Introductory text for the “Collaboration Practices” working group by Roger Bernat
Roger Bernat is a stage director.
By making citizens want nothing to do with public business, the result of the imperial regime is to make them selfish, obsessed with their private lives and ravenous for wealth. Subjugating present-day men to the yoke of their passions and corrupting their natures completes the vicious circle and makes them more worthy of being led than to lead.
Anon, 1st century, On the Sublime. Quoted by A Escohotado
The first time I went to Wuppertal for a Tanzabend I was fascinated to learn that the masses of dancers, actresses, magicians and even strongmen brought part of their knowledge and experience to create a larger discourse, the eternal reflection that Bausch repeated over and over again on the ravages of love.
The choreographers gave their performers a voice and the shows became collective creations, group discourses, a sum of different talents. No-one interpreted this as a crisis of creativity. Quite the opposite: people celebrated the fact that the choreographers got their shows to encompass the singularity of movement and the subjectivity of performers, who became a key part of their discourse.
However, the performing arts’ historic ability to create collective discourses was not limited to the stage. It has often gone further and integrated the public in the work. One only has to think of dance before the Baroque period, an activity that dragged the audience to the event or, much later, the innumerable strategies in the 20th century aimed at breaking the Wagnerian barrier between the stage and stalls.
Rancière recalls a following poster on the walls of a German university proclaiming: the theatre remains the only place for the audience to confront themselves as a collective. Championing this confrontation and setting out the ways in which this takes place is a task I should like to take on during this work session. Many other areas far removed from the stage have taken similar paths, some from more successful places than others. I’m thinking about the social networks and the virtual public space they create; Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics and the somewhat childish way of reinventing theatre through art; or the strategies pursued by science as it strives to examine human beings’ problems from an increasingly macroscopic and collective perspective.
However, I should like to focus this work session on the performing arts and the aspects that let us talk about creation shared with spectators. With this aim in mind, I should first like to work with participants to identify the symptoms we might have observed in the shows we can all remember, and then limit and define the specific nature of stage work as a social territory.