I will start with a dialogue between you and me. It is fictional because you and me never had it. It is not fictional because I have been having it at least once a week for the past 6 years.
As a performance maker coming from a bachelor of fine arts I am repeatedly confronted wth the things that I am not. That is a repetition that I repeatedly find very frustrating, as is the question ‘so what are you gonna be when you graduate from your masters?’ but let’s skip that for now. As a performance maker coming from a bachelor of fine arts I am repeatedly confronted with the following questions:
YOU: So, are you a painter?
ME: Not really.
YOU: Can you draw?
ME: No, not really.
YOU: Can you write this text on the board for me with nice letters?
ME: I don’t think so.
YOU: So are you a sculptor?
YOU: Performance! That’s like dance right? So must be a dancer?
YOU: Then performance is like theatre right, so you are an actress?
ME: Not exactly.
YOU: Do you write?
ME: Yes! Yes I do.
YOU: Do you write novels?
ME: No, never did.
YOU: So you write more theoretical academic essays and stuff?
ME: That hasn’t worked out that well so far.
YOU: Do you make photographs?
YOU: Can you make nice pictures of my concert?
ME: Yes, I could make some kind of pictures of your concert.
YOU: Nice! Do you have professional equipment?
YOU: But you film right?
ME: Yes, I use my camera a lot.
YOU: So your camera must have pretty good analysis right?
ME: No, it’s shit.
YOU: But you want to buy a new one?
ME: No, I like it.
YOU: Do you direct actors and stuff for your films?
ME: Not exactly.
YOU: Do you make scenography and props?
ME: No, I haven’t.
YOU: Do you follow a script?
ME: No, usually I film my family or things I find interesting around me.
YOU: Oh your family! So you are interested in families? I can tell you a great story about my family I’m sure it would make a great movie or theatre play. You want that?
ME: I don’t really want to make movies or plays about other families.
YOU: So you are only interested in your family? Are your parents together?
ME: They are divorced.
YOU: Ahaaaaaaaaaa, so it is like a trauma right? You are working through your art on the trauma that your parents’ divorce has left you with?
ME: I wouldn’t say so, I don’t feel traumatized at all from it.
YOU: But it must have been difficult for sure, the divorce and childhood and stuff?
ME: I don’t think so. It went quite smooth.
YOU: So you are greek right? Are you making work about the greek crisis?
ME: Not directly, I never did.
YOU: About feminism?
ME: Not exactly.
YOU: About climate change?
ME: Not really.
YOU: About social media?
YOU: About the future?
YOU: About technology?
YOU: About historical events?
YOU: About current political issues?
YOU: Art for galleries?
YOU: Art for the theatre?
ME: Maybe, yes.
YOU: Art for the streets?
ME: Could be.
YOU: Art for books?
ME: Yes, I have made a book.
YOU: Like a novel?
YOU: A poetry book?
ME: Not really.
YOU: Art for art?
ME: I wouldn’t say so.
YOU: Physical theatre?
ME: Not really.
YOU: Do you direct?
ME: Yes, sometimes.
YOU: Do you have your own company?
YOU: Do you perform?
ME: I do.
YOU: So you are an actress?
ME: No, I am not.
YOU: Do you do monologues?
ME: Kind of, it is involving the audience somehow.
YOU: Oh like participatory performances?
ME: You could say that.
YOU: So you ask the people to move and build stuff and that kind of thing.
ME: No, they don’t really have to move.
YOU: They have to talk?
YOU: …To sing?
YOU: …To write texts?
YOU: (walks away)
It all started with my name. Antrianna. Not Adrianna, because the letter D doesn’t exist in Greek and an N plus a T make a D. Not Antriana. My parents couldn’t agree on how many N’s are supposed to be there, somehow the two NN version made it till the end even though it is a mistake. You see, it doesn’t come from Anna. It comes from Antreas, my grandfather. Yes, Andrew in english but in greek Antreas. When my dad did the papers for my American passport (long story) he decided to take his shot on defining how my name should be written. So now for the US I am Andriane. Do you understand the confusion? In Greece Antrianna, in US Andriane, in the rest of the world not Andrianna, not Adriana, not Adrianna, not Antriana.
In the art field not a painter, not a dancer, not an actress, not a writer, not a film maker, not a photographer. What then? I paint, I dance, I sing and I perform in the theatre. I have not trained for the years that professional dancers and actresses usually train. I dance but I’m not a dancer. Am I?
I have been working my ways out of this question for sometime now. Words like : but, not, kind of, not really are very often used in my writing and speaking when it comes to defining my artistic identity. As Pavlos noticed during my audition for MTP ‘I have been continuously defining myself in the negative.’ My first response to that realization was something like: ok this is shit, I will stop it. I thought I did, until the dialogue on the left appeared on my screen, typed by my fingers when I was supposed to be writing about repetition and everydayness. So without intending to, here I am talking about being continuously defined in the negative. This text cannot go on till the end like a diary. I need some support, I need some references, I need Peggy Phelan and I need Gilles Deleuze to give names to what I have described so far as being defined in the negative. For Peggy Phelan it is the unmarked. For Gilles Deleuze it’s the body without organs. Being unmarked seems to me like a position given to a person by the other, while being a body without organs is a decision, a personal choice. How to go from being unmarked to becoming a body without organs?
Two possibly irrelevant thoughts that made it through the selection:
1. I thought the word boyfriend was bothering me all these years but it’s not. It’s the pronoun ‘my’ that bothers me. My is problematic. Boyfriend is fine.
2. Is there a difference between missing you and repeatedly longing you?
In her book Unmarked: The Politics of Performance Peggy Phelan develops the notion of the unmarked in regards to gender, saying that the male is the one marked with value and the female is the unmarked lacking measured value and meaning. Borrowing Phelan’s idea and placing it in the field of performance making I would like to identify as value/meaning the process of repetitive learning, otherwise called training. For marked being the one who has gone through the processes that usually provide the status of a dancer, actor, etc. and unmarked being the one who without going through those processes still dances and acts within the performance field. For Phelan the unmarked is always defined in relation to the marked. Therefore in the performance field the identity of the unmarked/untrained is only perceived as a negative of the one who holds value, being remarked by the marked. That relation to the marked she defines as ‘a form of both resisting and claiming the other’ and in that action she finds a loss, ‘the loss of not-being the other and yet remaining dependent on that other for self-seeing, self being.’(Phelan, 13) What I understand here is that in looking at the other, I see all the things I am not but not necessarily the things I desire to be. This dependency is giving me the illusion of desiring a certain identity. It is like looking at the ex-lover of my lover. Comparing myself to her even though I know that right now I am the winner, the one who holds the position of the lover. Knowing that I am sometimes compared to, perceived in relation to the ex-other is what turns the other into a myth. As if there is more value in the past, just because it only exists in memory. A complete, defined and therefore valid entity compared to a shaky, always - changing present. Blinded by the comparison I desire to become that past even though I know that it led to the failure that a break up is. Blinded by the comparison I desire to be defined as an actress. ‘There is real power in remaining unmarked’ (Phelan, 6) as there is real power in becoming what Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari describe in their 1972 book Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia as the body without organs. A body that liberated from the structured mechanism of organs is able to produce new things. As a performance maker I desire to be that body without organs instead of the idealized memory of the ex-lover, stupidly still believing that there is such a thing as ‘new things’.
I want to repeat the quote of Phelan here ‘Identity is perceptible only through a relation to an other - which is to say, it is a form of both resisting and claiming the other’ (Phelan, 13) and a quote from Deleuze and Guattari ‘The full body without organs is produced as antiproduction’ (Deleuze and Guattari, p15) With those two I linger for a bit on what it means to be anti.
In the same way that being Antrianna doesn’t make me anti-Adriana, anti-Antriana and so on, being what I am artistically doesn’t make me anti-painter, anti-dancer, anti-actress.
I do not want to constantly be anti.There is a loss in always showing resistance. The loss of always having to re claim my ground. Especially in the frame of education constant resistance to how things are supposed to be becomes a topic rather than a choice. I become a character who is supposed to be: slightly outside, resisting, always searching ways out of the academic. This character who is always ‘supposed to’ is not a personal choice, it is a position given by the observer, it is being remarked by the marked. Is this position a matter of time or a matter of learning? It is too soon and too limiting to become a character and certainly difficult to un-become once becoming identified as such. This character I see as one of the barbarians of C.P.Cavafy.
What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?
The barbarians are due here today.
Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?
Because the barbarians are coming today.
What’s the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.
Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor’s waiting to receive their leader.
He’s even got a scroll to give him,
loaded with titles, with imposing names.
Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.
Why don’t our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.
Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?
Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven't come.
And some of our men just in from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.
Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.
C. P. Cavafy, "Waiting for the Barbarians" from C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard
Here is a break from self exploring and editing and re editing and re editing. Here is a text written following the pattern of the script of Forced Entertainment in SPEAK BITTERNESS. Written at once, never been edited. Using their organs for new production and reflection. Maybe I just need a break from repeatedly saying I, I, I, I. Can I rest for a bit in the safety of being a WE?
We saw SPEAK BITTERNESS by Forced Entertainment in 2014, in Berlin. We remember everything the bike ride there, the waiting for the performance to start, the cigaret just before. We entered a space where six performers were already on stage. We sat pretty much in the front so we could see their faces. We could see them coming and confessing one at a time. We heard a lot. “We confess to fraud. We are guilty of homemade bombs and homemade wine. We ate the last cookie.” We think that we equals me plus you plus them. We think that Austin would talk about the performativity of words, what they do, what the confessing does, we wonder if confessing a crime is in some sort of way committing it. How about the spectator getting inspired by the the crime we confess and going home and copying it? We are thinking what Butler would say. Where is the gender gender gender gender in all these ? What gender does the we have what gender does the we perform? We are thinking of what Brecht would say, distancing the audience, political work “everything is political” we are wondering what happened to the fourth wall after all, who is the performer, only the six of them or are we also the we that are guilty of homemade bombs and homemade wine, we that ate the last cookie how did they know we ate the last cookie, are they watching us at home?stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop stop taaaaaaaaake a breaaaaaath. We are George Bush because the we can name names and we started the war in Iraq we are American we are George Bush and we really really really do not want to be George Bush. We are old very old so very old we invented fire we are monolithic, neolithic, protolithic, avant garde, we are post modern, post human, we are postmen, we are family men we are cheating family men we have phalluses we have power we look ourselves in the mirror for the first time and we have a phallus, oh yes finally we have a phallus so we are strong we are so strong we can burn villages and kill cities. We are cruel, we are the protagonists of the theatre of cruelty we are Antonin Artaud and we are cruel, we look at ourselves from the stage all the way down, we are in an orgy of confessions we are not stopping we will not stop until six hours have passed, we will not have fireworks or an escalated ending we will just end we will finish we will use our last chance to confess and then we will leave we will go home or in our case we will leave earlier one and half hour after the start because we are expected for Indian food and supermarket beers, we have to go we have to eat we have to get drunk we have to be multi, ultra, extra, meta, uber, super, drunk. We are strolling drunk in the streets of Berlin and at the same time we are still in the performance space we are still confessing we ate rotten food and we slept straight after sex. We are thinking of what Schechner would say “ to see things as performance” we see everything as performance we see the performance as performance and the performance text as our lives performance we are forming an identity we participate we think this is a participatory performance even though we didn’t move from our chairs even though we didn’t mix with the audience we didn’t let the audience speak we speak we constantly SPEAK BITTERNESS, we are politicians, we are secretaries, we are bureaucratic guinea pigs we are George Bush, we burn villages, we rape, we repeat, we repeatedly repeat patterns we perform everydayness we love Richard Schechner (even though he already said everything we will ever think of saying) we love Brecht (even though we don’t really know him) we love ancient greek theatre (even though we are greek and it’s such a cliche) we are hungry we wore t-shirts that said we love New York on them we love New York we hate, we can’t stand New York we are desperate for a review we need to re and re and re and re view the same event to understand what we think about it, we think together we form an identity we are constantly trying to grasp our identity which one of us will actually have sex with him tonight? We have sex we form identities we think of him, the other, the big Other, Zizek oops we did it again we know what oops means for Zizek, a word to make the other aware that we know that what we did is stupid. Oops we ate the last cookie, oops we burned a village. We are the big Other we are Lacan and the big Other we cannot stop now we will only stop when six hours have passed and even then we won’t stop we will keep confessing and we will keep committing crimes we will kill you we will confess that we killed you and just like that we will be clean we will not clean we will leave stains of red wine we will propose that the only way to get red wine out of a shirt is by pouring white wine over it we will throw white wine we will throw white wine to Sarah Kane because she spoke to us in the first person as if she knew us and we will throw white wine to Forced Entertainment because they spoke to us as if they knew us they stole our lives they screamed our secrets they know we scream other people’s secrets too they know we love Richard. We are angry because they used our secrets as Duchamp’s ready-mades they turned our love for Richard into a urinal and then they peed all over our love for Richard. We read and we read and we learned terms like iterability and différance and Derrida and blabloubla and we know Lacan we are Lacan we only care about the phallus we no longer say dick or cock now we only say phallus we stopped saying pussy and vagina now we only say vulva now we know how to differentiate we are masters we are doing our masters we will be masters and we still won’t be able to write an academic text.
Being in the framework of education as well as performing to an audience what becomes apparent is a need for assessment, for critically reflecting on what the student-performance maker- me is offering. Not only in a matter of grades and green lights but in simply thinking of a performative outcome as good or bad. In an ecology like dance, where when performed, a known technique can be assessed in comparison to the original or the master, it seems easier to assess if something is executed to its maximum potentiality or not. Constantly traveling between fields and never landing somewhere seems to take away that possibility for assessment. A solution would be to create my own criteria, to create a personal framework of excellence. Making a list of Masters to be compared to, kidnapping them from their fields and carrying them in my suitcase for when the need comes for measured criteria. For it is dangerous not to have criteria for assessment. It reminds me of the childish way of pointing a finger at someone and saying, Moooom, Daaaaad, when I grow up I want to be like her!
Here, I’m pointing a finger:
Mom and Dad,
When I grow up I want to bring to the audience real emotions like Nina Simone does when she sings Feelings, I want to use vivid metaphors that create images like Cavafy does. I want to show on stage repetitions so simple but powerful as in Cafe Muller. I want to be able to describe the structure of my performance like Forced Entertainment do with SPEAK BITTERNESS. I want to be funny and act all crazy like N.Asimos when he went to the streets and asked the passengers: Why are you wearing a cage? I want my titles to be 3 rows long like Lina Wertmüller’s film titles. I want to make a performance about love without ever having to pronounce the word love, like Pina Bausch. I want to make art of my life and life for the art as Sophie Calle does. I want to be able to explain everything I think in a way that makes sense but still leaves space for the reader to think along like R.Schechner. I want to write language games like R.D. Laing and Gertrude Stein and I want to expose myself as vulnerable as Sarah Kane.
In a field full of unique units and lack of absolute Masters, a God, it is not possible to create one universal framework of excellence. Therefore I need to create my own and keep explaining it to you overtime you see my performance. And maybe when I’ll be all famous I won’t even need to explain it to you anymore cause you will know. Like you know about Tino Sehgal. So yes, that’s the trick. I need to add another line to my letter:
Mom and Dad,
When I grow up I want to be as famous as Madonna (the singer, not the mother of Christ) or not, scratch that. I have a better one :
Mom and Dad,
When I grow up I want to be as famous as phallus.
You know I never believed the irrelevant thoughts were really irrelevant right?
One day in class lead by Joao Da Silva, we played a little game, inspired by the structure of Spatial Confessions (On the question of instituting the public, Bojana Cvejić, 2014). So one by one we had to ask our own questions to the group. Here are three of my questions and their results:
- If you think a performance where the same word is repeated for an hour would be worth seeing, move there.
A few people move there.
- If you think that word should be the word I, move there.
Almost no one moves
- If you think that word should be the word you, move there.
No one moves
- If you think that word should be the word love, move there.
The majority moves.
If you had enough you can stop reading. If you want a little more you can keep going.
What is the purpose of me finding my identity? Even when I will be a body without organs, even when I’ll find the power in being the unmarked, what would that be all for? A matter of being unique? Is it possible to be unique? I will end with a metaphor, hoping to come back to this discussion between me and you. Hoping to repeat. As the greek saying says ‘repetition is the mother of knowledge’. Here is a metaphor coming from reading Plato’s cave myth and theory of recollection.
PLATO'S RECOLLECTION AND THE HUNGRY STRUCTURE:
It took me 25 years of unintentional resistance to attempt writing a text about ideas of an ancient greek philosopher. With that said, I will be looking at Plato’s idea of recollection. The idea that all human knowledge was existing in our soul and by birth it got forgotten and in life we are recollecting memories, remembering the things we already knew and that is the actual process of knowledge. As an experiment let’s focus that idea on the example of a Master student of performance practices. Intensively, I read, write and think, I am being mentored, challenged, dialogued, contextualized, often realizing: aaaah I had already thought that in the past. Reading a text sometimes feels like running next to the writer to find out if I can arrive to the conclusion before I read her conclusion. Can I remember before she reminds me? Like my proud greek grandfather I place my brain for a few minutes amongst the brightest of the world. Bright but a little lazy. Bright but has to serve in the restaurant in order to pay the rent. The time comes when the brain attempts to fulfill the potentiality of its brightness by starting a Masters degree. My question now is, to what extend is that Master a construction of repetitions to make me recollect or think that I recollect, while what I actually do is connecting references in a way that the majority would connect them and arriving to certain knowledge and findings that the majority would arrive to and that the system (aoouch heavy word) is build to teach me? By the end of the study, the structure is asking me and all Master students to come up with some novelty, a certain new thesis. (aouch heavy word) I am doubting between this expectation being extremely constraining or extremely liberating. On one hand the idea is that the whole structure expects me to produce a certain thesis that it needs in order to produce the next and the next, because the structure already knows but the structure forgot. Constructed by humans who constantly recollect the structure is hungry for recollection. Every new thesis is indeed not new but a recollection of an idea the structure has forgotten. The other option is that walking through the structured paths I am given once the possibility to make a turn, to dig a path in any direction I want, that direction being a potential proposition to the next Indiana Jones that has to come and dig out his own turn; a proposition but not a clear direction. Since there are many many Master students there are also many many different path suggestions. So am I liberated or am I extremely restrained? Am I so bright or am I a puppet of the collective recollection? And you, dear Master, are you my friend? Or will I find out one day you are the best friend of the hungry structure force-guiding me closer to what your friend is currently hungry for knowing again?