware and self-conscious demonstrators into zombies, the (collective) movement into a (protagonistic) ego vehicle. By the same token, however, the anthropology professor brought back the echo of the calling, with all its troubling untimeliness. So, is the revolution dead, is the revolution but an illusion, a “framed revolution” – photographed, televised, staged, captured – Plato’s shadow of the shadow of what we should be? Is revolution possible in “post-history,” or when capital has accumulated to the point that it has become image, or when the power divide seems insoluble? Chris Knight’s approach seems to stage a reversal of the teachings of Maoism regarding guerrilla tactics: one should only attack face to face when one is ten times stronger than the enemy. Chris Knight attacked, “stormed the bank,” and held up his face only because the commoner has become so incomparably weaker than the bankers and the ruling powers. In a different context, but almost as recently, the curators of the 11th International Istanbul Biennial, Croatian collective WHW (Ana Dević, Nataša Ilić, Sabina Sabolović, Ivet Ćurlin), chose to announce their curatorial statement in theatrical form, instead of a press conference and/or communiqué. The title chosen was a question from the end of the second act of Brecht’s Threepenny Opera: What Keeps Mankind Alive? Denn wovon lebt der Mensch? The curators them-

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Ovidiu }ichindeleanu - Radical Politics, Art, and Theatres of Emancipation and Liberation

The seductiveness of the interval

selves became performers, brilliantly staging their own curatorial statement on a minimal, Brechtian stage, itself captured on a video. “A criminal is a bourgeois, and a bourgeois is a criminal,” as one statement read, and with it hopes and a renewed call for political art, for art as politics, and for taking on the problem of the socially engaged artist in the deadening conditions of contemporary capitalism, at this hour of full crisis in daylight. WHW have not been spared of all kinds of reproaches, among them for contributing in this way, by means of the contemporary arts, to the postmodern-neoliberal commodification of everything, including revolution. So what does political art do, if it can no longer be the opposite of Khrushchev’s “dog shit?” What are the possibilities of political art, if all art is necessarily political? In times when the simplest vision is that of the intricate crisis itself, what forms of human practice answer the desire to enact and/or capture any significant change? In these two avowedly disparate cases, politics and art conveyed their hope and desperation in theatrical showcases. Radical politics and radical art, and, moreover, what might be said to be meta-politics and meta-art, or that which capacitates politics and art, have converged into theatrics. Direct action is a representation; the announcement of the concept is a work of art, truly a representation. Whereas Boal has argued, “all theatre is necessarily political,” here politics and arts are essentially theatrical.

Instead of Brecht or Artaud, at this point one might invoke Augusto Boal’s words as a seemingly fit illustration of the ideology of the emancipated spectator: “Yes, this is without a doubt the conclusion: ‘Spectator’ is a bad word! The spectator is Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Opless than a man and it is necessary to humanise him, pressed (1973) (London: Pluto Press to restore to him his capacity of action in all its full- 2000) 134-135. ness. He too must be a subject, an actor on an equal See Augusto Boal, Legislative Theatre: Performance to Make Politics plane with those generally accepted as actors, who Using (London and New York: Routledge must also be spectators.”2 Boal even places emphasis 1998). on the word “community” in Legislative theatre,3 where he moves his intervention from the actor/spectator dichotomy to that of citizen/legislator, thereby attempting to derive from this form of theatre the basis for the real legislation of community. I would like to argue, however, that there is a subtle yet fundamental difference between the idea of the emancipated spectator and the liberation ideal of the theatre of the oppressed. It already begins with the place of enunciation: by envisioning the epistemic field of modern theatre in the opposing strategies of Brecht and Artaud, Rancière creates this difference in a space which in itself has a problematic relation to reality. Whereas Rancière projects a dialectical process that only comes into being in a space which is rather abstracted from the historical reality and motivations of the two authors, Boal articulates his own critique of Brecht from a position of praxis, from the political situation in which he already finds himself. As opposed to Brecht’s enlightened vanguard model, “the poetics of the oppressed is essentially the poetics of liberation: the spectator no longer delegates power to the characters either to think or to act in his place.” Boal’s theatre of the oppressed does aim to change spectators into protagonists; it does aim to initiate changes in “real life” or within the aesthetic phenomenon. There is, however, a subtle difference between the theatre of the oppressed and the critique of enlightened emancipation: precisely by way of imitation, “the oppressed act as subject in both these worlds. In their fight against the oppression of the imaginary world, they are practicing and fortifying themselves in preparation for the future fight they will undertake against the real oppressions (not simply the real images of these oppressions).”4 Augusto Boal, Games for Actors and In other words, liberation theatre opens a possibility Non-Actors (London and New York: Routledge, 2nd Edition, 2002) 276. that pushes forward Rancière’s critique of the theatre of emancipation: the activity at work in passivity, and the embedding passivity itself are made to enter into a relation of confrontational dialectics, as opposed to an opposition abstracted from the material reality. The knowledge at work in the ignorant and the embedding ignorance are placed, are staged, as it were, in an external relation, enabling the possibility of different decompositions and compositions.

What, then, is the transformative potential of theatre? In the Emancipated Spectator, Jacques Rancière has argued that a certain logic of redemption is at work in modern critical theatre: the abolition of the distance between contemplating spectators and acting participants, which in its turn reproduces the pedagogical logic according to which the role of the master is to abolish the distance between his knowledge, on one hand, and the ignorance of the pupil, on the other.1 The debate on the relations between art and politics thus See Jacques Rancière, Le spectateur emancipé (Paris: La Fabrique éditions, focuses in critical theatre on the paradoxical problem 2008). of the spectator: even if there is no theatre without spectators, both Brecht and Artaud developed ideas of a theatre without spectators, or where the spectators cease to be seduced by images in order to become active participants. In other words, modern critical theatre aspires to restore the sense of a living and acting community. However, Rancière shows that what is at work in this image of the living community and the ideal of emancipative theatre is a series of problematic oppositions: collective/individual, image/living reality, awareness/alienation, or again seeing/knowing, appearance/reality, activity/ passivity. The theatre of the emancipated spectator thus presupposes a complex order of seeing, saying, and doing, which is itself but an arbitrary distribution of abilities and inabilities, and, indeed, a part of the structure of domination and subjection. Therefore, argues Rancière, the political task of modern theatre should not be to check the embodied knowledge of a community, to transform spectators into actors and/or the ignorant into the cognisant, but to address the fundamental assumption that the subject of theatre is the community, and to grasp the activity already at work in the spectator, and the knowledge already at work in the ignorant. 1

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The critique introduced by the theatre of emancipation does not yet address the power mechanisms at work in the complex order of seeing, saying and doing, itself fortified by the very ideal of the spectator who is supposed to be recuperated through emancipation and returned to his or her truly living community. Rancière’s critique of this critique thus includes the necessary call to attention to material or non-signifying ideological apparatuses. In spite of this, due to the

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fundamental principle of excluding the virtual (or metaphysical) “living community”, this call opens itself primarily to a disembodied mode of resistance. For Boal, theatrical critique means embodied praxis, that is, starting with the “living” of community, and not with the “community” of living. One could speculate that the open-ended outcome of liberation theatre is not, as one might believe, the full body of community, real revolution as catharsis, the purification or purging of spectators, a change so real that theatre would dissolve into non-theatre (that is, reality), and spectators into participants. One can see it rather as a struggle to make a distinction and to give space or material reality to confrontational dialectics and horizontal humour, to extend the affect of transformation itself (which includes its own opposite), an attempt to give horizontality and space to the hour of passage, given that there is an objective hour of no shadows (or an objective reality of oppression in each situation). The potential of legislative theatre, like the potential of radical popular education, consists in the capacity to challenge the dominant structures of power - whether race or colonialism or patriarchy or dimorphism or the police state or capitalist exploitation – as well as the dominant frame of representative democracy. This potential is not, however, actualised by going beyond contemplation and mimesis, and entering into a purely participatory life, a realm of achieved awareness in each of these “sectors.” Opposed both to emancipation and to its enlightened critique, the liberating transformation cannot aim to replace or purge representation from participation, or to purge alienation from awareness. It cannot aim to purge the purgation either, but rather seeks the liberation of hierarchised co-existence, the liberation of desire from catharsis in the embodied act of living the life of body, word, image and action, in the conditions linking the materiality of living and the finitude of the frame of representation. What the theatre of the oppressed does is not so much pose the problem of the relation between a consciousness and an ongoing or possible social movement, but rather re-ask the question as a political situation in which one already finds oneself. Consequently, by staging and exposing a dominating reality, the theatre of the oppressed should not aim to replace it with the dominated reality, as in the revenge of the repressed, but, by virtue of cutting out a stage, even an invisible one, to gain through this distinction the sense of totality intervening in the actual economy of intersecting oppressions.

the protest, almost all participants, whether agents provocateurs or not, were seen posing and taking pictures. In the evening, several chairs that had been previously hurled out of the windows of the Parliament were re-arranged on the pavement outside, to face the scene of the burning building. Confronted with the popular joy of breaking into the seat of power, facing the passion of destruction, the opposition parties accused the Communist Party of orchestrating the violence, and at the same time kept calling on citizens for a more organised staging of the political, by means of a peaceful demonstration, with a calm audience, a raised stage, and microphones. This sudden proliferation of stages, barely introducing their distinctions into the flow of reality, was stopped by a rush for evidence, for monolithic reality, which ensued from all sides, coupling images with words, words with images, actions with scripts, bodies with actions. The violent tension between event and meaning had to be resolved and cancelled. In this constrained and converging space, in which shadowy conspiracy and “earnest” staging, intentions and expectations are so closely linked that there is no space left for play, maybe only a conjunction of the liberating practices of theatre, politics and art could undo the real limit and loosen the suture between intentions and the horizon of expectations. This is equally a challenge and a space of mutual exploration for political art and for radical politics: where hopes and visions are sutured to intentions, the possibilities of emancipation and catharsis stifle the potential for liberation, and enlightened critiques might, in fact, be re-affirming the dominating reality.

Enter a company of mutinous citizens. On the evening of 7 April 2009, in the aftermath of protests against the alleged electoral fraud that ensured the vicThe official name of the party is not tory of the Communist Party,5 protesters stormed and the Communist Party, but the Party of ransacked the buildings of the Parliament and PresiCommunists of the Republic of Moldova (Partidul Comuniştilor din Republica dency of the Republic of Moldova. In a particularly Moldova), a political re-gathering of “communists,” i.e. of particular dramatic moment, the flags of Romania and the Eunetworks of people, and not necessarily ropean Union were displayed on top of the Moldovan the re-composition of a communist doctrine. The PC assumed governmenstate buildings. Later research revealed evidence that tal power of Moldova in 2001, in the aftermath of the economic and social this act of transgression might have been staged by malaise of the market and nationalist collaborators of the Communist Party itself. But during reforms of the 1990s.

In The German Ideology, Marx and Engels famously state that civil society is the theatre of all history, masking the real relationships that define the totality of social practices. Now the problem seems to be more one of over-production of such theatres, and, along with them, overly coded expectations: the becomingtheatre of everything in individually-seated yet collective dream-houses, from the private nuclear-family home to public shopping malls, cinema theatres, tourist paradises etc. Adding to the disciplinary distributions of visibility and activity in school, factory, hospital, prison etc, such formations ensure that there is no such thing as pure spectator, everybody is part of the social drama, and it is just as well that the distinctions between seeing and knowing, or activity and passivity, are not categorical. A generalised concern with power and meaning ensues, creating a manifold of opportunities to contest the distribution of seeing, knowing and doing, without necessarily staging/making a difference to this complex order. What is opposed to the bourgeois stage are not the oppressed proletarians, but rather the scenes of independent culture, which have been alternately praised as environments of resistance and cross-pollination with alternative social movements and blamed for the reproduction of power mechanisms, commodification and/or wasteful redirection of social energies. In a similar vein, one might point to the increasing self-awareness of biennials as stages of contemporary art, as up-to-date “galleries” or “museums” of the world-system, which are particularly problematic when what is at stake is the relationship between arts and politics. Even more dramatic is the situation of anti-globalist social movements, as “successful manifestations” seem to emphasise the distance from “action” and “real

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effects.” Here, an ongoing argument states that what is lacking is the capacity to organise independent movements, and the power to seize the event, more than a sense of enlightenment or emancipation. The proliferation of stages is at the same time necessary for the capitalist extraction of value and for the production of resistances, and, moreover, is at all points subject to a drive for unification into a dominant reality, just like the event of the “communal” get-together of bodies is immediately subject to overcoding expectations, modes of seeing and significations. Which is why, all critiques notwithstanding, the dramatic possibilities of positive resistance remain staked on exorcism more than critique, on the impetus to map the mechanisms of over-coding, to expose or externalise “interiors” and the more or less hidden structures of domination, but only insofar as this takes the form of a liberating gesture that draws a distinction and sets up a stage within the flow of material history, play-acting within a struggle, with bodies on the line. The essential problem of modern critical theatricality is not that there is no theatre without spectators, but that there is no theatre without bodies. If the importance of curators, music producers, festivals and biennials is the sign of a certain mutation in the mode of cultural production, according to which the conditions of possibility of production are decoupled from the body, just as capital keeps on producing and englobing its own limit, then creative resistance would do better to go against the enlightening tendency to abolish the “dividing stage,” overcoding intentions and horizons of expectations, and to look on the contrary for ways and places where it is still possible to make a distinction by putting bodies on the line, staging the intersection and not integration of totalities.

Ovidiu }ichindeleanu (born 1976). PhD in Philosophy (2008) with the thesis The Graphic Sound: An Archaeology of Sound, Technology and Knowledge at 1900, currently in press. Studies of philosophy in Cluj (Babe[-Bolyai University), Strasbourg (Marc Bloch University) and Binghamton (State University of New York). Co-founder of independent journal Philosophy&Stuff (1997–2001) and the Romanian Indymedia platform (since 2004). Currently editor of IDEA arts+society journal and series co-ordinator for Idea Design & Print publishing house. Co-editor of the volumes The Anticommunist Illusion (Chişin\u: Cartier, 2008) and The Romanian Revolution Televised: Contributions to the Cultural History of Media (Cluj: Idea Design & Print, 2009). Forthcoming: Post-Communist Colonisation: A Critical History of the Culture of Transition (2009).

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The seductiveness of the interval

Adnan Yıldız

The Politics of the Stage or The Stage of Politics

On stage, I am in the dark. Maria Callas

Local Stories An image of a bust from my early childhood memories is still vivid. It rested on a pedestal in a small park in my hometown, Karaman, in Middle Anatolia. When I used to walk home from school, it was an inevitable stop, a sort of stage set for childhood fantasies and a hidden place for questioning the political borders of a psychosocial territory. The bust represented a local historical figure, Karamanoğlu Mehmet Bey, who was the second ruler of the beylik (feudal province) of Karamanoğlu, and on the pedestal of that bust was inscribed his famous proclamation of 13 May 1277: “This day henceforth, in the dervish convent, in the council, in the palace, in the parliament and in public places, no language other than Turkish shall be permitted.” Since the text was inscribed only in Turkish, I was greatly concerned for those who do not speak Turkish, curiously questioning the logic behind the text: If you don’t speak Turkish, and if it is not permitted to speak any other language than Turkish here, how then would you know this, given that this information is communicated to you only in Turkish? I always felt a kind of thrill as a child when I heard people around me speaking those other languages. How would they have been punished for their transgression? For me, that park was a perfect example of a conceptual stage that requires neither an actor nor a director. It was an installation that performed continuously within everyday reality. It was an imaginative stage set that I had discovered; and it fictionalised itself every morning with another story. The silence in the park was enough for me to fantasise about situations, which would somehow challenge the context of the declaration. Sometimes I would imagine people there, around the park, speaking other languages, although this might now sound like a Benetton campaign from the 90s, but back then it was more than just a childhood fantasy. It was the instinctive, natural response of a young child, of a pure

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mind, to the political atmosphere of Turkey in the 80s. Unspeakable pressure and a high level of control within the public space were the cost, the collectively footed bill called “transitional democracy,” it meant never feeling safe and if you were outside on the street late at night – you might have been taken for a terrorist or an anarchist. To spend time alone in that park in front of that bust was inspiring for me in order understand where I was living, whatever happened here, to understand what was going on…

are around, we behave ourselves… And we were also encouraged to learn a second or third language in school, therefore it couldn’t be English or German, so what was the language that should not be publicly spoken? At that time, there was a Kurdish labourer who helped my father in his business, called Celal. Furthermore, I observed that when I sometimes tuned in to the Kurdish-speaking radio channel to invite him for a tea break, he would kindly turn the sound off if any other people were around… Now, I know why. I started to learn who they were; they were the people who lived together with us; our friends, neighbours and relatives. There was no cultural antagonism between people, cultures or languages; it was a “set” made by some “actors” who worked for the “state in the state,” and it is always the innocent people who suffer, get hurt or killed.

This situation reminds me of the writings of Soviet exile Mikhail Bakhtin, who argued that the “carnivalesque” brings a kind of liberation to the lower class, insofar as “it is not a spectacle seen by the people; they live in it, and everyone participates.” In his Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (1929) and Rabelais and His World (1965), Bakhtin refers to the “carnivalesque” in literature as a kind of activity or situation that takes place in the carnival, whereby the social hierarchies of everyday life - their solemnities and pieties and etiquettes, as well as all ready-made truths - are profaned and overturned by normally suppressed voices and energies. In a carnival, a fool can be a wise man or a king appears as a beggar; opposites are mingled (fact and fantasy, heaven and hell). The bust was the centre of the carnival, and around it were all the people with their costumes; the uniforms, gestures, and attitudes of everyday life in the city. On the other hand, today, the feeling of that atmosphere in the park sounds like it was a Brecthian stage. Regarding the politics of stage theatrics, German director, Bertolt Brecht dreamt of a theatre which alienated the audience, criticising the class conflict and oppression of its time. The term Verfremdungseffekt (V-Effekt) is metaphorically depicted as a hammer, which fights against corruption. In the Brechtian theatre, the audience is invited to experience a form of fiction that shockingly reflects truth and reality. “To see one’s mother as a man’s wife one needs a V-Effekt: this is provided, for example, when one acquires a stepfather. If one sees one’s form-master hounded by the bailiffs a V-Effekt occurs: one is John Willett, The Theatre of Bertold jerked out of a relationship in which the form-master Brecht: A Study (Eight Aspects Book, seems big into one where he seems small.”1 1959) 45. 1

That declaration might have operated as a V-Effekt for me since I used to see it every day, knowing that there were many other languages spoken around me, and also possibilities of hosting people who spoke languages other than Turkish in the city… The presence of that declaration in the public space was only one of the million stories about how public imagination is manipulated and controlled in Turkey. It was a fiction out of an engagement with history and politics; even if they do not speak our language, they are not allowed to speak any other language. Then who were they? With whom did the declaration communicate, and from whom was it protecting our language and culture? In fact, the answer was not so far away from me. It couldn’t be the tourists; for example – as part of the hidden curriculum – at elementary school, it was always repeated that tourists bring foreign currency to the country, so we like them, and when they

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Later, they replaced the bust with a monumental statue, now holding a ferman (edict) on which the same text from the declaration is inscribed, again only in Turkish. In addition to Mehmet Bey’s declaration, there is also another statement on the front of the pedestal now; and this time it is from Ataturk, (1881-1938) the founder of the Republic, saying, “Turkish Citizens who are successfully capable of protecting the high level of their national independence should also emancipate the Turkish language from the invasion of foreign languages.” Maybe the transformation of that declaration from a thirteenth-century case into a Cold War weapon was not only a representation of a closed system, but also a reflection of how culture, identity and language have been officially “staged” in our country. The declaration has been handed down from the thirteenth century, and it had nothing to do with the national identity of its time, since nationalism is conceptually an invention of the modern age. Mehmet Bey’s intention was probably to provide a sort of uniformity and centralisation in Central Anatolia against Persian dominance. But the micro-politics behind the mentality that keeps the statue with that statement in the public space relates to other concerns and still exists in that context. Regarding the omnipresent position of Kemal Ataturk, it is not so strange for me to see his words connected to a statement from the thirteenth century. He was misinterpreted and exploited by almost all of the political movements in the country, and everyone has borrowed a sentence from him to validate their own political identity. In 2007, during the 10th Istanbul Biennial, some academicians started a campaign to inculpate the curator of the show, Hou Hanru, for his references to the sociological reading of late modernism in Turkey. Hanru was referring to a valid contextual framework, which is still taboo in this country. The recent design of the statue, now including a sentence from Ataturk, is not a coincidence. It is the destiny of every argument in this country… Using history as an element of manipulation, and culture as a stage for control, the Turkish army, the bureaucratic elite and the bourgeoisie have exploited the cultural and historical aspects of the country, creating a fictional past and a designed national identity. After the military coups, especially after the one in 1980, a post-Cold War process was also staged in Turkey, the same as in many other places around the world, black-listing any other/minor language, identity or culture as a potential enemy of the state/nation/country. For instance, for many years it was an issue of human rights and democracy; before August

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2002, the Turkish governments placed severe restrictions on the use of Kurdish, prohibiting the language in education and the broadcast media. Since last year, Kurdish parents have been allowed to give their children Kurdish names, Kurdish teachers to hold classes on the Kurdish language, and Kurdish broadcasters to set up their own television station. This year, the state-owned Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) launched an exclusive Kurdish-language television station in an undoubtedly historical step that reflects the changing attitude of the state toward its Kurdish citizens. Many people interpreted this step as an important change in the state’s approach toward Kurdish citizens, but some others, as an investment by the Islamic government in Kurdish votes before election day. Is this also a stage set of politics? News flash: A Kurdish singer who had been working for a television show at this recently launched Kurdish speaking channel of TRT resigned several days ago, complaining about the social pressure inside the institution, and stating that she had even been censored by the channel several times. Is the stage really changing, or is it just changing another décor on its surface? So what about the audience?

The seductiveness of the interval

sorship are notorious. On the other hand, U.S. President Barack Obama is the first elected president to have campaigned with a CNN debate, a Facebook page and a YouTube channel, using the Internet to communicate directly with Americans in a way unknown to previous presidents. In his article What makes mainstream media mainstream? Noam Chomsky, whose work has analysed the forms of this media transformation and produced an extensive, critical discourse on antiglobalisation, writes: “What are the elite media, the agenda-setting ones? The New York Times and CBS, for example. Well, first of all, they are major, very profitable, corporations. Furthermore, most of them are either linked to, or outright owned by, much bigger corporations, like General Electric, Westinghouse, and so on. They are way up at the top of the power structure of the private economy, which is a very tyrannical structure. Corporations are basically tyrannies, hierarchic, Noam Chosmky, “What Makes controlled from above. If Mainstream Media Mainstream,” you don’t like what they are Z Magazin, October, 1997. doing you get out. The major media are just part of that system. What has it to do with our consumer behavior?”2 2

Global Affairs National borders, militarist-territorial strategies and Cold War politics have also been undergoing a post-Fordist transformation in the last decades. In short, contemporary forms of capitalism have been undergoing massive changes in the previous decades as a result of digitalisation, mobility and internationalism, introducing new forms of self-organisation and “everyday politics.” Apart from national economic borders and the international territorial consensus that has controlled the markets, their value and accessibility, since the beginning of the twentieth century, there are currently new virtual societies and communities that share, exchange, shape and circulate information, knowledge, experience and products such as e-bay or Youtube. For example, the shift in the form of encyclopaedias, considered the traditional form of information production since the Enlightenment, to today’s open sources, such as Wikipedia, produces a reflexive and collective process for the exchange of information. One may also conclude that the conditions of image production have been democratised, making it much easier and cheaper to exchange images, thanks to new technological developments, digitalisation and the Internet. Nevertheless, human imagination and critical creativity continue to be manipulated and controlled by the codes and systems of the State, Army and media-reproducing mediocracy. Western Europe and North America are expanding the borders of public control and capitalising on the channels of information processing for the sake of security, as opposed to increasing demands for free information, education and knowledge by many activists and intellectuals. India, China, and Russia are, in this case, the rising stars, yet their repressive policies of cen-

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This reminds me of a recently produced art piece. Filmed at a real television studio in Berlin, Canadian artist Lynne Marsh’s Camera Opera is made up of a series of choreographed movements from different cameras around an anchorwoman, creating a Brechtian stage for the viewer as a performative critic of mass media broadcasts. In organised harmony, the operators circle around the studio, focus on the anchorwoman and pan out to expose the set, equipment, lighting, audience seating and each other. The performance is based on the “Strauss” waltzes that navigate the operators’ movements. What we see is how the television studio is organised through and by means of camera views, and how the set may become a performative space based on a series of codified relations. Engaging the Brechtian techniques of alienation, Marsh turns the cameras on themselves, denying their traditional role of relaying information and exposing their participation in the manipulation of what the viewer is presented with. As a conceptual entity, the “stage” exists in everyday reality, and it is transformed into the forms of everyday communication, exchange and visibility again and again. Like everything else, the “stage” is also televised, digitalised, virtualised today. Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle is a critique of Guy Debord, The Society of the contemporary consumer culture in terms of how contem- Spectacle (Rebel Press, 2004) 27. porary image politics evolve: “All that was once directly lived has become mere representation,” and “the spectacle is not a collection of images; it is a social relation between people that is mediated by images.”3 3

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The evolution of contemporary image politics, the position of the audience, and the conceptualisation of the stage are closely linked to the phenomenon of globalisation, multiculturalism, and the continuously changing model of postFordist society. According to Slavoj Žižek, the only universal hegemony is global capitalism; without opposition, all other struggles will be easily incorporated into its logic. Even progressive multiculturalism, in the form of radical, (deconstructive) particularism, has been taken over by global power, as analysed by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in “Empire.” This was wholly visible during the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, in the spectacle of the 2008 Olympic Games Opening ceremonies in Beijing, etc. Related to this point, BerlinSingapore-based artist Ming Wong’s practice has to be briefly mentioned here as an artistic gesture. He duplicates a scene from the movie, “Welcome Mr. Marshall!” a Spanish comedy film from 1953, directed by Luis García Berlanga and considered one of the masterpieces of Spanish cinema. It is about a small town in Castile, Villar del Río, which warmly welcomes some visiting American diplomats by disguising their town and themselves in Andalusian style, in order to display the side of Spanish culture with which the visiting American officials will be most accustomed, in the hopes of benefitting under the Marshall Plan. Wong reinterprets or reconstructs a speech given to the town to boost their morale and encourage them to undergo the cultural transformation, replacing America and Americans with China and Chinese. Neither America nor China, it is called Empire as a global form of capital control and oppressive power. Nevertheless, there is always hope. In his book Time for Revolution Antonio Negri proposes a term, the “reconstruction of hope,” in order to posit the questions “how can a revolutionary subjectivity form itself within the multitude of producers? How can this multitude make a decision of resistance and rebellion? How can it develop a strategy of re-appropriation? How can the multitude lead a struggle for the self-government of itself?” He responds to these questions with a socio-cognitive approach: “In the bio-political postmodern, in this phase that sees the transformation and productive enrichment of labour-power, but on the other hand sees the capitalist exploitation of society as Antonio Negri, Time for Revolution, a whole, we thus pose these questions. As trans. Matteo Mandarini for the answers, I certainly do not possess (Continuum New York, 2003) 288. them. But… probably a few bricks toward the reconstruction of hope.”4

in the play, and especially the audience. Some critics such as Stephen Booth, William Empson et al. have further investigated the analogous relationship between Hamlet, the play, and its audience. For instance, Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude interprets her son’s actions as the result of her “o’erhasty marriage,” while Polonius, most obviously, misreads his own expectations into Hamlet’s actions (“Still harping on my daughter!”), though many other characters in the play participate in analogous behaviour. Let’s go back to that park, and imagine that Brecthian atmosphere or carnivalesque mise en scène here again in the age of global war. Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the statue in that park has functioned as a mirror for its audiences, or passers-by; a public stage for its citizens whispering what they think, how they think, and in fact what they are afraid of. Perhaps the impact of the statue on the citizens is like the way in which public performances by Harry Houdini, who was a legendary magician, escapologist, stunt performer, actor and film producer, were perceived by his audience: “It is not really happening, that’s why it is so real…” Perhaps the citizens who have kept their silence for years and never confronted the logic behind the monument might never guess how the story is going to end. As far as we know from George Orwell’s fiction, Animal Farm there is a line that will remind us of the old story: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others…” P.S. This text has been written using the research notes for the exhibition project There is no Audience, an Exhibition about Public Imagination (22 May-31 August 2009, Montehermoso, Spain), which was a selected proposal for the 2009 Curator Grant from the 370 applications of 35 countries sent to the open call.

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Global Exchange In one of the common interpretations of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who is described by Ophelia as “th’ expectancy and rose of the fair state, / The glass of fashion and the mould of form” (Act III, Scene 1, lines 148-9), the character of Hamlet is mostly defined as a reflection of the reactions of all the other characters

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Adnan Yıldız (curator/writer) lives and works in Berlin. Yıldız studied Psychology (BA) and Visual Arts (MFA) in Istanbul. Between 2006 and 2008, he held a residency at Curatorlab/Konstfack (Stockholm). Between 2007 and 2008. He is the co-editor of Muhtelif, an Istanbul-based contemporary art publication. He has collaborated with Esther Lu, and was the founder of Good Gangsters (for more info: www.bigfamilybusiness.net, www.goodgangsters.com). His work is based on research into alternative/critical forms of exhibition-making, audience profiles today, and contemporary relationships between history, morality and fiction. He is interested in developing collaborative structures and new questions for public imagination and creativity. In 2007, he co-curated Nightcomers, a mobile video programme for the Tenth Istanbul Biennial. In 2008, he co-curated Good Gangsters in Town with Esther Lu at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM), and also Hot-Desking with Curatorlab, as part of The Rest of Now, by (Raqs Media Collective) Manifesta 7. His work has been published in numerous publications, such as Paletten, Idea, Artist, Bidoun, Kaos GL (Queer Magazine from Turkey), Esmer (Kurdish Popular Culture & Literature), Birgun, Radikal, and Res, and also in a number of book projects and catalogues.

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The seductiveness of the interval

Saviana St\nescu

The T-words: Truth, Theatre and Torture (performative questions for a better “I” and a smarter dog)

In her essay Is There a Life in This Text? Reimagining Narrative Judith Summerfield challenges the “I” and the “truth” of personal narrative by reflecting upon the problematic persona who tells a story in student compositions, assignments expected to be confessions of past experiences, variations on the widespread “What did you in your summer holidays?” homework topic. Beyond the particular emphasis on the teaching of composition at college, Summerfield raises interesting questions on how to deal with the plurality of “truths,”stories and histories – issues that have been among the dearest concerns with narrative in post- and post-post-modern theory (see for instance William S. Wilson’s account in And/Or: One or the Other, or Both, in which he states that “in everyday life in the postmodern world… most concepts should be pluralised.”) The pivotal problem that arises in this post-structural love affair with multiple rather than single answers might be unsettling: does the Truth even exist? What is the relationship between Truth and Autobiography? If nothing and everything is autobiographical, then what relation do performed hi/stories have to the Truth? “Whenever the desire to speak is present in the most factual, self-referential reporting, the thing spoken of is immediately fictionalised by that desire,” argues Deb Margolin, an established performance artist and playwright, in Women&Performance - the issue dedicated to “performing autobiography.” Indeed, in every told/written/acted story, whether claimed to be self-referential or not, a history of fictionalisations is embedded. We cannot say which is the FIRST story. The first story doesn’t exist. What do exist are the retellings of a story, and we have access only to a few of them, to the most recent ones or to those in which we have been involved. So each retelling automatically becomes fiction. Even so-called “realistic” theatre is a fictionalised theatre, although the fact/ story is often advertised as “real,” gaining an authority of it-really-happened, as

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Saviana St\nescu - The T-words: Truth, Theatre and Torture

if no fiction contained a more general it-can-really-happen. Imagination seems to have become the Cinderella of the arts, particularly in theatre/performance pieces that try to compete with film and television through the (artificially) summoned agency of Reality. Let’s get back to stories and the way in which the Present reworks the Past and rehearses the Future - as Summerfield puts it. A linear narrative enforced by temporality would be reductive, and so we might employ the concept of a coherent rather than a linear narrative, especially when issues of multiple perspectives and simultaneity have been raised. Jerome Bruner, the founder of cognitive psychology, author of a groundbreaking book called Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, collected the family stories of four members of the same family, in order to study the different versions of a mutual factual biography. He called this rhetoric of uncertainty subjunctivisation, and separated the logico-scientific from the narrative mode of thought. Whereas the first relies on empirical truth and verifiable reference, the second embraces a wide range of possibilities, “good stories, gripping drama, believable (though not necessarily ‘true’) historical accounts.” His construct of “narrative imagination” allows a reconsideration of the meaning of narrative, and encourages us to incorporate into a personal narrative a metadiscourse on personal narrative. That we have to learn to live within the web of all these uncertainties and bear with the inconclusive might be the ”conclusion” of Summerfield’s essay. Relaxing on a nice summer day, in a green field (in nature, not in literature), we should indulge in enjoyment of the fresh air of the nothing-is-for-sure. What we have access to is this fragmentary perception of the stories’ histories, so that both the “Truth” and the authorship of these stories become secondary in relevance. The relationship between an event and the discourse about it is already a dialectical play; the relationship between a story and the performed story is a play within a play witin a play ... a mise-en-abyme game of mirroring, retelling and re/ fictionalising. Drawing upon such preoccupations with plurality and relativity - and to a larger extent with the Inconclusive and Uncertainty - my answer to the question “who tells the story in contemporary theatre?” will, of course, be as follows: the writer, director, actors, characters, and even audiences as people who have experienced similar stories and project their autobiographical perception onto the show. Within the frame of this generalisation, what remain to be discussed in detail are issues regarding dramaturgy and the new forms of a dramatic text that doesn’t PRECEDE the performance but is constructed simultaneously to it, eventually finding its shape AFTER the performance has been produced.

The seductiveness of the interval

Studies, has extensively investigated the distinction between a theatre based on the staging of a previously written play, and a theatre based on performance text. In his turn, Eugenio Barba states in his essay on dramaturgy, Actions at Work, that in fact the relationship between a performance text and a text composed a priori is rather a dialectic opposition, a complementary situation, which primarily has to find the right balance between the concatenation pole and the simultaneity pole: “The word text, before referring to a written or spoken, printed or manuscripted text, meant ‘a weaving together’.” In this sense there is no performance which does not have “text,” as Barba argues, extending the notion of “text.” Finally - concluding the inconclusive? - the task of a writer is to forget such ideas as ivory towers and solitary confinement, writing in isolation or among other writers in play development workshops. The new role of the writer-for-theatre is performative, s/he has to connect with choreography, music, video, and the visual arts - on a practical level - and to anthropology, psychology, performance studies, cultural studies etc. - on a theoretical level. Yes, it is a complex, multi-media role, but such a good “weaver” as a writer must be up to it. Words are not the only items s/he can play with. Spinning a yarn, telling a story, showing a story - is the new game s/he has to learn. As Michel de Certeau puts it in The Practice of Everyday Life: “every story is a travel story - a spatial practice.” Each text/performance may be seen as a metaphor, and - according to the Greek etymology - as a vehicle of mass/meaning transportation. The boundaries of this “geography” of narration are, however, movable. They are transportable limits. At a practical artistic level, I have always been concerned with stories as means of travel, as metaphorai, as vehicles for transporting people into the realm of fiction, and as means for performing identity. Stories are to be bought and sold, worn, thrown away, reused, resold, re-bought, reinterpreted… the circle is endless. They have become commodities that can be commercialised like any other product. I chose the metaphor of consumerism for storytelling in order to shake those certainties that audiences may have when attending a show. I want them to be aware of the multiplicity of “truths” and of the un-confinable act of performing identity. A non-singular act, a mis-en-abyme of enactments. I thereby empower them with an (un)expected agency of decision-making, and I reformulate the performer-spectator “contract,” which demands action from the former and passivity/voyeurism from the latter.

Director and scholar Richard Schechner, one of the founders of Performance

Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty brings into discussion the lucid yet bold and visceral nature of a successful performance. “A play in which there would not be this will, this blind appetite for life, capable of overriding everything, visible in each gesture and each act and in the transcendent aspect of the story, would be a useful and unfulfilled play,” writes Artaud in 1932. I still find compelling his

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The seductiveness of the interval

vision of a theatre able to push the limits of knowledge and perception by creating a unique and extremely powerful (to the point of cruel lucidity) shared reality. However, a more recent theory that has influenced me is Ken Plummer’s sociological interpretation of intimate tales. His reflection upon people as ”socially constructed biographical objects” created by producing-receiving public stories, made me extend the issue towards the idea of a story-constructed identity. We are all constructed by the stories we tell and the stories we are told. And here is one of my little stories that attempts to open you, the reader, towards a few burning questions relevant to our past, present and future: I started to write my play DOG LUV after a month of research into the History of Torture and Execution. Why such a dark topic? Because one winter night, before Christmas, I had watched the Mexican movie AMORES PERROS by Alejandro Gonzales Iñárritu. It has nothing to do with torture in a graphic sense, but it does provide a very good X-ray of the non-discriminatory nature of suffering, the violence and pain that people are able to provoke in their brothers, lovers, partners, dogs... I was so moved by the powerful stories the film told within an elaborate dramatic/cinematic structure that I felt the need somehow to respond in theatrical form. To explore the dark side of humanity, to try to understand why people still do horrible things to each other, and to share my multiple interrogations with a cross-cultural audience, allowing multiple truths and answers to emerge.

Saviana St\nescu was born in Bucharest, Romania, and currently lives and works in New York. Mainly known as a writer, her theatre plays have been widely presented in the U.S. and internationally. Her work has been published by Samuel French, United Stages, Heinemann Drama, and Smith&Kraus, among others. Her recent New York productions include Waxing West (winner of the 2007 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Full-length Script) and YokastaS Redux at La MaMa Theatre. Saviana St\nescu won the 2007 Marulic Prize for Best European Radio-drama for Bucharest Underground. Her short play Aurolac Blues, performed at the HERE Arts Center, was published in the anthology Plays and Playwrights 2006. Saviana has been a visiting lecturer, teacher and panellist at many universities and institutions including: the Lee Strasberg Institute for Theatre&Film, CUNY Grad Center, Fordham, Rutgers, Brown, Smith College, Penn State, Chattanooga, and University College, London. She has co-edited the anthologies of plays Global Foreigners (with NYU professor Carol Martin) and roMANIA after 2000 (with CUNY professor Daniel Gerould).

One might reckon that an era of galloping progress, high technology and global interconnectedness such as ours must make torture and execution seem old fashioned and obsolete. Primitive forms of punishment. Barbarian methods of administering “justice.” Unfortunately even in our new, civilised world, torture is still present - in more sophisticated scientific ways - and nor has execution disappeared either, although some would argue that lethal injection is a “respectful” form of giving death … sometimes to innocent people who couldn’t afford a good lawyer because they are poor and/or black. Economic, racial or ethnic circumstances can still determine one’s chances in life, and justice can have different meanings for rich and poor.

Alas, the stories which we tell and which we are told are very rarely fairy-tales. My play DOG LUV is a dramatic fable in which dogs want to better themselves by learning the history of mankind, in the hope of becoming smarter and stronger. But are humans such good role models? Really, are we? Are we? Are we?

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The seductiveness of the interval

Adina Br\deanu

In The Recycling Room

One day, a man goes to a vet and says, “Doc, I have these geese and they keep dying, what should I do?” The doctor thinks for a while and advises the right medication. A couple of days later, the man returns. “Doc, my geese keep dying, what should I do?” The doctor thinks for a while and then advises some different medication. Several days later, the man is back again with the same problem. Yet again, he goes away with a different prescription. The story goes on like this until, finally, he stops going to the doctor. Some time later, the vet bumps into the man on the street: “How are your geese doing? Is everything all right? Do you need any more advice?” “Well, doc, replies the man, I would really appreciate some further advice from you, but only if you don’t mind me not having any living geese available for experimentation: they’ve all long been dead and buried.1 Every era has its chroniclers who record events of significance in the annals of history. Although some moments in the history of our people have receded into the mists of time, the circumstances of today are captured by this eye of the camera. The events remembered by this automatic scribe and engraved on this modern documenting thread can no longer be placed under question.2

Story told by I.C., director of Sahia Studio, 2003. 1

Reconstruction, Virgil Calotescu, 1960; produced by the Alexandru Sahia Studio. 2

One of the metaphors used by the press of the day to describe the newly established institution. 3

From November 2003 to January 2004, I spent time in the editing room of Sahia-Film, the studio that epitomised the documentary film output of communist Romania. In the early 1950s, when it was established, Sahia was the country’s reality-factory,3 assigned to deliver non-fictional worlds rooted in the mandated immersion in the “heated reality of the present.” Over the following four decades, the studio routinely produced around 250 short films per year, ranging from political propaganda to authored documentaries and ephemeral sub-genres such

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Adina Br\deanu - In The Recycling Room

as the touristic or health and safety film, as well mandatory forms of newsreel such as the visits (vizitele), which documented Nicolae Ceau[escu’s movements across Romania and beyond. In the early 1990s, after the collapse of the communist regime, Sahia already occupied a special place in the domestic repertoire of socialist mnemonics, having become part of a constellation of memories indivisibly associated by Romanians with their communist past – a past which, at the time, had to be extra-territorialised, if not forgotten altogether. Unable to counter-balance the amount of residual collective memory which equated documentary film – and the institution itself – with political propaganda, Sahia became a victim of the discursive traffic that accompanies the overthrow of political regimes, being cast as the sick, and eventually dead, “body” of Romanian cinema. During the time when I was at Sahia, the studio was the unwanted corpse in the closet of the domestic film industry. Declared officially bankrupt, it had no films in production and there was only one filmmaker in its remaining staff of only seventeen – a fiction filmmaker newly appointed as head of the studio. Sahia had become a footage bank, recycling selected slices of Romania’s past for occasional contractors. My fieldwork at Sahia, over the winter of 2003-2004, watching films at the editing table in the company of Mrs. A, the studio’s film editor, was an ambiguous experience of immersion and viewership which, for several years, remained unintegrated into my ongoing ethnography of the practices attached to documentary production and circulation in Romania across two political regimes. I have recently returned to re-examine that context, given its aptness to account for the shifting inner temporalities of one of Romania’s most powerful sites of memory, and to reveal the interval between the normative public memorialisation of communism and newly emerging spaces of private memory and nostalgia.

“Will you join me later? Today I’m searching for the young dead of the Revolution.”

The seductiveness of the interval

needs of the present. While the country no longer needs Sahia to document its present, it still occasionally buys selected bits of its past output, to support the public memory of its communist experience. To get to Sahia, one has to cross Bucharest’s most exclusive area, known as the Primavara (“Spring”) District – an environment devoid of the type of historically patterned “sensory structure”5 commonly associated with socialism as material culture. No blocks of flats are to be seen in this area where impressive mansions come with embedded bodyguards and only one Dacia6 mingles with the luxurious foreign cars that seem at home out here. The car is David MacDougall, “Social Aesthetics the Doon School,” Visual Anthroparked in front of a visibly ailing architectural structure and pology Review, 15. 1 (1999): 3-20. displaying the Romanian flag and providing a striking The Dacia - communist Romania’s rupture with the surrounding landscape. Seen from “traditional” car, bearing connotations of socialist inefficiency and inferiority the inside, the studio reveals itself as a depressing similar to the other emblematic socialist landscape made up of dusty offices, crumbling walls, cars. concrete floors, and peeling paint, adding to which are the grey, sturdy, metallic filling cabinets that infest the place as tangible traces of Sahia’s communist past. Crammed with documents, they are locked-up, inaccessible. There is nobody to unlock them for me: Sahia cannot afford to employ an archivist. 5

6

The name “Sahia” has all the paradoxes of Romania’s communism carved into it. The studio’s secular godfather, in the 1950s, was a Romanian journalist committed to the ideas of socialism, who allegedly adopted the striking penname “Sahia” during a sojourn in an Orthodox Christian monastery – a detail which, naturally, was omitted from his official biography when the communist regime lent his name to a bunch of streets and institutions scattered all over the country. In the 1990s, when Romania had to mark its separation from its communist past, many Sahias became something else; but to this particular Sahia they merely attached an “S.A” (Romanian for “Ltd.”), to signal its mild aspirations to a life separated from the state. The various executives employed to manage the studio since 1990 have struggled to preserve its name after learning that Sahia meant “something impor- R.N. McGregor, The Oxford HindiEnglish Dictionary (New Delhi: Oxford tant” in Sanskrit, “life,” say some, “love” or “hope,” University Press, 1993). insist others. Actually, the root “Sahi” leads to “right, Monier-Williams, The Sanskrit-English correct, real, actual”7 – not a bad choice for a studio Dictionary (Ashford: Bay Foreign Language Books, 2003). dealing in non-fiction. “Sahya” reads as “to be borne Michael Burawoy and Katherine 8 or endured, endurable, tolerable, resistible,” which Verdery, Uncertain Transition: seems even more appropriate as a translation of the Ethnographies of Change in the Postsocialist World (New York, Oxford: studio’s recent history of having to endure the new Rowman and Littlefield, 1999). circumstances of post-socialism. 7

(Mrs. A, film editor)

As she proffers me this invitation, Mrs. A. is selecting footage for a documentary film in progress – one of Romania’s very first internationally co-produced documentaries. The filmmaker is abroad and has sent word that he needs stock footage of young, beautiful victims, wounds, and coffins from December 1989. I am a foreign body tolerated4 by Sahia’s gradually My time at Sahia was possible thanks to the permission granted by I.C., the diminishing staff. I have come here in an attempt to studio’s director, which I gratefully acknowledge. “understand” this institution, one that has been massively mythologised in the domestic and professional imagination. It is the thin air around the films that interests me, rather than the films themselves. Beyond the texts, genres, sub-genres, and group or individual aesthetic positions that informed the work produced here throughout four decades of cohabitation with communism, I am looking for the shifting order of the inter-textuality through which an institution once responsible for delivering Romania’s (carefully miseen-scène) factual visibility is currently re-arranging the past according to the 4

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8

9

Ethnographies of “transition” emphasise its essential suspension between the past and the future: a wild temporality of in-betweenness, hard to contain within a clearly bounded temporal framework attached either to socialism or to postsocialism.9 In the winter of 2003, it was this particular temporal organisation of life inside the studio which offered an insight into the micro-processes lodging in, and influential upon, Sahia’s – and Romania’s – morphing bodies between

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Adina Br\deanu - In The Recycling Room

The seductiveness of the interval

the flow of daily life and wider historical temporalities. Anthropologist Katherine Verdery writes about the scheduling processes and periodicities of socialism, arguing that the arrhythmia of socialist “ritual temporalities” was a consequence of the unpredictable alternations of “enforced idleness” and “frantic activity” visible in most socialist production patterns.10 At the time of my arrival, in November 2003, the time flow within Sahia’s exhausted body referenced the “flattened time” of endless waiting asKatherine Verdery, What was Socialism and What Comes Next? sociated by Verdery with 1980s Romania. Time flows (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1996) 54. slowly and silently, with virtually no work to be done during the day and batches of crosswords shared between the staff killing time on the first floor and the porter smoking by the entrance, watched closely by the studio’s dog. The texture of daily sociality at Sahia is infused with hearsay, and much energy is devoted to circulating rumours about money coming, or not coming, into the studio – an issue of vital importance for a staff whose wages have been constantly delayed in recent years. At times, the porter rushes up the stairs and secretively signals the act of talking on the phone: this means that someone “from outside” needs footage from Sahia, the only activity that the studio is legally entitled to undertake and which still brings some money into the institution’s coffers: being bankrupt, Sahia has all its accounts blocked, therefore everything has to be paid in cash. 10

“Film and video, due to their physical nature, disintegrate in front of our eyes: a condition that archivists and teachers are in a special position to mourn,” writes Laura Marks about the dying body of a cinema of diminished visibility, which denies the viewer his or her right to visual coherence, inviting a haptic, tactile visuality.11 But in this case it is not (only) the body of cinema that is disintegrating, but the very world that has proLaura Marks, “Loving duced that cinema. This place, slowly cola disappearing image,” lapsing onto itself, where I will be watching Cinéma et Mélancholie, special issue of Cinémas films on and off for three months, crammed (Fall 1997), 15 March 2009. into a tiny editing room with black and white photocopies of a Chinese calendar with cats stuck on the wall above the screen, used to be the “reality factory” of communist Romania. Seated at the editing table with Mrs. A, surrounded by dusty film boxes which are somnolently picked up, opened, mounted on the table and skimmed for content before being discarded in another corner, I can’t help reflecting on how my exposure to them as texts is conditioned by the particular circumstances of my viewing experience. Here I am, immersed in a world which includes the cinematic while not being limited to it. There is a spatial and material awareness attached to my experience of viewing this amalgam of socialist factuality while seated in the interval between the fragments of the past on the editing table and the movements, voices and temporalities of a morphing present reaching us through the open door. 11

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Casetti defines filmic experience as that moment when the images and sounds on a screen “arrogantly engage our senses” while also triggering “a comprehension that concerns, reflexively, what we are viewing and the very fact of viewing it”.12 While sitting here, canoeing this torrent of diegetic worlds recycled under the same, unifying and simplifying narrative (Ro- Francesco Casetti, “Filmic Experimania’s communism), I feel inclined to reflect on the ence,” Screen 50.1 (2009): 56. mode of experiencing cinema produced by these specific circumstances of viewing. To rephrase one of Casetti’s questions: while I’m watching bits of films at the editing table, in this crumbling shell of a studio, saturated with signs of the past and transited by the moods of the present, am I still in the domain of cinema, or have I temporarily moved elsewhere? 12

Casetti refers to these “dialectical moments” of film-viewing in less regulated situations as windows, and argues that the most interesting of them are neither those linked to the “non-places” of post-modernity, where filmic engagement is too contingent, nor those found in artistic environments (such as gallery installations), since there the spectator has no choice but to “play by the rules” set by the artist. To him, some of the most interesting windows are rather those which “introduce a viewing practice that extends into the rewriting of the text,” as well as those attached to the domestic space, where the creation of one’s own viewings calls for constant negotiation with other household members.13 In some twisted way, although not being any of the types explicitly meant by Casetti, the cinematic window that I share with Mrs. A inside Sahia’s comatose body is both of the above. Mashing-up, re-moulding and recycling these texts is the main reason for our being here, in this editing room. Besides, in the peer imagination, Sahia is remembered as a homely, almost private space, always placed in opposition to the world “outside.” Mrs. A. grew up inside this communist cocoon: she was first brought in Sahia by her father, a projectionist, at the age of three and became an employee at nineteen. Today, she affectionately recalls a childhood infused with bits of film glimpsed from under Sahia’s tables, while playing with other children. For her, as for others around here, Sahia is described by an “order of life” rather than one of “work.” Her live digressions often work as a second voice-over superimposed on the original one, with no explicit didactic or authoritative Casetti 65. intention, just the sheer – and shared – pleasure of A group defined by a shared space of experience and continuously enmemorialisation and conversation. I take her as an gaged in retelling its story constructed a permanently evolving constitutive imperfect translator of a socialist vocabulary with as narrative. Robert N Bellah, et al., which I have only been partially acquainted. I also Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley credit her as one of the many voices of Sahia’s “com- and Los Angeles: University of Califor14 munity of memory” decades after joining the studio, nia Press, 1985). she is imbued with the wider institutional and professional narrative that is the reason for my being here. 13

14

Every morning I join her in the studio, sit down and follow her daily routine. Sometimes she just searches for “things” she is supposed to deliver to the odd

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Adina Br\deanu - In The Recycling Room

contractor – bits of recyclable communist Romania which tend to fall into a category derogatorily called “Party flicks” (d’alea cu partidu’) or “the usual” (tot aia). At other times she shows me bits of film that she considers relevant for an outsider willing to become intimate with the studio (I bet you have no idea what this is…), or simply indulges in pensive episodes which still address me in an oblique manner: All that stuff about “capturing reality,” when in fact nobody gave a farthing for documentary.... In all these years spent in Sahia I never heard of Ceau[escu asking for a private screening of a single documentary, like he did with some of the fiction films… What does this mean to you? Nobody really cared about documentary in this country, believe me… Ceau[escu wanted to control everything. If he didn’t want to watch documentaries, this tells me that documentary didn’t count. And there are, of course, the many times when there is nothing to do, or when she doesn’t feel like doing anything, so she decides that she has a headache. I don’t insist: her approach to time is already part of my work in progress about how Sahia’s death is “lived with.” I just hang around waiting for her call: “Do join me if you feel like it, today I’m searching for the ‘socialist New Man’ (Omul Nou).15 I’ve just sent word that he needs more footage around that idea… New man, my foot! Like I’m going to find One of the key-phrases of socialist doublespeak; the new type of human him on the screen! They’d do better to come and film being, allegedly bearing an exalted socialist consciousness. us here, waiting for these damned wages, unable to put ourselves together and search for work elsewhere: I’m the new ‘man,’ the bloke in the other room, who’s been here for twenty years, is the new man, but nobody’s going to put us in a film, am I right?” 15

There is no discipline of silence in our editing room: we often get comments through the half-open door and visits from staff bringing news and coffee. In the meantime, Mrs. A searches for new batches of the usual: the parades and pioneers are more colourful here, the visits are livelier there, the country’s socialist workers more enthusiastic elsewhere. You can only find churches if you know where to look for them. You can only hear traditional Christmas carols if you know which soundtracks to sample. There are no shops and no bags of food in this version of the past, no people smoking, no bearded people, no churches, no sadness or melancholia. They might have all moved elsewhere, to another film, to another archive. These are the politically correct performances of the socialist everyday – mandatory at the time and still required today as a reassurance that communism was indeed like that. “All you see are pioneers and Ceau[escu, like there was nothing else in this country...” At the back of my notebook I have started compiling an ad-hoc inventory of slices of social reality which were (unofficially) deemed “non-filmable” in the 1980s: unavailable products such as “coffee” or “meat,” “coldness” and “darkness,” demolitions of buildings, poverty, “ugly” people, churches, crosses, foreign prints and labels on plastic bags, disability, private feelings or commitments such as love or religious belief, unpleasant states of mind such as discouragement or desperation. I occasionally feel overwhelmed by the distressing joyfulness of the performances on the screen and I leave the editing room in search of a breath of real life in the studio’s hallway. One of my emotional exits prompts Mrs. A to remember

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The seductiveness of the interval

the émigré woman who had joined her in the editing room a while before for a stock of the usual: “…She was sitting here with me, just like you, and gradually started weeping, then sobbing, and then she suddenly stood up and started singing with those children on the screen… I can’t remember what exactly we I would later meet I.M. at Amsterwere watching or what song was it… I just didn’t know dam’s documentary festival (IDFA), what to say to her, I’ve never seen anything like it in my planning a documentary about her childhood in communist Romania; the editing room before…She told me that, as a child, she film is currently in progress. 16 herself gave flowers to Ceau[escu.” 16

The pockets of time circulated on the screen become surprisingly salient in conjunction with the inner temporalities of the studio; time in general, and the ways in which it affects the configuration of social reality, seems to be an ongoing issue in here. Post-communism has been an experience of violent de-temporalisation for the whole of Romania, but here, at Sahia, fourteen years after the collapse of communism, struggles over timing and scheduling are still ongoing. The new director is keen to restructure the working day inherited from pre-1989 Sahia. His employees still follow the previous, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. working-day, while he is determined to switch to 9 to 5: “He is a capitalist, while we are still communists. I’ve worked like this all my life… And besides, if he doesn’t pay me like a capitalist, why should I work like one? … I remember that we used to have these commissioning editors who would come to work at 12 and leave work at 1. The director would call at 11 a.m. and ask for one of them. I would say, Comrade, they’re not here yet, it’s too early for them. Then he would ask me the same again around 2 p.m., and I would say, Sorry, comrade, now it’s too late, they’ve already left, try again tomorrow. That was the socialist heaven, but nobody wants to remember that, we’re all going on about the dark side of it. Somebody once said that Sahia was the institution where no lunch breaks were taken as every day was a lunch break.” No private contractor is likely to come to the studio before 10 a.m. and yet, the 7 to 3 schedule still appeals to Sahia’s old timers. For a while, they will end up with the worst deal of all: free to come to work at 7 a.m. but not allowed to leave before 5 p.m. – a slice of capitalist scheduling imposed from above. The most striking, twisted continuity will be brought to our attention by a story told by another editor recently turned P.A. to the director. Joining us for a coffee, she mentions with amusement a recent job completed for a minor television company bizarrely named The Romania of Tomorrow TV (TV Romania de Mâine) – a name which, while apparently pointing towards the future, carries a strong taste of the past for any ear used to the clichéd collocations of communist Romania. Whether due to genuine interest or lured by the cut-price rates, The Romania of Tomorrow TV has decided to run a number of Sahia documentaries, which this particular editor helped to select. To her surprise – and our merriment when hearing the story – she recalls how the TV producer, formerly a fairly high-ranking employee of Romanian National Television, most likely involved in the political control of the programmes, could not resist “trimming” some of the films by editing out the excerpts that showed a too visible obeisance to the

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Adina Br\deanu - In The Recycling Room

previous political agenda. While her story brings in something that appears to be a legacy of the past, other contexts resemble an elaborate yet vulgar performance of Romania’s current “transition.” One day, on my arrival to the studio, I am confronted with a strange mise-en-scene that seems to dramatise some crude, clichéd representation of “post-communism” imagined as a mixture of wild capitalism, corruption, prostitution, and crime. The room opposite our editing room, which used to host the meetings where Sahia’s documentaries were pitched, has been set-up as a casting suite for the latest fiction film project of Sahia’s current director. Newspapers refer to the project as “a metaphor for the condition of postcommunist Romania” – most likely the reason why it requires a heavy supply of young women willing to act as prostitutes. For two days, the grey environment of the studio will be populated by gorgeous young women with skimpy skirts and heavy make-up, trotting up and down past the door of the casting room. The floors will echo to their stilettos, the walls will reverberate to their cheerful laughter, as they cram in for a last minute make-up session in the studio’s cracked mirror. Mascara will be hastily The film would premier three years later as Margo, unanimously deemed applied, colourful wigs will be put on and briskly reby the critics to be the worst Romanian film in many years. moved, bare skin will flash, and there will be a gleeful, chirpy mood that cheers Mrs. A (“finally, some living creatures in here…”) and sets porters rushing up the stairs to gaze at the alluring invaders.17 17

It is perhaps in response to that particular moment that I now remember my being there, in front of that screen, disturbed by those noisy bodies parading over Sahia’s drowsy body, as having something to do with the variety format or, rather, with the theatricality of early cinema performance: that pronounced intertextuality, that meaningful – to me – continuum between the screen and the unfolding life of the studio, and the significance gradually acquired by the context of the screening provided it with the unique character of a one-time performance. The sound system of the editing table was often out of order, with no one left in the studio to fix it; consequently, some of the films screened became instantly silent or barely audible, and that whole meaning-producing sequentiality became unrepeatable in terms of the overlapping of screen action with real life action, content screened with live commentary, sound system working or failing to do so.

The approach of Christmas will bring a dramatic change to Sahia’s ingrained inertia. To Romanians, Christmas is a moment that simultaneously references different, if not oppositional, temporalities: a mixed time both of “legacy” and restoration, collapse and renewal. In her discussion of the “struggles over time” Verdery 54. in socialist Romania, Verdery refers to Christmas as a “major battleground” between the “timing of the state” and the “timing of the people.”18 The absence of any public visibility of Christmas, declared a normal working day, characterised socialist Romania, following the regime’s decision to define its citizens as secular members of a socialist collective. Christmas was banned in

18

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The seductiveness of the interval

Sahia the same as it was in the rest of the country, and Old Man Frost, rather than Father Christmas, was celebrated on New Year’s Day. Apart from that, December, and particularly the time between the “private” Christmas and the “public” New Year, used to be a busy time for Sahia’s editors: not only the president’s “address to the country” (“Mesajul”), but also the special homage programmes dedicated to the birthdays of Nicolae and Elena Ceau[escu – both born in January - had to be completed.19 “The interval between the 29th and 30th of December used to be the toughest. The ‘address’ would get here on the 29th and by the 30th it had to be ready to go to the lab for the standard copy. I was in charge of the negative, and so I would be stuck here with it. I remember how, towards the end of the 1980s, we used to talk to each other about how the whole thing was getting longer and longer from one year to the next... I first edited it in ’77, when it was about 10’ long. At the time, Ceau[escu was still fairly articulate in terms of getting through what he had to say. Around the early 80s, I think, it had already extended to about 20’, and later on it reached around 30’. I remember that the one in ’88 felt completely empty, we were saying to each other that something has got to happen…”

While for lay people in Romania it was January that bore the temporal “markers” associated with the Ceau[escu couple, for the professionals involved in the production of those “markers” this fell roughly one month before: January was the time when the Sahia facilities were shut for the annual revision, therefore all editing work had to be completed in December. 19

20

Verdery 54.

For post-communist Romania, Christmas conflates the meanings attached to the “negative” memory of socialism with the “positive” memory linked to the particular Christmas of December 1989. It was before Christmas 1989 that the Romanian Revolution started in the town of Timi[oara and began to spread towards Bucharest. It was precisely on Christmas day that the Ceau[escus were shot dead by a military firing squad after a rushed trial. But for Sahia, December 1989 was also the first time in decades when the filmmakers took their cameras to the streets without prior permission and engaged with a “heated reality” that was no longer an external assignment but had become a personal agenda. That unprecedented move led to the newsreels and documentaries screened, “marked” and selected in the present by Mrs. A, in accordance with the requirements of the various private televisions established in the 1990s, which therefore have no “December 1989” stock of their own. Each year, December brings the need for the structured acts of media commemoration whereby Romania both recalls the Ceau[escu regime as a demonised past and reaffirms December 1989 as the foundational event of the present. For the “socially dead” Sahia of 2003, the only way to create some sense of public usefulness was its involvement in the ritual cannibalisation of Romania’s (and Sahia’s own) history. After a year of “enforced idleness,”20 “the hunting season” – as Mrs.A. calls it – is on. Not only is her own work a hunt for relevant images, but in addition one of the most sought-after types of footage demanded lately involves the winter hunts organised for the Ceau[escus: the interest has

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Adina Br\deanu - In The Recycling Room

started to shift from the leader’s official visibility towards his private past. Pioneers, steelworkers and co-operative farm workers give way to a reel with the Ceau[escus’ home movies. And suddenly, dashing from among those skiing trips, dinner parties and wild boars, there is this brief shot, strikingly humane yet dissonant: Elena Ceau[escu, in close-up, affectionately stroking the face of her elderly mother. “You know, I’m always touched by this one. Of, course, nobody wants it…”

The seductiveness of the interval

of the seven directors appointed since 1990 to deal with its “unknown disease.” Somebody who overheard our conversation will start laughing: “You want another one with animals? Have you heard the one about how Sahia had to move building after our dog bit that big shot, a Party Secretary or something? Take care, this is the real thing, it really happened...” I miss the opportunity to ask more about that,23 as somebody else will join in, joking that next year they might have to eat the dog if things carry on as badly as they did the previous year. I was to hear more about this story in Everybody laughs heartily and I cannot help asking further interviews with other members how they can do this, with no wages and no certainty of the Sahia community. regarding their future: “Don’t take us seriously, we’re just a bunch of scaredycats. Poking fun when we can’t do anything else is the only thing we’ve learnt properly at Sahia.” 23

Most of Sahia’s clients look for the conventional symbols of pre-1989 Romania (the usual) followed by those of December 1989, perceived as a dramatic rupture from the past (“Revolution,” “sacrifice,” “trial,” “punishment,” “freedom,” “exhilaration”). Ironically, fourteen years after December 1989, this ritual “dramatisation” of the death of Communism reiterates a temporal pattern (i.e. the frenzy of the working Christmas) which used to be a crucial ingredient of the past whose downfall it is meant to dramatise. Although not banned, there will be no Christmas tree in Sahia – this time due to lack of funds or any festive mood. And through yet another un-feted Christmas spent almost entirely in Sahia, working like in the old times, we would repeatedly come across the opening shot of one of the so-called “documentaries of the Revolution:” an astronaut in space connected by a cord to an invisible base.21 The image of that astronaut suddenly separated from that base and “taking-off” into space – yet another metaphor of the “rupture” brought about by 1989 – would be a recurrent motif of many of our conversations that The Take-Off / Desprinderea, {erban Com\nescu, 1990. week, triggering references to other types of “take-offs,” be they attempted, completed or just dreamt-of: my move to another country several years before, the editor’s enduring dream of leaving Sahia to start working elsewhere, and the overwhelming fear that, while Romania might have managed to distance itself from its socialist past with some degree of success, that was exactly what Sahia had failed to do. 21

At the beginning of January, with the end of the hunting season, Sahia reverts to its usual rhythms of daily life. We start watching films at ease again, occasionally noticing visitors coming with various business scenarios. One day it is a impeccably dressed Romanian woman accompanying a foreigner interested in renting one floor of the studio for an acting school. Mrs. A will mention their visit with hope for a while, but then we will hear nothing more from them. A few weeks later, we will learn that the “bunker” (the aptly named outbuilding used for storage of the films before sending them back to the film archive) is to be leased to a restaurant and given a more lucrative function as a cake and pastry lab. Nothing will change, at least not during my time there.

Surrounded by that laughter, itself coming from the past, the first thing that comes to my mind is this completely inappropriate cinematic reference which, by way of habit, I quickly jot down in my notebook: “the Lion in The Wizard of Oz.” Now, years later, while writing this, far from Sahia, with my notebook in front of me, I stumble upon that note and only manage to make sense of part of the rationale that prompted that connection: what a strange Land of Oz Sahia was, with its own Toto flying through the thin air of history. The Wicked Witch of the East had been officially killed and the fight had already started against the Wicked Witch of the West. “There is no place like home,” said Dorothy on her return, but no return was, or indeed is, either possible or wanted for Sahia and for Romania, other than the cyclical returns provided by those fading images caught up in the semantic tornado of historical change.

One day, when we cross paths downstairs, the director will tell me, with a broad smile, the “joke with the dying geese”22 – in his view, the most pertinent parable for the state of Sahia. After hearing it, I will remain standing alone in the hallway, The motto to this text. thinking of Sahia, the dying goose of Romanian cinema and

Adina Br\deanu has a background in Cinema and Communication Studies (BA), and Gender and Public Policy (MA). She is currently finishing her ethnographic doctoral research in Documentary Film Studies at Westminster University (London), where she also teaches on a part-time basis. Prior to this, Br\deanu was attached for five years to the Visual Anthropology Department of The Museum of the Romanian Peasant in Bucharest and worked for a year as an intern at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam. Recently, Br\deanu has been involved, whether as a programmer, convenor or panellist, in a number of film-related events outside Romania, mainly on topics to do with documentary film or Eastern European cinema. Br\deanu has contributed to DOX (European Documentary Network), Sight and Sound, Cineste, Journal of South Asian Popular Culture, Third Text, and 24 Frames: The Balkans (Wallflower Press, London 2006). She is based in Oxford, United Kingdom.

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22


The seductiveness of the interval

Dan Lungu

Writer’s Notebook (Auto)biography and empathy On no few occasions, at various readings, I have been asked how much of what I write is autobiographical. Almost every time, I hesitate to answer, not because I have anything to hide, but because before each audience you have to find the suitable nuance. Ultimately, I would answer, “Everything is autobiographical,” were I not convinced that I would be misunderstood. I don’t know why, but I cannot reconcile myself at all with a restrictive definition of the autobiographical and I am convinced that in what an author does it is his biographical experience, to a greater or lesser extent, that reverberates. This is not a plea for dry biographical readings of the literary text, but rather for a different understanding of (auto)biography. For me, biographical experience is a suitcase that is much more capacious than it seems at first sight. It is not only everyday events or “objective” occurrences that are part of my past, but also many experiences for which you can’t find the most suitable word: a sensation, a smell, a landscape, the fulguration of a thought or a fear. Then, my life is not only made up of what happens to me. I have a family, friends, neighbours, relatives, acquaintances, to all of whom things happen to which I have access as a spectator or, quite simply, things which relate to me. To the extent that an event followed from a distance or merely read about in a newspaper has shaken me or set me to thinking, it begins to be part of my life. The emotion aroused in me by a woman on the bus telling me a story about her son’s divorce was so strong that I would classify it at “unforgettable.” I wasn’t the protagonist of the event, but the amplitude of the experience drew me so close to it that I would not hesitate to say that it was an autobiographical event. The same thing happens with books that move me deeply: they are no longer merely literary experiences, but, through their effect at the time, they become concrete occurrences, events. I think that I can remember more books from childhood than what we conventionally call events. All I remember is that they moved me or marked me in some way, and here books by far surpass reality. This is as regards myself. For others, things may stand differently. Thus, I believe that (auto)biographical material is polymorphous, not to mention the fact that a socialised “I” becomes plural in different contexts, which considerably multiplies the number of potential (auto)biographies. It is but a short step from saying this to saying that the novel is the geometrical locus of possible autobiographies. I would hazard to say this, especially in the case of those authors, of which I am one, who are “empathetic”

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Dan Lungu - Writer’s Notebook (Auto)biography and empathy

to their characters. For, what else is empathy except the capacity to put yourself in another’s place? But this means viewing the world as if you had his biography behind you. Thus, the other’s biography becomes a pseudo-biography. In a way, this is the relationship between the author and the world he creates.

Avatars of the generic reader Asked at a round table discussion once about whom or about what kind of reader I am thinking when I write literature, I answered without hesitation: about no one – when I write it’s a case of ferocious egoism. I have to confess that this answer took even me by surprise. But as it wasn’t the first time spontaneous sincerity has confronted me with thoughts apparently foreign to my nature, I took the subject home for further reflection. In order for you to understand me better, I must add that I am not one of those writers – writers for whom I have an especial admiration – who polish their sentences to the point of musical brilliance, and nor am I a withdrawn type of person, or, even worse, one of those blokes with an inflated and vitreous ego who think that because they know the world it is sufficient for you to see its reflection in their work. And nevertheless I was capable of giving the answer I gave. I meditated both on the content of the answer and on the categorical manner of its delivery. Ultimately, in the process of writing as such, the psychological combustion is so intense that you cannot emerge from a world that is in the throes of genesis in order to examine it in an objective manner. At the time, you are not thinking about anything external, you are wholly absorbed by atmosphere and characters, you don’t have time even to cast a glance at yourself, the author. The “ferocious egoism” I was talking about is nothing other than total immersion in a magmatic world, a world whose landmarks are shifting; it is the temporary and creative incapacity to relate to others as persons in the flesh and blood. I don’t think that this is the moment when the author adjusts his project to others, when he relates to a generic reader. This is more likely to happen in the project’s period of gestation, and, eventually, in collaboration with the editor, after the first draft of the text is ready. As for me, I cannot identify any concrete moment in which I have asked myself about my “ideal reader.” The first condition for my relationship with the text to work is for me to like it – unreservedly, if possible. If it doesn’t turn out like this, I have a serious problem of inner coherence. The fact that I have to like it doesn’t mean that I regard my taste as infallible or consummate – not in the least – but rather that I have to be responsible to myself in what I do. Otherwise, I cannot continue. So, the “ideal reader” to whom I relate when I write is myself. There is nothing haughty or egoistical in this statement. It is a matter of an “I myself” that can differ from one book to another.

The seductiveness of the interval

a “generic reader” to regulate the narrative discourse of the writer – and this above all in a society in which the after-effects of totalitarianism can still be felt – is, at least psychologically speaking, hard to accept. Under the dictatorship, which from the very start imposed on writers a so-called “creative method,” this generic, all-powerful and all-seeing reader could be likened only to the censor. The censor was the first reader, the one who tortured the writer’s conscience, who made him give up sentences before writing them or mutilate them before taking them to his editor. Thus, the presence of any authority external to creation that might conduct in one way or another the authorial discourse is still viewed with great suspicion. For writers of a certain age from Eastern Europe, the autonomy of art is much more than a mere uncoupling of creation from external conditions: it is a defensive reflex of individual freedom. Hence, probably, my categorical manner in formulating the answer. Of course, the majority of writers, creators of aesthetic jewels or imaginary worlds, often want to transform readers into faithful inhabitants of their worlds. The fascination they exert over the “other” does not leave them cold, but nor does it transform them into pragmatic managers of sensations or Machiavellian strategists of prevailing tastes. I think that most of them are capable of decrypting post factum their own strategies of persuasion, of evaluating their strong points, but any rational and planned manipulation of public response is doomed to failure from the start. At least from the viewpoint of the writer. Obviously, the editor can have wholly different plans, but he cannot make them until he has the manuscript on the table. As for me, the literature I write functions on many levels at the same time, and so it can find an echo in different social media. Obviously, this is a quality the editor prizes. Ultimately, it is one of the “tricks” of postmodernism, which, using irony, parody and pastiche, arrives at a literature which, appreciated by diverse audiences, temporarily reconciles economics and aesthetics. Of course, it is not from such reasoning that I set out when I write literature, but from the way in which I relate to “reality.” I think that it is precisely the complexity of reality and the ways in which it is constructed and unravelled before our very eyes, its dynamic and plastic character, that are the primary material of the novel. The pluralism of viewpoints and attitudes, the polyphony of voices, the clash of mentalities, and the perverse effects are part of this fragile and at the same time durable construct we call reality, which the novel can explore for the benefit and delight of the reader. From such a perspective, reading can only be multiple. If this can reconcile the elite with the popular audience, then so much the better.

“Miserabilism” or post-traumatic realism

The trenchant way in which I answered set me to thinking. My style is usually much more nuanced. Analysing it in retrospect, I think that my assurance came from the legitimacy of the answer. I’ll explain what I mean. The existence of

Without having set out to do so, many of the writers who came to the fore in the 1990s share a relatively common vision. Reality is tinted black, and caricature, derision, sarcasm, caustic humour, the absurd, and the bizarre are in the foreground. A critic such as Daniel Cristea Enache was inspired to classify them un-

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Dan Lungu - Writer’s Notebook (Auto)biography and empathy

der the heading “post-socialist realism,” but most often they are called, more or less pejoratively, “miserabilists.” The adoption of a direct style and the cultivation of colloquial language or slang represent one piece in a larger puzzle. The literature dubbed “miserabilist” accumulates a number of characteristics: described in brief, it explores everyday misery, marginal social worlds, the periphery and provinces, places with no horizons, petty lives, and larval existence, it focuses on grotesque and repulsive details, it cultivates an oral style, slang, and crude, direct, “indecent” or even “vulgar” expression, it dwells on the subject of sexuality to the point of being accused of “pornography.” The characters are socially déclassés or anomic: labourers, the unemployed, mutants of communism, failures, pensioners, drug addicts, alcoholics, suicides, a telephone sex line worker, listless youths, the hopeless, the disillusioned, the insolent, the bored. Thus, viewed from the outside, this is a dismembered, asocial and ugly world peopled by anti-heroes. Viewed from within, it is an “ordinary,” “normal” world, the world of (post)communist Romania. The phrasing is often direct, brisk, dry. The tone varies from neutral to sarcastic, from comprehensive to judgemental, from bloody-minded to disillusioned. The authors of such a literature are regarded as “minimalists,” “anti-elitists,” “anti-intellectuals,” “miserabilists,” and sometimes as “uncultivated.” I have tried to draw up a list of the writers in whose books are presented, at least partly, the above-mentioned characteristics, without any claims to being exhaustive. In prose: Radu Aldulescu, R\zvan Petrescu, Petre Barbu, Cornel George Popa, Daniel B\nulescu, Lucian Dan Teodorovici, Sorin Stoica, Alexandru Vakulovski, Ioana Bradea, Cosmin Manolache, Adrian Schiop, Ionu] Chiva, Dan }\ranu, and, by your leave, the last in the list, I the undersigned. In poetry: Mihail G\l\]anu, O. Nimigean, Constantin Acosmei, Dumitru Crudu, Marius Ianuş, Dan Sociu, Ruxandra Novac... What we can easily observe is their relative heterogeneity. Different ages, generations and literary groups, and, not least, notable differences of style. “Miserabilism” is not the ideology of a particular group: we find the Nineties Generation, Fracturists, Club-Eight-ists, Millenarianists and “independents” here all together. What unites them is (with the exception of R\zvan Petrescu) a post-revolution debut and a shocking vision of reality. Plus a stigma.

The seductiveness of the interval

that the “miserabilists” view of reality is not culturally innocent, it is guided by an aesthetic attitude, and the “miserabilist” depiction of the everyday perfectly inscribes itself in the logic and dynamic of the Romanian artistic field. The fall of censorship is a necessary condition, but not sufficient for the emergence of such a literature; it creates a context of freedom of expression, but it does not explain the succession of artistic forms. We know very well that artistic movements succeed each other according to a logic of distinction, both at the level of representation and of attitude. “Miserabilist” realism gains tautness and distinguishes itself, in various aspects, from the multiple literary forms practised during the communist period. It is opposed both to socialist realism and the literature obsessed with power relations, as well as to fabulist or stylistically escapist literature. Post-communist realism cultivates the photographic negative of socialist realism (an ideological fiction, in fact), in which joyful, self-sacrificing people, under the paternal protection of the Party, built a luminous future for the homeland. To self-confident optimism and irreproachable morality with a whiff of propaganda are opposed despair, disgust, doubt, disillusion, moral misery. To problematising political realism, obsessed with the theme of power, in which characters integrated into the system, who master the jargon and logic of the regime, resolve various familial or social dilemmas, a good opportunity for “allusions” and “knowing winks,” the “miserabilists” oppose peripheral worlds, with under-socialised and apolitical characters, slang and direct expression. The power relations that describe the macro-social reality and order are replaced with the precarious relations of everyday life, in a micro-social reality dominated by disorder. Fabulist and cautious expression is replaced with directness, love of beauty with authenticity. To language that is literary at any cost and “beautiful” words are opposed recuperation of various everyday idioms and lexical democratisation. To the realism cultivated or allowed by the one-party state is opposed a post-socialist, post-traumatic realism stripped of ideology, but not lacking in personal attitude. And so, this is the context in which, with the suppression of censorship and in the logic of the succession of literary forms through distinction, colloquial language and slang have massively entered the literature of the younger generation. One of the great gains is the exploration of new zones of expression and aesthetics which, be it because of censorship, be it because of an aesthetic autonomy understood in a rigid way, had long remained in the shadow.

We have now seen in broad terms what and whom we are talking about when we speak of “miserabilism.” Now let’s move on to the reproaches. Besides “vulgarity” and “pornography,” in the press and in private discussions I have also met: “they describe an ugly world and reveal all that is ugliest in man,” “they reveal to us a misery which in any case we see on the street every day,” “I’m too well bred to read anything like that,” “things like that shouldn’t be included school textbooks.” There are, of course, many others. The accusation that their literature reflects in a direct way everyday misery seems to me the most serious, because it disqualifies it, either in the form of non-recognition of its artistic quality, or in that of framing it within a historically dated realism. This is why I think it deserves a wider-ranging discussion. The answer to this objection is

Dan Lungu (born 1969, Botoşani, Romania) is one of the most highly rated and most widely translated Romanian writers of the new generation. A lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the Al. I. Cuza University in Ia[i, he has completed post-doctoral studies at the Sorbonne and is editor of Au Sud de l’Est magazine (Paris). In 1996, he founded the Club 8 literary group in Ia[i. Between 2001 and 2002 he was editor-in-chief of the Timpul cultural review. The French translation of his debut novel, Hens’ Heaven (published by Polirom, 2004; 2nd edition, 2007) was among the four best selling books published by Éditions Jacqueline Chambon, while the German translation was declared book of the year in 2007. His second novel, I’m a Communist Biddy! (Polirom, 2007), is currently being made into a feature film, directed by Stere Gulea, and the French translation was nominated in two categories of the Jean Monnet Prize (France, 2008). He recently published a third novel, How to Forget a Woman (Polirom, 2009).

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THE SEDUCTIVENESS OF THE INTERVAL  

First published 2009 by the Romanian Cultural Institute in Stockholm in connection with the exhibition THE SEDUCTIVENESS OF THE INTERVAL, Ro...

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