Leentje: I’m up here
Michael: Do you need a hand?
Leentje: Yes I’m a bit lost
Michael: So am I
Leentje: Can you see the mountains?
Michael: I don’t know. I haven’t really got that sort of mind. Ask someone else.
Leentje: There isn’t anyone else.
We enter week two and I am thinking about how the work we are (re)making connects with the research territory of my doctoral investigation into the role of the outside eye in contemporary performance. When the box was originally conceived in 1998, Mole worked with a group of four performers / devisers and Daniel Belasco-Rogers who contributed much of the early research material into quantum physics and the experiments carried out by Erwin Schrodinger. This was a form of dramaturgical input that remains the central thesis of the piece.
Occasionally as we are working now, Mole will slip out of the box to watch and ask us to do it again slower, with more energy, less energy, more awareness of each other and our dynamic within the space. Always, we are considering what journeys we make and how our journeys interweave with and have a negative or positive impact on the journeys of others. The objects in the space also have journeys, bottles are brought on and off and books are read from and dropped.
The choreography of objects, ensuring everything is in its right place at the right time, is as complicated as the choreography of the performers. When we perform text, some of which we have rewritten (which allows another level of ownership over the material), he does not want us to know it too well. He is interested in how we could break up a text, how we could…. Stop. As if we are thinking of something else. As if we are distracted. By something else happening around us.
I visualize this performance as weaves of thread, Eugenio Barba’s definition of dramaturgy – both the weave and the process of weaving. Our journeys through the space weave together with others’ journeys through the space, the objects’ journeys through the space and the way in which the space itself is manipulated as hatches open and close. The soundscape, the lighting are all to be added, and these elements too are weaves of thread adding to the fibres of dramaturgy.
Last night, Kevin and I were talking to a postdoctoral fellow from the University of Gent which is the leading research centre in Europe for the study of pain. They told us about the notion of acceptance and commitment therapy and how the way in which we respond to other people’s pain is as subjective as the way in which we respond to pain itself. But at the same time, there are generic responses to pain. We talked about pain in relation to Schrodinger and how it is never clear whether we are the experimenters or the subjects of the experiments.
She asked us how people will respond to Schrodinger and whether we would do an empirical test to find out its ‘affect’. Will they be sad? Will they be happy etc.? We talked about how each audience member might respond differently. She said ‘I would like to think we are all snowflakes. But I’ve done the things you said can’t be done and they are not snowflakes. They are big clumps of snow.’ This sounds like something we could say about the box. We are not different. We are in some ways all the same person, the same performer. We are clumps of snow.
We talked about Schrodinger in terms of psychology and the architecture of pain. She said one of her supervisors told her ‘A psychologist is a house and needs to have sturdy floors.’ There is nothing sturdy about Schrodinger’s Box. Everything that should be stable is unstable, everything that should be secure is insecure. Anything that could mean, could mean anything. Everything is a question mark. I wonder if this is a form of dramaturgy too. Someone who does not know our world, relating it to their own. Their rules laid over our rules. A palimpsest.
She talked about her studies and how they orientate themselves around ‘proving things’ and set out to find answers rather than ask questions as we think we are. She says people are prone to think in terms of narrative. Prone to filling in the gaps. Prone to connecting a to b, b to c etc. We say we are creating a piece of theatre that challenges this notion. That cannot be easily filled or connected or considered narratively. We are talking from different perspectives, on different pages, in different books. Out of this conversation comes an interesting collision. Interdisciplinary dialogue allows us to view the world we create through another lens. We cannot see the mountains, but we can imagine how they might look.