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Cheap Lecture and the Cow Piece

Rümeysa Kiger

Even though Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion confess from the very beginning of “Cheap Lecture” that they don’t know what they are doing, and that whatever they are doing is stolen from John Cage’s writing style in “Lecture on Nothing,” they beautifully direct the audience from obscurity to illumination, not just by spoken word but also with their relaxed approach.

Two performers stand in front of microphones and read a text rhythmically and let the pages fall to the ground one by one, while some parts of the text also appear on a white screen in the background. When the calm and warm attitude of the performers meets with their sometimes deeply philosophical and other times absurd movements and suggestions, the viewer has to choose between either trying to catch every element that could possibly be important or relaxing and letting the show flow.

The accompanying music and the chosen passages feel either manipulative or random at the beginning, until the text reveals the main point of the performance; it is not necessary that all of us immediately understand what is going on. We must find meaning in the gaps between words and thoughts. At one point they even show the whole passage they are reading from on the screen, letting the audience see what it would be like if they were given the whole picture.

At this point, the organizer’s decision to not use Turkish subtitles for such a show also makes sense. But one may still wonder what kinds of potential significance the audience could have found if the words were also available in Turkish.

The struggle for meaning and the search for a new kind of revelation continues in the second part of the show, “The Cow Piece,” among the torture of plastic cows set to folk songs. If the viewer follows one of the proposals in the first part by letting herself just listen to the music without following the action moment by moment, she may have an easier time participating in the performers’ eccentric and absurd world and, in the process, have a lot of fun.

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