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part one of a four-part project. Minus Theatre workshops begin May 5 2016 at Auckland University of Technology

and we will begin work towards a piece called “at the stock market meeting” – a tragedy!

I would like to complete 4 public pieces this year. They already have names!

And early 2017 join them together in an epic work!

By May 5 I am hoping we can bring into the group some new people & maybe bring back

some of those we miss!

Please put out word that this is what we are doing to all your contacts.

And contact me any time if you or others

want to talk about plans for the next projected public works

of Minus Theatre

best

s

simon@minustheatre.com

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please share with every body

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Enrique Vila-Matas, Pierre Huyghe, Ai Weiwei and I at Kassel, Documentas 12-13

“I’d been fascinated at the beginning of the seventies by some questions that had been put to Alain Robbe-Grillet, which made him writhe against theories like an upside-down cat: “Let’s say I’m old-fashioned. For me, all that counts are the works of art.”

“The works of art! These days such ingenuousness would trigger laughter. At Documenta 13, separating work and theory would have been seen as very old-fashioned, because there, according to all the information I had, you saw a great many works under the ambiguous umbrella of innovation presented as theory and vice versa. It was the triumphant and now almost definitive reign of the marriage between practice and theory, to such an extent that if ou casually came across a rather classical-looking piece, you’d soon discover it was nothing more than theory camouflaged as a work. Or a work camouflaged as theory.

“Was there any artist at Kassel with sufficient courage to just hang a painting on the wall, a straighforward painting? I imagined the great peals of laughter that would ring out if it occurred to some poor brave devil to hang a canvas on a wall in the Fridericianum. It seemed nobody there wanted to be regarded as terribly old-fashioned, so there was no way of seeing painting anywhere.”

– Enrique Vila-Matas, The Illogic of Kassel, p. 69

Untilled, characters who appear in Enrique Vila-Matas’s novel, by Pierre Huyghe at Documenta 13

Strangely, I happened to be involved in the Documenta 12 Magazine Project through <<empyre>> soft_skinned_space, a listserv onto which I have foisted my sometimes welcome, mostly unwelcome, and usually ignored observations, reflections and scribblage.

The following I wrote into the listserv under the subject heading of “Fugue” – which is interesting in so far as I have in front of me a volume by Sergio Pitol with a foreword by Enrique Vila-Matas, the writer of the foregoing on Documenta 13, entitled The Art of Flight. The English translator of this work, George Henson, apologises, that “already in the title” he has failed, because the Spanish fuga translates as both fugue and flight and in the original Spanish, the book is called El arte de la fuga. The Art of Fugue. Indirectly, for Documenta 12, I wrote:

Dear Empyreans,

the following I pursued for my own interest: I apologise if there’s nothing in it.

Roger Beurgel [artistic director of Documenta 12. It was Roger Beurgel’s “provocation”, on the question, Is Modernity our Antiquity? that led the discussion, here] in quotes:

“It is fairly obvious that modernity, or modernity’s fate, exerts a profound influence on contemporary artists.”

How is modernity tied to its fate that, either the thing itself or the myth, exerts a pull – as if equally and interchangeably? And if there isn’t anything in itself there? Only the mythic Fate, then isn’t this a description of tragedy? Is a degree of that influence to do with the desire not just to reinstaurate the determinism or fatalism of modernity on its certain path but to redeem it?

“Part of that attraction may stem from the fact that no one really knows if modernity is dead or alive.”

Which suggests exactly the spectral/corp(u)s/e mode modernity was so good at advancing: and pomo was so good at extracting – half-life apparitions and death-drive amortisations.

“It seems to be in ruins after the totalitarian catastrophes of the 20th century (the very same catastrophes to which it somehow gave rise).”

Surely, that ‘somehow’, tenuously holding on, like spectral rider to ghoulish horse, confirms that the modernity described here is in the grand European tragic style – or pomo pastiche thereof. The taste for setting such great store by aesthetics (however deeply internally politicised or outwardly conceptual and dematerialised), that ‘totalitarian catastrophes’ ensue from them, is modernist at the fascist end of the spectrum.

“It seems utterly compromised by the brutally partial application of its universal demands (liberté, égalité, fraternité) or by the simple fact that modernity and coloniality went, and probably still go, hand in hand.”

As a colonial antipode – foot in hand, sometimes in mouth – I’ve thought a little about colonialism’s place in respect of modernity. My view, from NZ, of modernity is only historically, not ‘utterly,’ ‘compromised’ by the cultural marginalisation that goes hand-in-hand with modernity’s centralist concerns. But this issue brings us round to whether modernity has a political armature in praxis, a Realpolitik, such that it could be ‘brutally partial’ in the application of demands that are by no means ‘universal’ nor endemic to modernity, as an era (or a constellation, an infirmament, of historically informed assumptions and happenstance).

The secular nation-state, to my mind, better expresses the political ideas and ideals of the modern era, and of modernity, than the Colonial Empire. The failure of the former – in its current crisis or decadence – offers perhaps a clearer index to the vivacity or morbidity of a political modernity.

“Still, people’s imaginations are full of modernity’s visions and forms (and I mean not only Bauhaus but also arch-modernist mind-sets transformed into contemporary catchwords like “identity” or “culture”).”

There is something about this ‘transformation’ (of ‘arch-modernist mindsets’) that merits discussion. I think it was Brett, forgive me if I’m wrong, who said that postmodernism is built on the foundations of modernism. Christine has poked a little, deservedly, at the idea of Hegelian synthesis, in the n-state. In both views there inheres the idea of transformation – a redemption even of modernist assumptions. I think this archaeological impulse, this restorative ‘moral’ and critical project – such, indeed, that the question heading this discussion can be asked – may be promoted by precisely the kind of spectacular mise-en-scene we see in Roger Beurgel’s statement on modernity.

“In short, it seems that we are both outside and inside modernity, both repelled by its deadly violence and seduced by its most immodest aspiration or potential: that there might, after all, be a common planetary horizon for all the living and the dead.”

Pa Ubu: “Hornstrumpet! We shall not have succeeded in demolishing everything unless we demolish the ruins as well. But the only way I can see of doing that is to use them to put up a lot of fine, well-designed buildings.”

Finally, a brief word regarding the n-state, an idea with its own fascination; and I’d like to know more about its provenance; since, as well as zipping up a certain bodybag – synthetic teeth mesh – it also iterates management/bureaucratic themes of ‘technological progress and infrastructural improvements’. (By way of contrast, inspired by a Polish grandmother on a European train, ’82, I chanced on the related idea of ‘n-set’ – a play on ‘NZ’ and also an acronym. The grandmother said that all her countrymen were doing in those days was watching satellite TV and making babies – “like Africa!” she said.

(N-SET became a script-scenario dealing with a covert (insurgence) operation starting in Poland to postmodernise via media’s softsell immersion the East and West and foment political revolution: to postmediatise consciousness. N-SET stands for ‘non-specified enemy territory’ – carrying forward its scenario through random acts of state-sponsored terror, according to the view that the civilian population as a whole is the only object on which a postmodern war can be waged.)

Simon Taylor

Fairytale, 1,001 chairs, Ai Weiwei, at Documenta 12

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Enjoy your extinction #1 from darkroasted on Vimeo.

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Copenhagen, 5 – 6 July, including N. Bohr, H.C. Andersen, S. Kierkegaard, an American tourist prostrates herself at the foot of Grundtvig, Father of Denmark, and Danny Kaye makes mermaid pop star

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Stockholm, 2 – 3 July

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Stockholm, 27 June – 1 July

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Tokyo-Stockholm, 26 June – 27 June

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MINUS THEATRE DAY OF FILMING 11 January 2015 (at Lot23, stills by Lernie Ang)

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Re: grouping – Minus Theatre’s change of phase, AGM & 3rd Project

following an earlier post, here, for a hopeful workshop, which was cancelled, Minus Theatre’s weekly workshops were cancelled, not just this hopeful one, until the group of past and future members came together, Tuesday 18 November to talk about our 3rd Project – for the Auckland Fringe Festival, February 11 – 1 March 2015. You were invited to attend, email info@minustheatre.com … and some of you did. Thank you.

This means a change in the way we work. There now appears to be a goal, the performances coinciding with the Fringe, and a requirement for regular practice/workshop/rehearsal sessions leading up to it. But it is this not so much. What we present for the Fringe will be a work in progress and not the end result of adequate planning. The planning we need to engage in at this point does entail a change in methodology but from the point of view of epistemology.

Weekly workshops have been central to the methodology of Minus Theatre Research Group until now. The method we have developed since March this year, called ‘theatre of the individual life’, allows for a minimum workshop attendance of one. One person – it could be me! It could be me closely observing and analysing my own physical and verbal expressions, to be able to dis-organise these ‘symptoms’ (in contrast to ‘signs’ which have meaning) in the place of my body, in the space of the studio, in the time of the audience – an audience of one, too, me!

In practice, this has never happened. Although the option was given, when we had only a few participants, of whether to go ahead or chat, eat cake and drink coffee and tea, the smallest groups for the workshops were a minimum of three, including me. And sometimes even a larger group chose cake over theatre, which is hardly surprising, given the beautiful home baking. (The coffee’s not bad, either: an incentive for potential Minus Theatre members!)

After Textured Passages, September 8, 12, it was more usual for the several people who came to workshops, still then being held on a weekly basis, to want to sit and chat – the exception became the rule. I asked myself why, given a method which determinedly does not make a precondition of the whole group turning up – a source of frustration when running rehearsals with a set cast in the past – why should we not conduct the workshop with the one person, the two people who do turn up?

Two possible answers occurred to me: a lackadaisical attitude brought about by familiarity and regularity – if the workshops are going to be held anyway, does the individual feel needed enough to come along? In addition, Textured Passages was a massive undertaking with relatively little preparation. We incorporated musical resources, used costumes – albeit schematic and generic; we took on a difficult space, a gallery, where audiences were unsure what was expected of them; and so we had the pressure of somewhat diffident, sometimes uncomprehending, although almost universally appreciative audiences. A second answer, beyond the known-quantity-ness of the practice and the hangover of the shows, slowly crept up on me: something to do with the group dynamic itself is affecting individual behaviour. Whenever just a few people came to workshops their first question was always, who else is coming? Where’s so-and-so? Where’s she? Where in fact is the group when the individual is here?

I was reluctant to admit it but despite the method needing only one individual to engage the practice the individuals need the group. Why? There is a possibility that this is a matter of group identity or group dynamic, but these are ongoing processes: the group is not a closed product; it is always in the process of formation, and re-formation, as members leave, return, and new people join. What is it about this process, then, that made each member want all present to move forward with the practice?

I now think it has to do primarily with an epistemological shift, which might be summarised in the notion of the embodied knowledge of the group in Minus Theatre. I had, previous to October, not thought that if a kind of thought is going on in the practice and I had not known that if a kind of knowledge (ethological) is being produced in the technique where that thought and knowledge would go to, to be called on, or recalled, in its advance, in its recollection, in practice. It seems to be clear now that where it was at, over this intervening time, and where it is, is in the bodies of the people in the group. The resistance to going ahead on a weekly basis comes from the situation where the whole group is not present at the workshops contributing their thought-knowledge which each individual embodies.

Weekly workshops through October therefore took two steps back for every step forward. This is why in getting together, assembling, on Tuesday night, 18 November, to be assembled as a formation, forming a group, a minimal cell or corps, we were re-membering – becoming avant-garde – re-membered. Disorganisation may come hereafter.

As events go, in the event, Minus Theatre’s first AGM was a raging, encouraging success. However I got to say none of the things I have outlined above. And what is worse, I did not get to congratulate every person in this group for having got it this far to do what it has done. White Flower established that we have indeed developed a theatrical form all our own, as one audience member put it, which works. Textured Passages was like a human particle accelerator, that, several audience members claimed, gave off a spiralling energy drawing them in, energising them and cleaning their brains.

The following contains repeats but it is something like what I had hoped to say: Welcome! Thank you for coming! I called this meeting because Minus Theatre is changing phase. The change of phase comes because the knowledge we have acquired along the way and the thinking going on – and a lot does go on all the time in our work – is in the group. It is not written down. It is not in my PhD research. So that to bring it to new work, to progress and go further means we need to be a group, meeting regularly, committed to extending both ourselves in our technique and understanding and the group.

Earlier Minus Theatre was about teaching and training. I think it has taken on a life of its own. This still means new people are more than welcome and that we will be doing workshops involving learning and teaching. But the group overall will have more responsibility. In other words, it is not just me who has the knowledge and knows the technique – the unique theatrical language of Minus Theatre that includes all the languages spoken and the technique that includes all the different skills each person brings – it is the group.

Part of what we do will continue to find out what special skills, what powers, each individual, each person has that makes our work together more interesting and exciting and intense.

The next project is called Boneseed

We decided to meet on Tuesday evenings, from 6pm to 9pm at AUT. Again, if you are interested in joining, adding your powers, learning more or supporting us, please contact me here.

Minus Theatre is here – and developing an independent website, the forerunner of which is here.

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