Towards a theater of presence and proximity.

A mission statement


After doing theater as an artistwin for 11 years, it's time to answer the question what do we do when we do it. First is to mention, that theater is never done by artists only. It is rather a multilayered process with many involved. Artistic production, artistic process and the logistics involved account for each other. No project is like another as it happens at another time and in other conditions. However we don't follow any determinist theater model, and we also don't see ourselves as victims of times when it is becoming ever more difficult to acquire means for artistic work. The only thing that counts for us is to continue as the only failure in art is giving up.


For a few years now, we're less and less interested in creating and watching choreographies that are executed frontally on a stage, with a clear separation of auditorium and podium. We're rather fascinated to move through environments where the relation of anybody in the space is dynamically negotiated. Environments that facilitate, produce and demand a dense complexity of inter- and cross-connectivity, of processes and partaking. In other words, we're interested in theater as an activity where anybody can become a producer of theater.

 

What matters (...) is the exemplary character of production, which is able, first, to induce other producers to produce, and, second, to put an improved apparatus at their disposal. And this apparatus is better, the more consumers it is able to turn into producers - that is, readers or spectators into collaborators. (Walter Benjamin: The Author as Producer, 1934)

 

Even if we're at times spectators in our own work, there is no passivity in our processes. What we seek the most is proximity to an audience, a mutual acknowledgement of each other's presence; to transgress a taboo at work: an erotic decomposition of the imaginary border between actor and public, process and reception. Erotic, because one is allowed to come closer.


We always conceptualize and prepare environments together with others, but what will happen in them, how artistic activity emerges, is not planned or fixed beforehand. It happens in the opening towards an outside, a collective unveiling of a specific truth of work: isn't is only when we walk or drive on a street that we experience and recognize it as such? There has to be an opening up of possibilities in advance of experience in order for experience to take place. This concept of Martin Heidegger can guide us to leave the theater of the connoisseur, the passive witness that claims the authority of relevant knowledge, and invites us into a theater as a space to spend time in and to be able to make our own experiences: how to knit your own private political body!


Theater as environmentalism characterizes that is has to assert autonomy, that it maintains a resistance, thus claims presence in order to enable a living experience. The environment is the artistic fundament, on which activities proliferate and expand. Proximity can only emerge if there is a distance that is transgressed; distance, once powerful in the regime of the light and sound metaphysics of an impressive theater apparatus, becomes more and more obsolete. Not that the theater has to become and affirm itself as a place for the everyday experience! There is enough space for magic. Only the central control of the course of actions could make place to a manifold of sources of light, sound, imagination. That is when the theater can be re-functionalized by the activities that happen in it. That is when theater can be defined from an actual interest in theater.


Our last works, the Emergence Room and the Entropic Institute, have shown us that there is a public that no longer wants to be passive, no longer seated in-front of something just to witness it. A public that understands that the passive witnessing of any high-intensity execution of controlled out-of-control control obsessions as it is common in theater and choreography today is worn out, as it re-affirms the thrills of a gentrified leisure-time society rather than lending any critical perspective or distance to it. The same is true for the theatrical takeover of anti-globalist activism. Theater as environmentalism is active theater, not theatrical activism!


It is self-evident that nobody is forced into activity. The simple proposal that one can touch things, move in the space, leave notes, document what is there is enough; otherwise parttaking collapses and becomes forced participation where the unprepared participants are always shown-off, made ridiculous or exposed.


For us it is important to address people that decided to share the same environment with us as persons that can all contribute to the artwork. In other words: without you our theater doesn't happen at all. We construct relations, but when they are not made they remain singular and empty in the space.


This is why our theater is a durch-ein-ander (literal translation: through-one-another; the correct translation is mess). Nothing is detached in the space, everything mutually involves everything else, much like in a complex Mobile, where the movement of one element causes all others to move also.


We don't possess our work, we spend it, and we invite others to come and have a walk with it. So be invited in our next environments in Stuttgart, Brussels, Amsterdam, Hamburg and Gent.
 
 deufert&plischke

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