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Posts from the ‘Eleştiri / Critique’ Category

Architecture, Power and Coolness of Inscrutability (Or Just Another Try at Sexy Titles)

Eylül Akıncı

A “dreamscape” created with paravane-like white curtains and ground lighting, with a kneeling woman and a pillow-like stand in it… It is impossible not to be impressed by the stage design of Filiz Sızanlı’s solo work Site. The title of her performance already promises an attentive gaze and inquiry about landscapes, which is also convenient when you think of her professional field, architecture. However the performance in itself seems unable to fulfill this attempt, falling prey to unreadable conceptuality. Read more
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Strange but not interesting

Lise Smith

Sixty minutes of the most trite, tedious and downright amateur theatre I have ever endured, Me and My Stranger is a patronising and wholly superficial narration of what it might mean to be “strange”. There’s very nearly an interesting point here about the linguistic parallel between “stranger” meaning “foreigner” and “strange” meaning “unfamiliar”; but Sarah Vanhee is not the woman to make it. Instead, she settles for a series of uncritical summaries of other people’s work, quoting Hannah Arendt and showing lengthy portions of documentary film Vers Nancy, without combining these disparate pieces into any sort of thesis. Read more

A Mary Wigman Dance Evening by Dean

Dean Damjanovski

The performance “A Mary Wigman Dance Evening” of the young choreographer and dancer Fabian Barba was performed last night on the scene of MSUFA in the frames of the “iDANS” festival. It should also be mentioned that the performance is competing for the award Prix Jardin d’ Europe awarded for emerging choreographers.

What the small audience attending the performance had the opportunity to see were nine solos, which, according to the quite lengthy text that the author gave us prior to the performance, represent a reconstruction of the original solos by Mary Wigman (1886 – 1973), German dancer and choreographer, forerunner of the expressionist dance in Europe. It was obvious that the author has done his “homework” very thoroughly and that he has put much effort to get to the shown result. The reconstructed solos performed by Barba were very clean and precise and one could tell that the other elements of the performance – music, lighting and especially costumes, which were made with taste and sense of authenticity – were paid a lot of attention.

But, this is where the description ends and the problem begins for the performance remained on the level of a demonstration. The performer, quite selfishly, kept us away from the experience of what he was doing on stage by repetitively using the same sequence of “solo – pause with music – solo (with a different costume)”. That is why the first six pieces went without any reaction from the audience even though he bowed after each of them in the manner of Wigman. Maybe that was the response he wanted? Anyway, at the end, when we knew from the program that it was the end, we applauded and called the performer back on stage where he repeated two of the pieces (again, as it was said in the program). Maybe this contract that was made before the performance represented an additional barrier to the communication between the piece and us? Sorry, I almost forgot – there was a tiny and shy applause at the end of the seventh solo, but I’m not sure whether it was because of the effective costume or because of the fact that the dancer finally decided to “put himself” into the performance?

This performance raised a lot of questions for me. For example, whether we as audience should be satisfied with a mere “reconstruction”? And whether the reconstruction itself, understood in this sense, is sufficient or it takes something more to “jump over the edge” and become a performance? For me, personally, last night’s performance remained on the level of a well done homework, but it didn’t manage to transform into a performance…. I wonder how would the “ordinary” audience react without any previous knowledge of Mary Wigman or reconstruction as a method in contemporary performing arts? Perhaps then a real communication would be established? Maybe there is nothing wrong with the performance, maybe we were the problem?

Will you ever be happy again

Dean Damjanovski

While the audience enters the hall it listens to audio recording in Serbian of the legendary football match on the Belgrade stadium “Marakana” between home team Red Star and Bayern from Munich in the semi-finals of the Championship League in 1991 when the “red-whites” (Red Star), in the 90th minute evened the score to 2:2 and reserved their place in the finale. After the audience is seated the young performer and author explains in Serbian language (with subtitles) about the game she used to play when she was a little girl. The game is called “partisans and Germans” (a Balkan variant of “cowboys and Indians”) in which the Germans were always represented as negatives. She then invites her playmate – German performer Jochen Stechmann – to come to the stage.

This is the introduction to the theatre performance “Will you ever be happy again” by the Serbian theatre author, director and performer Sanja Mitrovic who lives and works in the Netherlands. This powerful “tale for one Serbian and one German performer” is a documentary and personal piece performed in Serbian and German language of two young people, members of different nations, which in different historical periods take on the same path – that of nationalism, violence and war. Intertwining details from personal documents and national iconography the author creates a complex structure of signs, which in some moments are complementary and in others oppose each other, in order to present us the process of transformation of personal identities. The scene at the end where both of the performers simultaneously sing nationalistic songs, each of them in his/hers own language, rhythm, melody and energy is a very precisely found opposition to the beginning of the performance pointing that every evil starts as innocent as a game. The performance is filled with local and national references, which, when it comes to Serbian (that are dominant) are not always readable for wider audience. That’s why there are moments where one gets the impression that the author is using nationalistic German iconography to “universalize” elements of her local context. Accusing the whole world for their faith and pointing out the irony of it has been the trade-mark of the Balkan post-war theatre and this performance is no exception of that model (like the scene where she asks the German soldier to bomb the bridge while she is standing on it and in the other second the situation turns into a typical Balkan “bacchanalia” under the sounds of Serbian pop-folk music). But the author makes a very wise use of those clichés and stereotypes and goes beyond them. For she doesn’t stop at the questions like who is right or wrong or who fired the first bullet because it is no longer relevant. The question that she emphasizes so strongly and not without a sense of doubt is the question whether we can be happy again – the villains, the victims, the bystanders… ?

By Dean Damjanovski

All That Is Liquid Vapors into Nothing

 Eylül Akıncı

Anat Eisenberg and Mirko Winkel’s work Life and Strive is a closer examination of the production of desire in a two layered context; on the surface how the desire and need for million liras accommodations is created by intruding into the heart of a metropolis, and beneath how people from (possibly) other social classes react to it in a performative “opportunity”.

The work consists of gathering of participants, informing them about the rise of “gated communities”, namely residential high-security towers throughout the city, and inviting them into these still under construction sites in the alias of high profile shoppers. This invitation comes as surprise if you had not read the program closely, and it is like a guerilla theatre for both the participants/performers and the towers’ client managers/performers, yet a more introversive one.

I think I don’t need to criticize the high capitalist appropriation of public space nor the need for security and estrangement of high upper class in the middle of a city populated with 15 millions of people. I would rather problematize the performance. First of all, if we are supposed to feel resentment against this closed community, it must also be taken into consideration that the situation was actually “gated community versus performative community”; we did not interact with the sales staff sincerely either, we shielded ourselves with another appropriated “gate”. Furthermore, no matter with whom you are talking to, it actually humiliates you to fake an identity and giggle with irony inside without revealing yourself in the end, especially considering the fact that your critical approach towards these ugly buildings and the Faustian will to power behind them changes nothing in real life.

However, upon reflection I felt that what Eisenberg and Winkel actually want to see is the degree of participants’ willingness and performative success/failure to accept the role of millionaire with briefly rehearsed arrogance and dis/interest; they create a milieu for strive to emerge. The only real audience in this performance is the two, walking beside two performative agents (salesmen and clients) like a ghost, muted, visually focused, taking pictures. Yet again, this also becomes problematic in the end; it harms your weakness and “innocence” up against these giant buildings at the cost of a semi-psychological experiment which has the danger of causing a self-accusation on the grounds of voyeurism and of latent desire to gather some sort of power (not necessarily political/to fight back). While we are trying to fit into our roles, to act up, to ask fake questions (though not purposeless), do we not actually get thinned into this world of illusions?

Finally, that only a simple definition of us being “rich people” and not instead a loose script was given is a weakness on the performance’s part in technical terms. In addition, no option of withdrawal is offered during the beginning brief. I think that would enhance the quality of their overall research more.

Intrusion answered with intrusion. A “nice” outcome is confronting with the fact that you have no control over Mephistopheles and no crack in this perfect system to become an activist, that you may condescend to a bitter performance of revenge with impotent strive. In the end, what you are left with is pure nihilism, fatigue and no desire to think further about this obscenity.

Eylül Akıncı

Anat Eisenberg & Mirko Winkel, Life and Strive

Lise Smith

In recent years, the definition of choreography has grown far beyond the traditional connotation of “movement set harmoniously to music” to include improvisation, non-theatrical settings, viewer participation and the inclusion into the canon of choreography of works that contain not only little trained dance but little in the way of movement at all.

With Life and Strive Anat Eisenberg & Mirko Winkel push the boundaries of this definition yet further by centring their entire performance around an extended unplanned improvisation by the audience themselves, a participatory “happening” at one of Istanbul’s exclusive new gated communities. The set-up is simple: the small audience group is informed at the beginning of the performance that we are off to a sales meeting with an agent at one of these new residential blocks. We are invited to take on the identity of a genuine prospective buyer, thinking up a suitable backstory for our investment purchase, and off we go to our appointment.

The rare and unfamiliar experience of visiting one of these new blocks, strangely isolated from the world outside and exclusive in every sense, was certainly a new and interesting one – but what of the choreography? A generous reading would probably call this a totally immersive and inclusive performance, generous to its participants in allowing them this elite experience. Another reading would equally probably be, “What choreography?” It’s hard to say exactly what Eisenberg and Winkel actually created, in craft terms at least.

I would have liked there to be some surprise (beyond the initial surprise of being told I was about to attend a sales appointment at an apartment I’m not rich enough to even dream of owning); some further engagement, some reflection on the experience from the artists. An interesting experience, then, but ultimately an empty one.

“A Mary Wigman Dance Evening”

Dean Damjanovski

The performance “A Mary Wigman Dance Evening” of the young choreographer and dancer Fabio Barba was performed last night on the scene of MSUFA in the frames of the “iDANS” festival. It should also be mentioned that the performance is competing for the award Prix Jardin d’ Europe awarded for emerging choreographers.

What the small audience attending the performance had the opportunity to see were nine solos, which, according to the quite lengthy text that the author gave us prior to the performance, represent a reconstruction of the original solos by Mary Wigman (1886 – 1973), German dancer and choreographer, forerunner of the expressionist dance in Europe. It was obvious that the author has done his “homework” very thoroughly and that he has put much effort to get to the shown result. The reconstructed solos performed by Barba were very clean and precise and one could tell that the other elements of the performance – music, lighting and especially costumes, which were made with taste and sense of authenticity – were paid a lot of attention.

But, this is where the description ends and the problem begins for the performance remained on the level of a demonstration. The performer, quite selfishly, kept us away from the experience of what he was doing on stage by repetitively using the same sequence of “solo – pause with music – solo (with a different costume)”. That is why the first six pieces went without any reaction from the audience even though he bowed after each of them in the manner of Wigman. Maybe that was the response he wanted? Anyway, at the end, when we knew from the program that it was the end, we applauded and called the performer back on stage where he repeated two of the pieces (again, as it was said in the program). Maybe this contract that was made before the performance represented an additional barrier to the communication between the piece and us? Sorry, I almost forgot – there was a tiny and shy applause at the end of the seventh solo, but I’m not sure whether it was because of the effective costume or because of the fact that the dancer finally decided to “put himself” into the performance?

This performance raised a lot of questions for me. For example, whether we as audience should be satisfied with a mere “reconstruction”? And whether the reconstruction itself, understood in this sense, is sufficient or it takes something more to “jump over the edge” and become a performance? For me, personally, last night’s performance remained on the level of a well done homework, but it didn’t manage to transform into a performance…. I wonder how would the “ordinary” audience react without any previous knowledge of Mary Wigman or reconstruction as a method in contemporary performing arts? Perhaps then a real communication would be established? Maybe there is nothing wrong with the performance, maybe we were the problem?