a quotation for the Minus Workshop at the Performance of Hope Symposium 9-11 Nov. 2015

a group listen to Pavel Haas’s Study for Strings. A Czech composer, Haas wrote the piece in Theresienstadt, shortly before being transferred to Auschwitz, where he died.

“We listened to the piece standing, with the same grave expressions as everyone else gathered there, watching other spectators … In the end, a group of around thirty people formed, who had followed the concert of violins and cellos with emotion, remaining motionless and sunk in thought, moved, profoundly silent, as if recovering from the collapse provoked by what they had heard, and also by what they remembered, what had been evoked, almost reenacted, I’d go as far as to say experienced, because it wasn’t difficult to feel vulnerable and tragic there, like a deportee.”

… “it seemed incredible to me I hadn’t been aware from the outset that the political, or more accurately the eternal illusion of a humanized world was inseparable from artistic endeavours, from the most forward-thinking art.” …

“I would have like to say […]: How could I have been so stupid? Or perhaps the opposite … Whatever the case, I opted to keep quiet and devote myself to carefully observing the general mental recovery of the people gathered there. I ended up identifying an intense communion between all these strangers, who, having surely come from such different places, had congregated there. It was as if they were all thinking, we were all thinking: we’ve been the moment, and this is the place, and now we know what our problem is. It was as if a spirit, a breeze, a current of morally bracing air, an invisible impetus, were pushing us toward the future, forging forever the union between the diverse members of that spontaneous, suddenly subversive-seeming group.

“This is the kind of thing, I thought, that we can never see on television news programs. There are silent conspiracies between people who seem to understand one another without talking, quiet rebellions that take place in the world every minute without being noticed; groups form by chance, unplanned reunions in the middle of the park or on a dark corner, occasionally allowing us to be optimistic about the future of humanity. They join together for a few minutes and then go their separate ways, all enlisting in the hidden fight against moral misery. One day, they will rise up with unheard-of fury and blow everything to bits.”

– from The Illogic of Kassel (2015), Enrique Vila-Matas, pp. 60-1