Exit From the Gallows (October 2021)
Duration: 30 min.
The 6th Ural Industrial Biennal of Contemporary Art, "Thinking Hands Touching Each Other"
''Exit From the Gallows'' is a three-part performance set in the ritual space of the circus.
Conversation with my best friend:
Kate. When I was little, I always felt sorry for the animals in the circus. And therefore I did not go there.
Me. You know, I didn't care about them ... Because the same thing happened at my house.
Watching interviews with circus tamers, I really wanted to understand their psychology and what drives them to do all of that stuff. I was eager to find what unifies such personality disorder and psychological type because there must be an explanation for the desire to work as a tamer. I was struck by the repeated phrase I heard in their interviews that training equals education.
Culture is always a reflection of the social and political life of society. The very first impression of Morandi`s natura morta with empty bottles that seems too simple and does not have any message becomes powerful in producing new meaning if you have knowledge about the artist's biography, two wars, an economic crisis ...
The circus is like other public places ("common areas") is a coagulation of our present. Where we came from, where we are now, and extremely rarely, where we want to be. In fact, such places best reveal the general disorder of society and people who are isolated from each other and at the same time are united around the circus performance.
Another important point for me was the well-known composition which is played practically in all circuses in the world. This is an excerpt from the 1897 military march The Exit of the Gladiators by the Czech composer Julius Fucik. His nephew is a journalist and critic Julius Fucik who wrote Notes from the gallows, while the Gestapo kept him in the Pankraс prison just 45 years later. Audio-visual formulas involve the viewer in the process of subconscious communication and create an opportunity to enter into a discussion about what is usually appropriate to discuss.
Society is changing, but unfortunately that transformation is very slow. We still tend to divide everything into black and white, good and bad. Therefore, even the most important humanistic goals often take on a despotic modus. Struggling with the vertical structure built by millennia of war, people still use the methods of the vertical itself. We doom ourselves to endless running along Cartman's triangle by using the same old methods.
Exit from the gallows is a three-part performance set in the ritual space of the circus. It reflects Rene Girard's ideas about a society that seeks opportunity to express aggression through an act of violence. Exit from the gallows is a special meditative practice that combines the forms of acute social drama of theatrical performance and philosophical reflection. The horror of the social convention lies precisely in the fact that "tamer" exists in us and at any moment he is ready to adjust our behavior and way of thinking in accordance with generally accepted social frameworks or schemes. This omnipresent character in a neat suit and a snow-white shirt left the pages of Franz Kafka's novel, and established himself as Agent Smith in the Wachowski`s saga of Matrix.
The problem arises of the spread of violence as a new norm and the experience of living that norm is stored deeply at the level of collective memory as we can see in the architecture of circuses and seats multiplied in rows and seem to reach the very point of zero. We are taking part in a literal revision of the soul of its hell on earth that was created by someone's silent permission.
Exit From the Gallows [SCRIPT]
Total Duration: 30-45 min.
*Seating must be less than half full.
PART I: ~10 min.
As the audience enters and begins to look for their seats, they see THREE PEOPLE standing on stage.
They wear long, seemingly bottomless, red dresses—the dresses continue past their feet, with the material
piling up in a heap on floor. (Fig.1)
A well-known circus tune plays on a loop. It is slowed down and distorted. That same tune will appear and disappear throughout the performance. The excerpt comes from Entry of the Gladiators, a military march by Czech composer Julius Fučík. His nephew, journalist, and critic Julius Fučík would pen Notes From the Gallows while being held in Pankrác prison by the Gestapo, just 45 years later.
The trinity continue to stand.
The trinity turns their backs to the viewer and start climbing up the bleachers slowly and fluidly. The long
plumes of their dresses drag after them, forming a triangle (Fig. 2)
As the continue to ascend, the amount of fabric on stage has decreases enough to begin exposing a BODY (mine) lying underneath.
The trinity continue to climb higher into the bleaches while the amount of fabric on stage continues to decrease. When they finally make it to the very top, they take their places in the last row, and become spectators. The plumes of their dresses remain stretched as three diagonally arranged triangles.
PART II: ~10 min.
TWO FIGURES, dressed in cloaks and bowler hats, enter simultaneously from opposite entryways. Their clothing is nondescript like in Magritte’s Son of Man or Bertolucci's The Conformist. (Figs. 3, 4) Their faces are backlit so although we see their bodies, it’s hard to make out their faces.
Figure One (entered from the entrance behind me) walks past me across the arena, stops at its edge, turns around to face me, and stands still. Simultaneously, Figure Two (entered from the entrance across from me) walks across the arena, grabs a thick BUNGEE CORD being lowered from the circus dome mid-walk and continues towards me. He hooks the cord to my feet.
The cord pulls me up off the floor and 2 meters into the air. Figure Two pushes my suspended body across the arena towards Figure One. Figure Two pushes it back. Their duet continues, with my body swinging back and forth between them like a pendulum. (Fig. 5.6) A CLOSEUP of my head periodically appears on a large projector screen hanging above one of the entrances. The camera is static so the image only appears when my trajectory crosses with that of the camera lens. The face on screen is pale while the background is dark, almost black—a reference to Lagar’s work and the loneliness the protagonist faces after the end of the show. (Fig. 7)
Part III: ~10 min.
The two figures leave. I continue to rock my own body back and forth.
A SHORT UNASSUMING MAN, sitting amongst the audience takes out a camera and begins to film the stage. A live feed from his camera is broadcast on the projector screen. The 28mm focal distance (if full- frame DSLR) allows him to create frame closest to that of the human eye. It is as if he is watching through the eyes of the audience or as if they are watching his. He does not otherwise interact with the audience, especially with those sitting next to him, in any way. (Fig. 8)
Five minutes later, he gets up, and walks up the aisle towards the exit. The camera continues to broadcast live, tilted, and shooting from the waist. He walks up to the coatroom counter and sets down his camera.
A stretched out hand, holding a metallic coatroom tag, appears from outside the frame. A COAT ATTENDANT (the same coat attendant that was there when the audience used to coatroom) approaches, takes the tag, and turns away to walk toward the coat racks. She returns with a bowler hat and cape. She holds out his things to him and gestures towards the camera. The broadcast stops. Here, the story loops— we realize that anyone can be the circus trainer, even the person sitting right next to you. (Fig. 9) The body on stage continues to rock back and forth. The bungee cord begins to rise and when I'm at five meters, the lights turn off. Dreary CREAKING begins to sound, at first almost inaudibly and then louder and louder. (A microphone will be attached to the bungee cord and a speaker before the start of the performance).
The lights come back on. The now empty bungee cord continues to swing back and forth. The trinity is absent.
*This proposal will later be fully converted into screenplay format (notes/directions removed) and handed out to the audience by the coatroom attendant as they get their things. It will either be in their coat pockets, if that’s legal, or just handed out with their coats.
**We’ll need to have everyone sign a release prior to the performance because the camera belonging to the man from the audience will catch some audience member faces as he walks down the aisle. The release can also cover us putting the script in people’s pockets.
I would also like to place a security camera in the coatroom to document audience reactions to recognizing the coatroom attendant, seeing the script they were just a part of, and to the performance in general. This footage will serve as documentation of the end of the performance.