Presentation – Artistic research forum, Tromsø 21.10.2014
Returning from Tromsø and the inspiering conference «Artistic Research Forum», after presenting our project, «New Performances – New Tools: Knowledge & Skills for a post-dramatic theatre. Here’s the lecture that I held at the conference. Embeded in the text are also the first «raw» documentations/video-clips from the process of developing a SCENIC DUB-conception within the artistic framework of Transiteatret-Bergen:»DUB LEVIATHAN!» This ongoing project – built step by step after the idea of connecting what I have called MICRO, MACRO and REFLEXIVE-ETUDES, will be the first of several artistic projects to be catalyzed by the Artistic Research Program. tvl
Theatre arts in a productive zone of uncertainty:
Much is happening, and a lot has happened in international-, and in Norwegian theatre the last decades. New terms, new styles, new role models have turned a lot around.
As director and as a writer of text and music, when meeting actors, scenographers, managers, dramaturges and journalists, I experience – both with myself and with others – a sort of optimistic confusion: what used to be obvious is no longer as obvious.
Words like theatre and music-theatre have split and become fundamentally polyphonic.
This also goes for the conversations- the discourses – about theatre. The entrances and perceptions of the theatre field have become many, as within education. But although it is often proclaimed, this doesn’t mean that the theatre is in crisis! Oh no!
However, my thesis will be as follows:
The theatre generally – and the Norwegian theatre specially – has moved into a productive zone of uncertainty.
This is a good thing, because in that lies opportunities.
But at the same time the confusion has increased, as has the danger of acute alienation, double communication and conflicts in a heap of potent terms and slogans which meet artists, disciplines and institutions – which often have their theoretical fighting-guard down.
The basis for our application to the artistic research program can in fact be summarized in one simple question, which sees the theatre space as a whole (and which probably sounds better in Norwegian than in English):
Which artistic skills are required for the post-dramatic theatre? ( in Norwegian: “Kunst-ferdigheter”)
Post-dramatic theatre – for clarification
I will (off course) come back to this, but let me first say something about how I perceive the term, and the term-tool, “post-dramatic theatre”.
And – already here – in the attempt of reflecting over terms like this, we are at the core of the project itself:
Because, as all who deal with art know: theoretical terms and expressions influence the artistic field and its mode of production, and therefore central terms – like the term post dramatic – will have even greater influence!
So for me, the term post-dramatic theatre – first penned by the German theatre researcher Hans-Thies Lehmann back in 1999 – is first and foremost a well-documented confirmation of the fact that something radical and defining has actually happened in theatre arts from the end of the 1970s.
What was once «the truth» about theatre, about good and bad, possible and impossible, allowed and forbidden, is no longer obvious.
The understanding of the post-dramatic goes straight to the core of this observation: to talk about “drama” and “dramatic art(s)” is no longer enough to understand and describe the movements that are taking place.
After hundreds of years where equaling “drama” and “theatre” was justified, theatre is – so to speak – in the process of changing, moving forward. While the language – the terms about the “drama” – doesn’t fit it any more, and is lagging behind.
The dramatic text is no longer an obvious and natural center, and the theatre’s natural point of departure is no longer – necessarily – the dramatic text.
This is what Lehmann attempts to describe as the post-dramatic;
– simply what comes after the dramatic.
And here lie some widespread misunderstandings, because: the word post-dramatic does not mean – as many think – a postmodern theatre, meaning a post-political theatre.
Just like it does not mean – and this become absolutely crucial for me – a theatre where the text and the writer are excluded, or handed over to the director’s free deconstructions of the “Good, old classics”.
(At a meeting I had with master students and Lehmann during the Ultima festival last year, Lehmann said that: deconstruction – for him – has never meant destruction).
A principle equality of dramaturgical parameters
The way I understand the term post-dramatic, and the way I recognize it in my own and others’ artistic work, the term is about a principle equality of dramaturgical parameters.
In other words, a principal equality of the different art disciplines of the theatre space, so that other parts than the dramatic text can take the lead role in a performance:
Let it be the actor’s body,
-the sound and the music,
-or the audience.
But the post-dramatic “release” from the dramatic, can also manifest itself in the choosing of a text and a form of text that is not firstly dramatic, t.i. with a clear course of actions and defined characters, which evolve psychologically along a dramatic line.
Post-dramatic theatre should therefore not be synonymous with “visually theatre”, “theatre without text” etc. It can off course be, but that is by no means a necessity.
In that case, it would be a paradox that among the most central references in Lehmann’s book about the “post-dramatic”, the writers are perhaps the most central!
But this said, the text and the traditional playwright have also stepped into a zone of productive uncertainty.
One of them, Heiner Müller, German director, author and theatre-lover, and maybe the name mostly quoted in Hans-Thies Lehmann’s book, said it like this to a journalist in the 90s:
Mister Muller, You are writing for the theatre.
Muller answered: I don’t write for theatre, but against theatre.
This sounds bad, but it isn’t: what he means, and what he himself strived to practice, was the opportunity to write texts which are not immediately adapted to old patterns of “delivering” completed texts to a theatre machine which demanded the same template for even consider the manuscript.
Take for example a look at this – lets call it picture or image.
This is how another main character in Lehmann’s book about the post-dramatic theatre, author and musician Elfriede Jelinek, begins her text “Über Tiere”, or “On animals”.
I did the play with Transiteateret-Bergen during the International Theatre Festival in Bergen and later at the National Theatre in Oslo in 2009:
64 pages like this
No defined characters
No stage directions
No dramatic action
But nonetheless – or maybe precisely because of:
-a bold text, rhythmical and aggressive. Potent and relevant, based on an ageing person’s sexual longing and addiction connected with the Wienna-police’s confiscated tape of sex-clients’ explicit wishes and thoughts.
A post-dramatic vacuum? What is required of the performer when facing the post-dramatic?
So, when this post-dramatic text is challenging us as theatre artists, how do we relate to these demands?
And – maybe most important:
Which technical invitations and opportunities give the post-dramatic “turning point” for us as theatre artists – in the words extended meaning?
And it is exactly here that our artistic research project stakes out:
Because there is a fundamental question or problem area, which stands open after the “post-dramatic turn”:
-For when the field of art itself changes, what then about the artist and her knowledge and skills?
-What concrete does a post-dramatic theatre demand of its artists?
When the goal itself for the craft – for what is actually produced – shifts, what does this involve for the craft itself – and for the craftsmen’s self-understanding?
At the same time this issue about knowledge and skills actualize the question about education:
-When the theatre changes – so that nothing no longer is straight forward and common sense, what is than demanded of theatre education and of those of us who are involved with planning the premises for it?
What is important to hold on to, and what should be added?
This is what I have called a “post-dramatic vacuum” – which again was the starting point for my application to “artistic research program”.
The title was short and easy: “New performances – new tools: Knowledge and skills for a post-dramatic theatre”.
Artistic “operationalization”/method of the project:
3x Etudes for a post-dramatic theatre
So how do we plan to work? Or more precisely, how do we work right now.
The method will be to ask – and try to answer as concrete as possible on the following:
-Which artistic skills does the post-dramatic theatre require?
-Which of these are new and unfamiliar in relation to those that were, and are, relevant within the horizon of the dramatic theatre?
-And how – concretely – do we develop and obtain these knowledge’s and skills?
As key in this work stand what I have called scenic etudes.
Within classical music and the dramatic theatre etudes are connected with, more or less specific technical exercises. (Think of composers like F. Chopin or F. Lizt.)
For me, on the other hand, the term etude expands to involve the theatre room as a whole.
In my introduction I talked about that theatre – in the post-dramatic – was moved in to a productive zone of uncertainty.
As an answer to this diagnosis – or an optimistic attempt at embarking upon this post-dramatic vacuum, the etudes are directed towards the following knowledge- and skill areas:
Parameters in “the combat zone”:
(stage)text in the “combat zone”
Actor/player in the “combat zone”
(Stage) space in the “combat zone”
(Music) dramaturgy in the “combat zone”
(theatre) audience in the “combat zone”
Important point will be:
The thinking actor (actor as philosopher)
Music in theatre and theatre in music
Dramaturgy in space and lighting
Text as sound and landscape
Spectator as producer
Three types of etudes: micro/macro/reflexive
Concretely, the work is built up as a structure of etudes where what I have called micro-etudes provides the conditions for more comprehensive macro-etudes.
(eksempel: definisjon i video)
Micro-etudes are here (limited and isolated immersions in specific techniques, specifically tied to a post-dramatic theatre)
while – on the other hand;
Macro-etudes are (assemblies / and transfers of micro-etudes towards greater performances, which constitutes in independent art-productions/ pieces.)
In addition to these two conceptions of etudes comes what I have called reflexive etudes. These are written-based works or thought-exercises, which strive to test and – as far as possible – build down what I experience as insincere distinctions between theoretical practice and practical theory.
5 x refleksive etyder publisert på scenekunst.no :
I»Refleksive etyder for et teaterfelt i endring» (opptakt)
II «Dialektikken mellom det dramatiske og det postdramatiske» (del I)
III «Dialektikken mellom det dramatiske og det postdramatiske» ( del II)
IV «Dramaturgi & Ideologi: Hva var og hva er naturalisme?» (Del I)
V «Dramaturgi & Ideologi: Hva var og hva er naturalisme?» (Del II )
http://www.scenekunst.no/pub/scenekunst/main/?aid=6079These are four such reflexive etudes, published at Scenekunst.no this autumn.
What we have done, is inviting to collaboration with central individual artists, free companies, educational institutions, institutional theatres, publishers – nationally and internationally.
The ambition is an overreaching project-dramaturgy where the program can work as a catalyst for binding and long-term collaborations, and at the same time – as one of several collaboration partners – inbound as part of more comprehensive performances.
Among the most important collaborators for Oslo National Academy of the Arts today are Institut für angewandte Theaterwissenschaft, Giessen, Transiteatret- Bergen, SISU-percussionist ensemble, Det Norske Teatret, Nationaltheatret, Cornerteatret, Bergen International Festival, Dramatikkens Hus and Neofelis Verlag in Berlin.
Where are we working?
Some of the etudes are done at Oslo National Academy of the Arts. Others happen other places, like three weeks ago at Dramatikkens Hus, one week ago at the new Corner theatre in Bergen, the National Theatre and Det Norske teater.
Plansje (høst 14/ vår 15)
These ruff models will hopefully give you a brief overview of what has been done until know, and how we plan to proceed for the season to come.
Ongoing exemplification: attempt towards a SCENIC DUB
It is always a risk – especially in the beginning of a program like this– that there will be to many words, to many planes and visions! But the truth is that we are already on our way – also on stage.
Most important for the Autumn 2014 and Spring 2015, and crucial for the ongoing work with the scenic etudes, is the practical work on what I have called a scenic dub-conception.
Her some shortcuts/documentations from the ongoing initial etude-work:
DUB as a musical form sprang up as a political protest in Jamaica at the end of the 1960s and early 1970s.
It replaced the soloist with the mixing console and opened up to a critical reorganization of musical perspectives, hierarchies, listening and working forms.
Our attempt at a scenic dub is basically an attempt at a reciprocal metabolism towards a new (musical dramatic) genre:
At the same time as the musical DUB strategies and its forms of thinking and working are transferred to the stage, the qualities of DUB music are challenged to integrate the theatre in an extended mix of room, movement, action and (radio) plays.
The precondition for such a metabolism is an artistic process that also is in accordance with the credo of DUB music:
– a band team of musicians, actors, visual artists, animators and sound designers work together towards a common goal – here called DUB Leviathan– but in different ways, and also at different times.
Everybody is necessarily not present all the time, neither in the rehearsal process nor in the performance mix, but everybody is working to reach the same goal.
Just as in the classical DUB mix different entrances can give different perspectives and different perspectives different experiences.
One moment in the performance or a week in the rehearsal processes, the percussion and the percussionist are in the spotlight, and then they step aside and leave the stage to the actor and his monologue, the short film by the film crew, the children or the animator.
The changing constellations of people and artistic approaches, the different versions of the apparently same thing, the laborious (staging) work of testing and reorganizing a mix of different voices and entrances, balancing live performances against recorded ones, documents against fiction and the bass-dub guitar against classical materials like Stravinskij, Dowland and Steve Reich make it possible for the scenic DUB to go into things in depth, to combine bring to perfection its ensemble strategies and to be accurate when attacking.