A day off from rehearsals today, and Monday plus the religious holiday Epiphany means no museums are open, so it’s off for a wander around Bologna to see some porticos, churches, terracotta colours, window shutters, more churches, more porticos, some excellent doors, not many trees at all, a lot of alleys and winding streets, a couple of city gates, quite a few relatively new-ish modernist buildings which are in sense architecturally identical to the old ones and are well-tasty in that high, internationalist modernism way, churches again, various small religious icons of the Mary (with or without Jesus) variety embedded in façades competing with plaques and coats of arms for quantity, and finally the grand Piazza Maggiore where I met Dasniya for coffee and cake while sitting outside Palazzo Re Enzo. Very tourist, me.
Mübarek ramazan bayramınız kutlu olsun!
Another week gone, into the fifth week in Vienna, and yesterday it seemed we found the show, Ramadan is into the second week, and I discovered Orphan Black. Yesterday was also our last day for the moment in Kasino Theater. The ImPulsTanz party is there tomorrow, so we’ve scooted back across town to Volks Oper for the next days, hopefully moving back to Kasino early next week as it’s empty and it makes much more sense to be using that space seeing we’ve arrived at set-costumes-lights-sound stage (and with that, Giacomo is also arriving).
Today Ivo veers off to rehearse X-on, which is being performed on Sunday, so my morning and early afternoon is unexpectedly free. Another arrival later this afternoon, is Dasniya, who is teaching Yoga & Shibari this weekend and next week. Hopefully rehearsals will fit that I can turn up also.
The last week in Kasino, then. We’ve made and discarded so many scenes, found several endings and similarly discarded them. Sometimes an idea would work sublimely once and then each subsequent time become more and more forced. The script has been progressively hacked shorter, though still sits around eighty minutes, but for the moment it’s only one part of the third act that falls over. Still, it’s a reliable occurrence that when we get one problem scene sorted, it affects other scenes, usually in different acts requiring more surgery.
Yesterday, Christian Bakalov arrived and watched us run through the whole thing. We’d been working on some ideas all day for delivering the text in the third act in an especially grotesque manner, and somehow – perhaps the desperation of an audience of one – caused everything to fall into some kind of order that for the first time looked like a performance. A very intense, occasionally hysterical performance.
And speaking of performances, Tuesday I got to see Ultima Vez’ What the Body Does Not Remember. Twenty-seven years since its premiere and not looking dated, which is a marked rarity in dance. It was well-impressive also, much throwing around of selves in the way Garry Stewart does at ADT — actually it reminded me of his stuff quite a bit, though more if it was mashed together with mid-’90s Frankfurt Ballet. It was also not infrequently annoyingly heteronormative, which I expect from Wim anyway, but it’s still tiring to watch. I did wish though I’d had that kind of training when I was at VCA in Melbourne, instead of the American Modern (and occasionally Post-Modern) Dance fixation, which never interested me and has had no bearing on what I do (other than avoiding it). Oh, and the dancers were fucking insane, just bloody brilliant, and keeping up that relentless intensity till the end … most impressive, especially from the front row.
Another event in the week was running out of books to read. I finished off Iain Banks’ last one, The Quarry (haven’t blogged it yet), which led to the discovery of Orphan Black. This came about on Sunday courtesy the wonderful Charlie Jane Anders on io9 (yes, I somewhat regularly read this site, but to be fair, mostly I look forward to what Charlie writes), and in the comments was a mention of this series, referencing Torchwood, and seeing I’ve already worked my way through Arrow, I thought, OK, perhaps just one …
Ten episodes later (and four of them last night), and this is now my favourite show. The science is mostly accurate and well-done – far better than most – the ethical and moral issues are handled very cleverly, and the script, the acting … it’s not Game of Thrones, the universe isn’t that large so it doesn’t require such a monstrous budget, but really it’s the best science-fiction show I’ve seen since Firefly. Better than recent Doctor Who episodes also (and filmed in Toronto!).
I’m especially enjoying it because the lead role goes to a female which is still – especially in science-fiction – depressingly rare, and the main supporting role to a beautiful, makeup-wearing, femme-butch gay boy, Felix. I don’t think I’ve seen a role like his that hasn’t either been written as a caricature or as tragic, especially in the last few years when everyone ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ on TV is trying so very hard to show how very much ‘just like you’ they all are, desexed and only interested in marriage. And he even has sex with a large, black bear of a man; he’s the best bent role since Captain Jack.
Back to Sarah/Beth/Alison/Cosima/Helena/Katja/Rachel/etc, she’s a clone so that explains that, and all the clones are played uncannily by one actor. It’s disconcerting, especially when one plays another, which happens often. Obviously I have a thing for Cosima, who is the best queer-ish female I’ve seen on TV, super smart and so sexy (and her lover Delphine also, and yes, this is the second decade of the 21st century, we see bed action!), and maybe it’s just me, but somehow I think her character, dress, mannerisms, glasses, is based a bit on Lana Wachowski.
Anyway, Ramadan is into its second week and I’m still performing it in a pretend way, fasting as much as I can, doing Iftar, reading some about Islam, and yes, it’s basically Christianity (in any of its forms) or Judaism with the names changed, and the adherents behave in much the same way, mindless fixatation on social policing, obsessional literalism, hegemonic absolutism, the usual amounts of misogyny, heteronormativity, xenophobia … religion, basically. Amidst all this pathetic dross is something beautiful, an attentiveness to life, to self, the people around one’s self, to the physical world, to the philosophy of being, to restraint, humility, care, to pleasure, to joy. Ramadan carries this within it precisely because it’s an act that’s been performed in a codified manner by billions of people for thousands of years, which is why just doing this at any old time doesn’t have the same weight; it’s the sense and awareness of social participation that makes it such a profound personal experience. It’s also caused me to cook far more diligently, seeing there’s only one chance in the day to stuff my mouth.
Off to rehearsal now.
It is 20:35, and I am waiting for the sun to set and then some additional minutes until I can eat, until Iftar. I don’t have the three dates, nor did I fast since dawn, which in Vienna is 5am, nor have I prayed as I don’t even know the prayers and anyway, I’m an atheist, so what am I talking about here?
A few years ago now, it slipped out in a conversation that my grandmother – my father’s mother – was Turkish and Muslim, something like, “Oh, that’s why she couldn’t stay with you, because the kitchen wasn’t Halal.” Living in Berlin, living especially in Wedding has meant seeing a lot of daily Turkish life on the street, which in turn has led to a lot of probably meaningless questions such as, “What does it mean to be the grandchild such as this, who was named because of her, who has fundamentally no idea about any of this?”
It was earlier this year I started thinking about Ramadan, or Ramazan as it is in Turkey (according to WikiPedia) and thinking perhaps I might attempt it one year, maybe this year. As the date lurched nearer, and I began doing some study in earnest, and then came to Vienna, I decided it was all a little ambitious of me, and thought instead I’d spend the month perhaps occasionally fasting, and much more importantly learning about these two things: Turkey and Islam.
To reiterate (and perhaps protest too much), I’m an atheist, and I’m not doing this out of any crypto-religiosity. I think to be concise, it’s perhaps like this: my grandmother, being Muslim (and because of our haraam kitchen, I think not Alevi) observed Ramadan, and being Turkish observed it in that particular way. Besides these two things, I know she lived in Jo’burg in South Africa, married an Afrikaner, had at least one child, and was named Aişe. And couldn’t stay in our house because of the kitchen. I’ve had a curiosity about things Central Asian, Persian, and so also Islamic for much longer than I’ve known about her, and living in Berlin my interest has obviously shifted westwards to Turkey and to the history of Turkish immigration to Germany and my current home city. It turns out I know nothing about this.
It was only recently I learnt of the existence of Alevi in Turkey; I thought I was doing ok having some general understanding of the Kurds and knowing a bit about why there are also Kazakhs living in western Turkey. But not even knowing of a group comprising around a quarter of the population (depending on which estimate one ascribes to) fairly well illustrated complete lack of knowledge.
So. Ramadan. Not doing it. Kind of paying attention to it. Probably will do a bit of it before the month is up. I mean, the fasting from dawn to dusk is such a small part of it – and probably the easiest – when I know nothing of the culture, the habits, routines, not to mention how to properly do Iftar in the evening, Sahur in the morning, Kadr Suresi, let alone the prayers. The prayers of which there are many and varied even before the Ramazan Terâvih namazı additions.
Spending the month of Ramazan, when there is also an emphasis on reflection and contemplation, learning about Islam in Turkey, be it Hanafi Sunni, Alevi Shia or any of the others, if nothing else seems like a fun way to reduce my stupidity. Also, because I wonder how she lived, and what it was like for her.
So, the sun has well set, it’s Iftar, I have no dates, and I should say, “Allah’ım! Senin için oruç tuttum, sana inandım, sana dayandım, Senin verdiğin rızıkla orucumu açtım. Yarının orucuna da niyet ettim, benim geçmiş ve gelecek günahlarımı bağışla”, but I can’t even translate it properly; something to work on for the month then. I can say, “Ramazan ayınız mübarek olsun!”
A Jesuit missionary named Èdouard de Gex remarked there are two kinds of Satanist, one who genuinely believes in the devil and so by their belief can be saved, as their belief in the infernal is founded upon a counterpoint to their belief in God. Simply put, they are fallen, but not beyond grace. The other maintains only the appearance of debased belief as an atheist mockery of all religion. This latter one is beyond salvation for in their offense to God through their pretense of Satanism, they reveal themselves utterly devoid of faith and have eternally fallen from grace. Funnily enough de Gex believed himself to have been raised from the dead through various Black Rites, and maintains erotic fantasies about putting certain people to the lash, stake and other sundry tools of the late Inquisition.
So in the spirit of all things mocking…
Back in Vevey for a couple of days. Zurich was getting boring without anyone to cause trouble with. They all pissed off like rats ditching a sinking ship. Traitors. Anyway, today’s my birthday, and China revaluated the yuan by 2.7% or something equally phenomenal in celebration. World finance markets and amateur speculators all missed the boat and are scrabbling around in an idiotic frenzy to make a buck out of it. Bought Harry Potter along with the rest of the illiterate world and read it on the train. Glad the next book’s the last. Off to celebrate and annihilate a few more neurons. A bit like torching ants with a magnifying glass.