Possibly the most problematic of all the performances I’ve seen so far in Tanztage, Laura Kalauz’s and Martin Schick’s Title succeeds for being clever then trips over its own feet. A performance also that can go on and on and doesn’t really need to ever finish. Possibly why when ‘END’ was written on the butcher’s paper whiteboard they kept going for quite a while.
I mainly wanted to see Title because they mentioned dear Ludwig in their programme notes, and having been suffering (and occasionally laughing) through On Certainty (Über Gewissheit) was curious to see what might become of him. After all, in Australia Wittgen-who?! is the common depth of philosophy, whereas here, “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.” is a bumper sticker. Not that most people bother with much between that and “Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist.”. Between the two though, there isn’t much left to say anyway.
Innerhalb dieser Recherche und Performance betrachten wir Missverständnisse als Ausganglage für eine “unvernünftige” aber “mögliche” Kommunication. … Dem Ausgangpunkt unserer Arbeit liegt folgendes Zitat von Ludwig Wittgenstein zugrunde: “Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt”.
They arrive on a motorised bicycle, bringing two foldout chairs, with a pattern of large concentric orange and brown circles printed on the fabric. A foldout table, the aforementioned whiteboard easel, and much (small) impedimenta. The board faces away from the audience, though they sit behind, so facing us. She has a dark grey t-shirt saying “.jpeg” in gold. He wears a white t-shirt with (I think) Ian Brown. I am reminded of course, of Wittgenstein in Derek Jarmen’s film giving lectures at Cambridge, he draws a dog on the blackboard in chalk, writes, ‘a dog’ with an arrow pointing towards it, and says, ‘A dog… cannot lie…”.
Martin writes on the board, makes some small, improvised, not too competent dances. Laura does the same, different though. He again, this time coming down to the audience, then she, and turns the board around. “Nothing. Anything. Something. Something Else.” written and crossed out. She says, “Something beautiful…”. He: “Yes”. She: Something new…”. He: “Something to eat.” Not very philosophical. She slaps him. Can he be certain of his pain?
They run around the room. Tap dance, stop, find themselves in arabesques holding hands. After a time they stop. So what’s that about, she asks. They talk about what they have done, about dancing together. They stop. A new sheet of paper. He draws a cloud, two clouds. A third. She draws thought bubbles from one to another. A cloud thinking a cloud. A thought thinking a thought. An empty thought thinking an empty thought. They tell jokes.
Perhaps this is a lecture and I am at university. I was thinking about the question of is this dance, maybe what the woman asked to Hermann and Jana, “Why do you refuse to dance?”, and perhaps in the context of this piece it is a boring question. They don’t dance. mmm… perhaps. Well, they dance around and occasionally he displays some slightly too extended lines or suspensions of weight, disrupting the decidedly undancerly aesthetic of the piece, out of place enough to be intentional even, and they tap dance rather well. But asking for it to be dance in the way say, one can say with certainty, “that is dance”, is like asking a dog to be a pineapple.
Am I learning anything, then? I learn a new joke: “Man loses a hand. Goes to a second hand shop.” (She throws away some objects, a pingpong paddle, from the table.) “A German eats an Oyster.” He bangs on the table, “Aufmachen!!!”, throws the table away. That’s the end of that line of philosophical enquiry.
They talk at the audience in repetitive cycles until an outbreak of fidgeting, talking, unruly classroom behaviour erupts. I think perhaps that is the point. An overture begins. They dance around the stage until it is cut abruptly. They sit in chairs on opposite sides.
It is clever enough to make me attentive, yet also it it makes me angry. Howard Barker, in an interview I read perhaps about the time I saw Wittgenstein, said:
If they think safely, what is the virtue of them? Do you want to pay £10 to be told what you already knew? That is theft. do you want to agree all the time? That is flattery and the audience is always flattered, which is why it has become sleek.
An honoured audience will quarrel with what it’s seen, it will go home in a state of anger, not because it disapproves, but because it was taken where it was reluctant to go. Thus morality is created in art, by exposure to pain and illegitimate thought.
I would like to say it is because of the latter that I was annoyed, but rather it was there was not enough of this. Yes, it was intelligent and thoughtful, but it also fits neatly within what a particular representation of dance is currently dwelling over. In this, there is no Missverständnis, that the tropes of conceptual performance are not met with the same rigorous analysis as the concept. It is not so different from watching Jérôme Bel pull off t-shirts with slogans on them, but ten years later.
They talk in inane aphorisms at each other, every possible one with ‘silence’ in it, like the shirts, one after another, yes, of course Wittgenstein arrives and departs. Martin does also. Leaving Laura alone sitting in the chair. She pulls off her shirt. There is an identical one underneath. She falls off her chair. very… slowly…
Once they have rolled all the way upstage, they pause to discuss how it is going. They ask what sound a dog makes in Germany, in Argentina, cow, a cock, a cock in Switzerland, in France, in China (喔喔喔!). They begin removing everything in the space, writing what what there on the floor with white markers, ‘chair’ ‘cigarette pack’, “it’s the same as in…” they say, with a different incomparable example, and agreeing. Funny that “It’s the same as in PNG where they have four sexes” got a laugh even though “It’s the same as in Switzerland where Nazi people can put money in banks” didn’t. The audience might be also considered then, as part of the performance.
Still thinking about Jana’s HAUS, I decide in some regards they are quite similar. What I would have liked then in Title was to see the same intensity of detail that befits Ludwig’s Tractatus. Maybe I am being a pretentious snob. I felt this also in Suites with Rosalind Goldberg, that to deal with such music in such an offhand and casual way is not a question of being disrespectful, but one of laziness. Or perhaps misunderstanding. It is as if everyone was reading Lacan through Žižek’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lacan… But Were Afraid to Ask Hitchcock and only looked at the pictures.
Which all sounds rather negative, and perhaps the preceding night and day of staring at code left me a little dazed. Title is rather good, funny, clever, worth seeing with a philosopher while slightly drunk.