"For the sake of the exercise..."
August 2012... I got out of the Kasino am Schwartzenberg Platz, Vienna... Two girls jut behind me, talking...
"Why 20 euro for 5 minutes of poetry and 200 euro for a simulated sex scene? I don't get it..."
"It is easier to write poetry on a stage than pretending to have sex in public... Exposure must be better paid..."
"I am not that sure... I think it is because sex sells better... "
"Come on, it is art market, not porn industry..."
"Well... What about the tap dance?"
The copyright for the idea of "betraying the concepts" (quoted in the title) belongs to Ivo Dimchev. I heard him many times speaking about it and I fully agreed to his vision that I perceived this way: the authenticity of the performance can be preserved only if it is able to contradict its own concepts, to integrate them in the realm of an eternal questioning. Little by little, it became clear to me that, in criticism, if this fact is not assumed also, concepts would die and there would be a way neither to betray, nor to construct anything further... The betrayal of the concepts became soon to me the only possibility to prevent my activity from becoming a trip to a cemetery of ideas and keep it as alive as I could. Dimchev's methodology of constructing his performances proved to me a good practice to be transferred on the ground of criticism.
His recent performance P Project is the best example for the way in which an artist keeps his awareness awake, by constantly refuting his own means of expression, his own aesthetic tools in order to go further into the investigation of his own possibilities of opening a new space of artistic action. With this performance, I could see how concepts related to the nature of the performance were blocked, shocked, distorted into new situations on stage.
I could tell you how a performer enters the stage, sits near his piano and tell us about a previous project (Pussy Catalogue) that was not brought to an end... or I could tell you how people are invited to write poetry on a computer and their words are getting to Ivo Dimchev, on a screen placed on his piano and he turns them into music... Poetry and music become the environment for people that are invited to undertake different actions: tap dance, breakdance, kissing, simulating a sex scene... I could tell you how they get paid: 20 euros for poetry, 40 euro for dance, 50 euro for kissing, 200 euro for simulated sex... I could tell you that this payment is made out of the budget received by the performer to present this performance... But... why should I tell you all these? I will not tell you, you will have to find out for yourselves... The narrative of the critical discourse would hide the real openings of the stage actions undertaken by Dimchev and his audience...
The performer assumed to integrate the unattainment of a previous project in this new performance, which clearly meant that the newly created foundation was the awareness resulted from the betrayal of a concept; and even more clearly that the only engine of coming with something meaningful can be achieved only through opposing, contradicting, reshaping yourself constantly.
The criteria of paying an artistic act questioned to its naked bones.
The value bleeding relativity until its necessity to being completely reconsidered.
Art market politically pushed towards the knife of the greatest question mark of performance today (what is it? I am sure you know it!)...
Audience, spectator, whatever that means, what does it mean after tonight? Surveillance...
I sit on my chair and watch.
I paid to watch.
So let's watch more attentively!
At the end of the performance at Hebbel Theatre in Berlin, Dimchev invited two persons to write, in 5 minutes, one positive article and a negative one about the performance they just witnessed. But there was no more budget and the audience was invited to donate. Shall I ponder on the condition of the critic today? No! But I cannot help smiling at the irony that 5 min of writing in this performance got more money than most of the articles that I happen to write wherever in Romania. Oh, sorry! I forgot that I have to write only for the sake of writing, that I was inoculated with the moral of serving art only out of love for art...
Sitting on my chair and watching, I witnessed and projected things already there, in the routine of my judgement and perception... What I really experienced was an urgent need to betray my own concepts, to resist what was evident to me: all the estrangement postulated by Marx and transplanted from the traditional labour market to the art market; the theory of desire and the steady questionable nature of taboos elaborated by Freud... and so on... My presence, while watching the performance started to feel like a library, in the sense that I was tempted to correlate stage actions with concepts that I previously assimilated. And I stopped in front of the conceptual shelves that I had just started to open in my mind. The "betrayal of the concept" was of course the key: resisting a theory while assimilating it, my inner books being critically questioned while deeply loved. A real library, in order to remain in history and preserve its full knowledge should be burnt down... It is the same with collections of concepts, with libraries built within of the watcher's representational field. So, the essence of a library (be it concrete or configurated at psychological or conceptual level) remains only if it is burnt... to the ground...
So to the ground I went... namely to the audience, provided by Ivo Dimchev with the main part in the performance. I found it important to discover the motivation of those who constructed the performance with Ivo Dimchev and this brings forth the most normal act: they are paid from the budget of the show, they do not sell themselves as some of the watchers may have suspected. As they are part of the show, it is natural to be paid from the budget of the show, no matter what the criteria would be. The standard is fixed according to the most normal thing. Yes, it is a position of power. But you live in this world, postdramatic, (post)marxist and post- everything and not among innocently painted fat Renaissence angels. The employer sets the standard of payment. You accept it. Or you sit and watch like I did. Fair enough.
After this last line creeping like smoke from my burning library, let us here some of the people who participated in Ivo Dimchev's performance:
I was one of the "poets". I had had an argument with my boyfriend before the performance and so I thought I could use my poetry to help apologize to him. I wrote a few things in my poetry that was a secret message to my boyfriend. Ivo sang these words beautifully. I was happy to receive 20€ but this was not a major motivator. It was exciting, however. I felt electricity being on stage. I liked what I was wearing, and felt attractive. I loved this performance. I found it a very smart concept. I enjoyed watching it and was happy to be a part of it. There are few contemporary dance pieces that I feel sincerely bridge / challenge the gap between stage and audience. This was one that I felt did it in a playful, clever and meaningful way. Being on stage made me feel much invested in the piece, I found myself wanting everything to work perfectly, for everyone to participate in a sincere, meaningful way. (Benjamin Nemerofsky Ramsay)
I wanted cash to pay my phone bill... I wanted to support Ivo... I wanted to celebrate, because the performance was working and was inspiring me to get crazy.I was supposed to stage a sex scene, I was super uncomfortable, I felt like I might throw up, but I kind of like that tension, I was fake making out with my friend Maria and it was like wrestling, we finally got into it the smoke helped. That is the brilliance of Ivo's work that he exposes everything; there is a constant accounting for what is happening that contextualizes the event... (Jeremy Wade)
While writing as the good critic I felt a bit like shit because I knew that I didn't do it good, as I was too nervous, but I felt also funny and like smiling. After, when he asked us what we expect as salary for what we wrote, I suddenly saw myself being carried by ten naked men over the stage, (really I saw this picture) and I believed that it would be really possible, that the space was so open that people would do it, and that it would be possible to make the whole space go wild and I found it much better than getting money, so I asked for this and it became all very funny to me. I think I also wanted to make the show continue, because it was so nice being there. I was very connected with my desires and not so interested in money anymore.
Later I understood this moment on a different level, that Ivo puts the position of a critic in question. The critic can be very powerful, can help or destroy a show, no? Or can try to. I think it would be a good thing to ask the people who write critics about the value of their work. Critics are so often faceless people you never see them, and they stay protected in the dark. You don't know who they are and why they have the right to judge you publicly and also you don't know their taste, if they are happy or frustrated. It would be so cool if the judgments would be made more face to face... (Claire Vivianne Sobottke)
"Can you synthetize this article in three sentences?"
"For the sake of the exercise..."
"Of course I can...
2. Marx was right
3. Papa Freud analyze this..."
Not too much Freud, not too much Marx in this article about Ivo Dimchev's P Project. Why? Because my own concepts should be betrayed while writing, so the ash of the library should fill the refreshed knowledge in.
As far as Eartha Kitt and her song Sell Me! are concerned and have to do with P Project, as one can find no perceivable shade of it... shhhhhh... this has to remain unheard and unexplained.
(Foto: Maximilian Pramatarov)