letters from TryAngle

Monday 17th of September 2012

Dear Grandpa,

The second week has begun this morning. Yesterday most of us went elsewhere, to Évora or Lisbon; rested or continued their work. With the detachment there comes a new rhythm. Efficient updated in the white room this morning. Now everyone has to focus. Say yes and say no. Not be the slave of a beginning. Some projects are dropped. New ones emerge. Others want to be finalised. Even if in the spirit of this laboratory, presentation shouldn’t add value to a work, the limits get clearer, what is feasible too. Simply be available or concentrate on a specific vocabulary.

Thomas works on a vocabulary. On Friday he started a project about “mutations” and his concern is older than the stay in Montemor-o-Novo. Thomas is a French stage director, and a drummer also. During the first week he has been collecting people’s monsters. Putting them in a dark room where they rest, maybe. A kind of confession without moral impact. An obsessive “difference”, he calls it, usually kept within us. And this is the same field he investigates when he fills scenes of horror in the cells of the ambulatory downstairs, or when he asks: can I be you? How to mutate?

He refers to the French scientific revue critique, one dedicated to mutants. How does an exception become the rule in pathology? In its programmed death, the mutant cell (exception) goes to another one to be used by it. Examining how the human body functions inside is for Thomas a way to ask what the human being is and what is beyond human life. But without wanting a concept or the representation of a concept. He simply searches for a practical way to question on stage, taking as an example the movement of cells building up looking for proteins before they fall.

He doesn’t know yet what will happen on stage. It would come out as they experiment movements. To begin with, there would be dancers, isolated, then they would slowly merge to couples, trying to make contact with different members, as much as possible, before they separate again. They started the movements. When you look at the bodies, you see clotting, continuity and breaks in the rhythm, bodies searching for a dynamic, as if they were looking for signals, exploring shapes the other could make, unexpectedly. How can a body take the energy of another?

As the project evolves each time they try, they integrate another day what is part of the concrete experience: the language, distorted English that the work between foreigners creates. This situation is the starting point of Jacinto’s participation as a play writer: he makes a comedy with two scientists, Doctor Imagree (Thomas keeps repeating this French expression, “Je suis d’accord” in English “I’m agree”) and his assistant Ofcourse, talking about chromosomes. What the scientists would do on stage I don’t know yet. The dancers are searching for the verbal signal on which they join, say one word, for instance “word”, in Polish, Anna’s language: słowo and Linda replies in Swedish: ord. Anna repeats słowo. Linda repeats ord. Then they start to interfere and say: wosord, the other sordwo, twist faster słorow, roswoł, and so on, until they find słord (pronounced as “sward” in English) and they stop, smiling, repeating the word they have built together, in another, common language, before they go back to the beginning ord – słowo.

The mutant vocabulary Thomas is working out with these very people isn’t bound to this specific context, but understood as an exercise that could find different continuations. This is an example of experimentation where rehearsals do not necessarily end up in a presentation and are still done with the perspective of finding out something, and eventually making a piece. When is work in progress ready to be shown? Each state visibly isn’t. Would premature exposure put the research at a disadvantage, break its potential?

Does this short story of a work in process make any sense? Does it tell itself when told on its way?

“Does art make a difference or does it not?” Ludo Abicht asked. He came to visit the laboratory. A man with a white beard and hope in his eyes, experienced in thoughts – philosophy, German literature, classical philology; not only does he work with academics in America, but also with dancers, teaches at the Belgian school P.A.R.T.S. He asked about the dialectics of art and society in times of globalization. And told us the long relationship between arts and politics. How power has used the arts, how the arts have fought regimes – how tricky the role of artists is in the most fragile moments in history. Should arts serve anything? “Artists have the delicate task to keep the concrete utopian perspective open”, Ludo said to end or opened with the hope “Maybe this is what we should bear in mind when we talk about « artistic freedom »: not just freedom for the individual artist or the artistic company, but for roughly seven billion human beings?”.

You can read his paper I will say no more. But I shall tell you about the lively debate that followed.

Jacinto pointed the strange paradox that artists are considered as being foolish, unrealistic and idealistic, so they are not taken seriously somehow, on one hand, and, on the other, more and more tools, space and means are given to them.

We often ask about the role arts and artists have in society – what is the role of society and each individual towards arts and artists Claudia asks in return. And Ludo told how a few teachers (and a few means a lot) had given him something new, opened up artistic senses, and perhaps this is their duty, because we change, arts make us change. He wondered, as he seemed grateful, carrying the same responsibility I guess, we all do, all those who understand what he sais do. He wondered what is wrong with the education that makes people lose their imagination as they grow older.
Andrea played the uncomfortable role of discord. Not standing the implicit agreement on the political norm and wing. Nor did he agree with the statement arts destined to sale, or take part in commercial circuits, lose their artistic value. Productions are and we investigate them, polymorph as they are. Works are made for the sake of cultural production and demand political neutrality, Andrea said later. But what about the engagement only artists and intellectuals can have and shape, as a responsibility they face? If they believe – when belief means giving worth to a proposition – in the process of symbolisation arts as thoughts play a political role?

Ludo, honestly questioning his words, didn’t have to defend himself, as Leandro understood how he was disposed to dialogue, which will always bear more fruits.

With the fall of night we ate in the upper west ambulatory, a unique scenery, as it was every night.

It was dark and we went downstairs to the cloister. We gathered together in the middle of the courtyard, around the stone well. The ambulatory was lit.

Voices started to resound between the granite columns. Breathing. A melody. From far away. An echo then. Like a shade that follows a shape and becomes another, shape of its own.

“Fado-fade” – chants given to sadness, revived by Jörg.

Every one recognized his transformation. Songs and the foreign imitation they found. Correspondences. Interwoven voices in different tongues. Repeatedly clipped and enlaced.

Some faces cross in silent concentration. Listening to the overlapping layers.
Imaginary landscapes passed on here an now. Resonances revived in archways –

These are, Grandpa, out of many more, three disparate spots of the convent and hope despite the different directions taken in the letter there will be enough consistency – the Montemorian day in which happened what happened here today being the coherence of all lives lived alongside. Have I questioned enough, or missed to drawn a bow? I shall to tell you as simply as I see in the condensed view I can give you – and dream of ubiquity?

With affection yours,
Isis