Scripting the Attention
Practical investigation in a sensorial dramaturgy of signs
With David Weber-Krebs, Nicole Beutler and Igor Dobricic
Everyone knows what attention is. It is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought. Focalization, concentration, of consciousness are of its essence. It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrained state which in French is called distraction, and Zerstreutheit in German.
In contemporary philosophy and social theory (from McLuhan to Foucault ) discursive practices are on different levels considered to be directly responsible for the organization of a sensorium. In the realm of performing arts this supposedly discursive ordering of the sensorial material resonates well with the classical discipline of dramaturgy which is articulating action (on and off stage) in terms of (dramatic) text. Yet, performativity as a term that transcends the theatrical context and that is a part of the broader field of cultural studies also implies an inverted relation of the sensation to the discursive field – not only that a sensorium is shaped by the strategic manipulation of a social, cultural and political process of signification, but the sign systems themselves are affected and put in question by the immediate, embodied acts of self expression and communication.
By choosing to perceive the relationship between discourse (process of signification) and sensorium (sensation, perception and affect) as an essentially two directional exchange, we would like to suspend for a moment traditional supremacy of language (sign, image, word) over direct and immediate spatio-temporal experience of action and to bring these two aspects of performativity on equal footing. This would than allow us to explore how, in the context of contemporary theatre, the discursive shapes sensation AND how the sensorial affects discourse. Furthermore we would like to consider implications of this dynamisation between the “text” (writing/reading the performance) and the “sensorium” (affecting/sensing the performance) in a hope that this could assist us in decoding the structure of a theatrical experience in a new and unexpected way
We are not aiming towards a revolutionary re-invention of the organizational principles or scripting methods in theatre. On the contrary. It is in a nature of any theatrical event to exist between visceral and discursive levels and in this sense every dramaturgical theory in history had to deal with the same problem of the relation between presence and meaning, force and sign. Instead of proposing radically different set of dramaturgical principles we would like to approach existing ones from the changed perspective so that we can grasp ancient dramaturgical problems in a new, more contemporary way. We would also like to test implications of this new perspective concretely, in practice.
This project (and the enagement with students from Bochum) should generate content which could than land into the Orbis Pictus – Theatrum Mundi conference in October (around 400 people in varying lectures, moving between several spaces).
Having this goal in mind, during the intial two weeks of joint work in August and on the basis of the material that participants bring into the process:
literary or theoretical texts of relevance
concrete documentation related to the history of performance
personal (al)ready-mades – actions, scripts, ideas
we would like to proceed in following steps:
1. Generate working situation in which the classical dramaturgical notion – line of action could be temporarily reframed into the more generous and ambiguous formulation – movement of attention.
2. Test in practice the validity of the movement of attention as a temporary conceptual bridge between the discursive and sensorial aspect of a performative event and furthermore between dramaturgy of the stage action and the dramaturgy of the audience perception.
3. Explore, through a continuous exchange of roles in a shared stage/audience situation, in what way the movement of attention can affect and be affected by injunctions of language in form of (mis)direction, signalization, instruction, information and/or narration.
3. Pack the performative strategies generated through this joint stage/audience exploration of attention into a number of working toolkits ready to be unpacked and implemented during the conference.
In our working session in Essen (first two weeks of August) we will therefore meet and exchange with the students theatrical fascinations, translate those into material that moves attention, with a focus on reorienting the seen and the understood by using means of language and/or presence.
The last week before the conference we would like to continue working here in Amsterdam, unpacking toolkits generated in Essen, preparing ourselves to infiltrate the conference with surprising performative shifts, encounters and subversive messages, appearing in unexpected moments and places. Those could have the possible format of sudden interventions, invisible theatre stagings, temporary exhibitions, undercover operations, leaflet hand-outs, viral implants, or straightforward performance-events.
Nicole Beutler (1969, D/NL) is a choreographer, theatermaker and performer living and working in Amsterdam since fifteen years. She studied Fine Arts at the Arts Academies of Münster and München, German Literature at the University of Münster and subsequently Dance and Choreography at the SNDO, Theaterschool in Amsterdam. Her work is situated on the threshold of dance, performance and visual arts, she focusses on the subtle articulation of sense in form of performance projects, installations and books. Her recent works include the work-in-progress Les Sylphides (2007/2008) and the performances Enter Ghost (2006) and The Sensation is Real (2007), the exact position of things (2005), several species of small furry animals… (2003) and Sonntag (2002). Her work is based on ideas, yet accessible, and executed with detailed precision, sensitivity and humor. She collaborated for many years with choreographer and performer Paz Rojo, she worked on several projects of David Weber-Krebs, with the live art group Private Thoughts in Public Places , with Hooman Sharifi, Edit Kaldor and since 1999 with Jérôme Bel. She also works as artistic adviser for other choreographers, and as guest-teacher at the School for New Dance Development and the Mime department of the Theaterschool in Amsterdam. For the period of 2006-2008 she receives project funding from the FAPK. She is the mother of one child.
David Weber-Krebs (1974, Liège, B/D) studied French literature and religion sciences in Fribourg and Berlin and graduated from the Mimeschool at the Theatershool in Amsterdam. His work is an effort to combine philosophical and political interrogations around metaphysics, romanticism or the sublime with reflections on the mechanisms and potential of a situation given in a theatre. His work cultivates ambiguity, between transcendence and immanence, between fascination and critical distance. David develops ideas that find their realization in performances, films, writings and installations. His recent performance works are this performance (2004), Fade out (2005) and the words Jonathan said (2007). David is currently collaborating with Alexander Schellow on the project Theaterminiatur.
Igor Dobricic (1966, Belgrade, SRB,) studied dramaturgy at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade, (former) Yugoslavia. In 1995 he started the job of the dramaturge for the Belgrade International Theatre festival (BITEF). In a same time he embarked on an experimental performance work with the group of teenagers, creating, together with them and in a period of four years, small body of work. This work came to be of particular importance for him as it gave him an opportunity to systematically explore the parameters of performative action in-between the different fixed contexts (theatre and visual arts, professional and non-professional status, individual and group work, aesthetics and ethics, etc…) In Summer of 1999 European Cultural Foundation offered him a position as a coordinator of the Arts programme and he decided to move to Holland. Almost in the same time he was admitted to the postgraduate course at the De Amsterdamse School/Advanced Research in Theatre and dance Studies (DasArts). During his study in DasArts he created a number of installations and solo performances mostly experimenting with the parameters of the performer/audience presence inside a specific space/time context.. Starting from 2005. he is developing new project platform for the ECF (www.almostreal.org) and is collaborating as a dramaturge with a number of choreographers/makers ( Nicole Beutler, Keren Levi, Nora Heillman, Diego Gil, Katrina Brown, etc ). In 2006. he started working with students of dance and choreography at the School for New Dance Development (SNDO) as a guest-teacher of dramaturgy and concept development.