Letter from Jutta Schwarz - Thoughts on the One to One Performance-Research VERLAGERUNGEN-TRANSLOCATIONS by Anita Kaya
I was one of the first visitors to your performance "Verlagerungen -Translocations". At the end, after a long conversation, you asked me what would stick with me from this afternoon, "but that can only be said in a few weeks," you added.
Now a few weeks have passed, and I realize that I no longer remember everything, but very much, of course interwoven and intermingled with my own memories and questions, - but as an impressive whole, a "gestalt", a mesh of images, themes and associations that illuminate each other.
One-to-one encounters between perfomer and spectator are rare, because luxurious. But they are radically necessary, because they focus attention on /the individual, who is usually only an anonymous subset of the "audience" - and they have a long-lasting effect, the more space and time is given to me, the individual visitor.
This was the case with "Verlagerungen - Translocations", you had planned one and a half hours for each of these encounters. You, the inviter, took the lead, narrated, answered my questions, offered images and themes, and I, the visitor, took them up and spun them further.
I am sure that all the encounters, each depending on the person, also went very differently. This responsiveness and openness to the here and now is, as I understand it, the special quality of performance - and, as if you had anticipated it with this one-to-one format, the performance dates also pretty much coincided with the initial actions on Covid-19. When I was a guest at your performance, which was still in the testing phase, there was no talk of distance, however, and Covid-19 didn't play any role at all in our conversations and reflections.
The tour started in the kitchen, with a cup of tea, very casual... On the wall the pictures of your young parents, 50s atmosphere, the mother reminds of Gina Lollobrigida, the father, with moustache, of a country singer, whose name I forgot. (1) That's how they both styled themselves too, you tell me, that was their image. They both worked in a spinning factory, and at the same time they staged themselves as the doppelgangers of two stars. As we walk down to the large room, I think of the styling attempts of my high school days in the 1950s, the desire to borrow a bit of glamour from stars, and behind it a depressed swamp feeling, as if I, like everyone else, must inevitably sink into petty appearances.
The large room is darkened, in the dim light it looks as if everything is just being set up, still half packed.
I knew that this performance also arose from your need to get a grip on your huge archive, so I'm surprised that the installation of this "interim storage" seems to consist of relatively few objects. This is somehow relieving, because I was a bit afraid of being confronted with a lot of material. I didn't want to be reminded too much of my own archive, whose volume and disorderliness tends to trigger states of panic in me, so I prefer to repress it.
But this "outsourcing" doesn't seem to be overwhelming. Slowly, station by station, we use flashlights to pick out individual objects from the twilight.
As we pass, a bowl of many different questions, each one thought-provoking. "The remnants of a brainstorming session," you say. Some of the questions will resurface later. On the wall again, the picture of your country singer/father, - then a large world map from the 50s, as I knew it in my school days, -. then several photos: the first car,- Anita as a toddler on her grandmother's lap, beginning luxury, family happiness....
You draw my attention to a collage on the floor, more centered in the room, inconspicuous, I almost stepped on it.
It was created during the preparation time for this performance, you tell me, as a reference point into today. I see two image clusters, in between short texts...
The images on the left abruptly tear me out of the 1950s idyll: they are images of destruction, trenches, Nazi emblems, concentration camps, inhumanity.
Of course, I think, all this was hardly 10 years ago and was suppressed as quickly as possible for reconstruction and growth, for a bit of glamour, luxury and homeliness. But underground, "It" has continued its mischief until today. And now "it" is pushing its way back to the top - and once again to power. How to deal with it? How to fend off what is rising? And how does it continue? This is also the subject of the texts on the collage, thoughts, reflections, many questions...
They lead over to the right side. Again, a cluster of images of devastation, burning forests, flooded coasts, overcrowded refugee camps, inhumanity. These are images of a future we face if we don't succeed in slowing climate change, I think.
I look at the map of the world on the wall opposite, so many destinations of longing from back then are now focal points of crises, wars, terror. Areas of land that were fertile then are already so devastated by war-triggered environmental disasters that they no longer feed people. We, too, could become refugees in a few decades, with prolonged droughts and widespread desertification predicted for Europe - but where will we have to flee to then? And how will we refugees be treated then? Will we live in desolate, overcrowded camps like the refugees in Greece today? Suddenly I realize, this is not about the horrors of the future, these are newspaper clippings of the present, pictures from today's refugee camps, all this is already happening, now, next to us. A moment of shame, I have blocked out the horrors of the present, shifted them into the future, for the sake of my own idyll? No, I am not immune to repression.
You point your flashlight at a travel suitcase from the 20/30s right next to it.... We open it, inside a wrapped, tied up fur, a hunting trophy from colonial times? A giant insect larva? You pull the thing up through the hook on the ceiling, it hangs there as if pupated, spun into a white cocoon.
The threads lead to spools of yarn in the suitcase, relics from the yarn factory, your parents' workplace. Underneath, at the bottom of the suitcase, another thick layer of newspapers. The headline on the top sheet, obtrusively large and bold, makes me flinch: a call for a hunt against "degenerate art". My first thought is: Is this one of today's smear sheets? Are we there again? Is that already possible today? Relief, they are newspapers from the 30s, during the renovation of your old floor they came out from under the boards.
We sit down on a broken sofa wrapped in plastic, look at the monstrous hairy larva dangling there by the strings of its strapping. "That was my paternal grandmother's fur coat," you say, and that you loved her very much. To you she was good, but to others she was often cold, hard, and not very emotional. You didn't understand that at the time, but as children do, you came to terms with the incomprehensibility of the adult world.
And then, when you were already grown up, the shock: your beloved grandmother suddenly, as if casually, turned out to be a convinced Nazi, unbroken until today...
We talk about the pain and anger of disillusionment, about the confrontation with the shadow side of this woman who was so close to you, whom you trusted. Jekyl turns out to be a Hide. The deep insecurity that such a break-in brings is familiar to me, as is the search for ways to deal with it.
You lead me to a suitcase of colorful, fluttery suits and dresses, all in pairs, costumes for a piece on the figure of the double that you developed with Akemi Takaya, TSURU TSURU, the Slippage of Time. (2)
This has resulted in a short film that we are now watching, "Holly, Holly, Hollyluia" (3), not a documentary, but an investigation of the doppelganger motif using cinematic means, collage, editing rhythmization, repetition variation.... I am amazed at your great affinity for this medium, I was not so aware of it. It's clear that this film was invited to so many festivals!
You open the last case, pull out a blind. Immediately I remember the performance: "BACKSPACE- a VideoTanz from the family album". (4)
The film documentary takes excerpts from the performance, grotesquely exaggerated snapshots from your childhood, but then concentrates on one scene, painfully long, and precisely for that reason so haunting.
Miguel Gaspar as "The Father" and Norma Espeiel as "Little Daughter" on his knee. He flings her up and catches her, again and again, the child whoops, the father laughs, grins at the camera, what a great father, what great fun! But the fun gets wilder, the child plops down harder and harder on the father's knee - and just at the tipping point before the child starts to cry, the father puts the brakes on the game - only to increase it again, higher and higher, until the child whoops again in confidence, only to bounce harder on the father's knee.
A sadistic game, unassailably masked as loving attention. An unmasking scene, which is familiar to me, how often have I - not only as a little girl - "put a good face on the bad game".
You walk up to the kitchen to make tea. I sit on the couch, my eyes wandering around the room, through the various stations, lingering on the monstrous, furry insect larva that spins slowly on its threads in the room, uncanny, creaturely, like a fetish. I think - relic of a voodoo ritual. Its lacing now appears to me as the attempt of a bondage, banishment of what was locked away and now rises up again - from the opened suitcase, in which I know the disgusting sediment, agitation sheets - from back then....
You come back, we drink tea, talk about the films, the installation, about the individual stations and the motif of the doppelganger, which runs through this performance like a leitmotif, in so many facets, as an image of longing and horror, as a shadow of the repressed, the packed away, which can suddenly become real and take shape as a revenant.
When I finally leave, I have the feeling that I have not only learned a lot about you, but also a lot about myself that will still give me food for thought. When I say goodbye I hug you, it will have been the last hug for long Corona weeks.
I wrote this text around Easter, already in Corona quarantine. In the meantime many more weeks have passed, and again and again I asked myself why I didn't finally send this text, as promised. But I felt, there is still something to do, a personal conclusion, only - how can I put all this information, thoughts, feelings... into words? That has occupied me subliminally constantly and not let go. In the process, your collage has become more and more a point of reference around which I circled, an examination of repression, its causes and consequences, and the question: what all do we repress today?
I got lost in a labyrinth of always new information, thoughts, feelings...pages and pages written, shortened, rewritten, in doubt, and now I give up once to send you what is concretely there.
At the same time I would like to ask you something:
Ulrike Kuner from IG Theater wants to do an interview with Anna (my daughter) and me in the first fall issue of Gift. Better said a section where Anna and I interview each other, and then two separate interviews. Anna has already named someone for Ulrike to interview, and I named you, which Ulrike thought was great.
If you agree, I will write this to Ulrike right away, she would then email you about the payment and the framework. Important is the deadline, which is September 10th.
I hope you have time, and above all also desire to do it.
Please answer! (5)
All the best!
Notes by Anita Kaya:
(1) Jason King (embodied by actor Peter Wyngarde), a British 1970s television serie.
(2) TSURU TSURU - DAS GLEITEN DER ZEIT, dance performance, 1993/94
Direction: Anita Kaya, Choreography/Dance: Anita Kaya, Akemi Takeya, Music: Toni Burger, OYA-Production, dieTheater Künstlerhaus Wien, sponsored by the City of Vienna, BMUKK and the Province of Vlbg
(3) HOLLY, HOLLY, HOLLYLUIA, 1992, 5'
created in the context of the festival "TANZSPRACHE 92", WUK, Vienna, a no-budget production.
Artistic direction: Anita Kaya, Choreography / Performers / Editing: Anita Kaya, Akemi Takeya, Music: Dieter Strehly, Edgar Aichinger, Camera: Anita Kaya, Krisha Piplits, Dieter Strehly, OYA-Production
(4) BACKSPACE - DANCES FROM THE FAMILY ALBUM - AN INTER-MEDIA PERFORMANCE, 1994-99, Direction/Choreography: Anita Kaya / Dance/Acting: Anita Kaya, Miguel Gaspar, Norma Espejel / Projections: Fritz Fitzke / music: Chrischa Piplits, Amadeus Kronheim / OYA production / supported by the city of Vienna, BMUKK and the province of Vlbg
BACKSPACE - VIDEO DANCE FROM THE FAMILY ALBUM, 1995, 5'
Idea, direction: Anita Kaya / choreography: Anita Kaya in collaboration with Miguel Gaspar & Norma Espejel / performers:Miguel Gaspar, Norma Espejel / music: Live recording of traditional Mexican. Music (Oaxaca, Oct. 94) / Soundtrack: Edgar Aichinger / Lighting: Ferdinand Stahl, Chrischa Piplits / Camera, editing: Ferdinand Stahl, Anita Kaya / produced at Medienwerkstatt, Vienna, sponsored by BMUKK.
(5) The interview with Jutta Schwarz was published in the journal GIFT 3/2020 in German.