Aside from this original stamp, the learning-plays proved highly controversial because of the austerity of their form and the disconcerting nature of their content. Conceived as a means for collective experimentation, the learning plays set up a laboratory-type situation based on a radical reduction of stage and theatrical resources. Brecht, an admirer of Japanese no theater, developed a radical economy of resources that was not primarily intended to express desolation, meaningless or the dehumanization of man (as in Beckett), but rather to set up the conditions that would allow more malleable manipulation of the stage situation. Like scientists engaged in the experimental formulation of a scientific law, the idea is to get rid of incidental details and set up an abstract situation that brings out the elements in their pure forms. This economy of elements seeks to reduce the exhibition value and emphasize the use value of the piece, to offer up the work as a device that can be manipulated. Brecht said: “The form of the learning-play is stringent, however only so that individual inventions and innovations can be easily adapted into the play.” It should be noted that austerity was a way of attacking the “fourth wall,” not to йpater le bourgeois, but to clear the way for a dynamic based on participatory action. Nevertheless, the austere style of the learning plays was seen as an extension of the avant-garde principle of alienation, an appendix to the Verfremdung-effekt (estrangement)of epic theater, rather than as a didactic commitment to opening up to the active collaboration of participants. Brecht’s reception saw the avant-garde rather than the revolutionary pedagogy; it saw the formal experimentalism rather than the research laboratory.
During the long and still unfinished post-dictatorship in Chile, in which four governments from a social democratic coalition provide consistency and continuity to the knotting between modernization, neoliberalism and progress forged by the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean theater undergoes major transformations. In the period from 1990 to 2010, a professional kind of theater is strengthened, retreated into a rather self-referential practice, mainly funded by the state competitive funding system which limits its scope to academic spaces and independent theaters with a restricted public, tending to form a system that closes up upon itself This tendency has contributed to relegate to the margins, to invisibility or silence, other theatrical experiences that seek to open out different paths from the theater towards other areas of the social or political. Still, the last few years, and perhaps underpinned by the strong rejection to the recent victory of a rightist government in the country, these previously dispersed experiences, have leaned to congregate and strengthen. They are theater companies that come from different cities of the country – Teatro Pъblico (Public Theater) and Teatro Versiуn Oficial (Official Version Theater) in Santiago, Teatro La Peste (The Plague Theater) in Valparaiso, Teatropello in Talca, to name a few- which, coming in and out of the professional theater circuit, have joined different social and political groups simultaneously, and have been involved in specific social conflicts and struggles They are still incipient but decisive gestures that re-build bridges between theater and politics.
In this context, this text seeks to problematize the relationships between pedagogy and political emancipation put in practice by the Public Theater collective . It is still a very recent experience, so we cannot yet discern its effects and continuities; however, we think this text as a contribution to the discussion and support of these initiatives.
The emancipatory function of theater in the territory of ex-Yugoslavia has some specific traits. Since the falling apart of Yugoslavia, or better, of self-managing socialism, things have taken a turn. However, let me first dwell in the past in order to make my argument.
While the official culture and the network of institutional theatres in Slovenia (one of the six republics of the ex-Yugoslavia) had the role of mirroring the political and social values of the Yugoslav self-managing socialism, there were a number of professionals who organized themselves outside the context of the official culture. Theatre institutions, along with the Academy for Theater, Film, Radio and Television, represented the dominant structure in control of the production, distribution and education of theatre in the Slovenia, in which theatre was predominantly understood as drama theatre and where the literary text played the starring role. This was not at all a coincidence, as language and literature were the bearers of national identity; therefore, the theatres were one of the main fortresses enforcing this identity. Despite the monopoly over theater culture, this system had a certain amount of tolerance, which allowed deviations in order to sustain the image of tolerance. Between the late 1950s and the 1990s, we therefore witnessed the emergence of a number of experimental groups and alternative theater and dance groups in Slovenia.
First publication – Translit #5 (2009)
Recently I understood clearly that art couldn’t help but be communist. This is not at all a manifestation of ideology, as it would seem to some. Nor is it dogma. It is just that suddenly it became obvious that all art – from Ancient Greece to the present day; that art which has overcome the egoism and conceit in itself – contained the potential to be communist. Regardless of its pessimism or optimism, such art is dedicated not to some social group but to one and all. This is not some kind of propaganda trick. That’s what happens with an artist whose art is not afraid of people. Often art is either afraid of losing itself in the crowd or, the other extreme, it attempts to be artificially populist so it isn’t suspected of being refined or subtle, or is addressed to an in-crowd of discerning connoisseurs and experts.
When I say communist of course I have in mind not membership in a party but a worldview. It is this breadth of worldview, which exceeds the boundaries of a single state, nation, class, artistic school, and the private or even spiritual interests of a specific individual, that predetermines the communist potential in a work of art.
This means that the artist has the strength to be not just one person, but many – the strength to not merely observe life and the multitude of living beings but to be or become them by means of art.
THE THEATER OF THE OPPRESSED IMAGE THEATER TECHNIQUES: RASHOMON
Inspired by filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s study in multiple perspectives, Rashomon is an improvisatory technique that highlights the role of perception in the creation of the “Other.” Rashomon is specifically designed for the study of the rigid patterns of perception that create a negatively-charged Other, in an oppressive, closed, recurring situation; as such, it is particularly suited for exploring the role of individual perception in generating biases and hate.
Chto Delat?’s 48 hours seminar-commune /// obshezitie (*) and Learning play
Where has Communism Gone?
2-3 February 2011
SMART Project Space
with the participation of: Dorian Batycka, Jimini Hignett, lado Darakhvelidze, Petra Vacková, Anton Kats, Ehsan Fardjadniya, Hanan Benammar; Catherine Grau, Maiko Tanaka, Selçuk Balamir, Ruchama, Yelena Myshko, Jessica Dill, Yelena Sorokina, Jesper Alvaer; Koert Jobse, Eugen Georg and others (very sorry for missing someone)
Chto Delat? participants: Olga Egorova (Tsaplya), Artyom Magun, Oxana Timofeeva, Natalya Pershina (Gluklya), Dmitry Vilensky, Alexander Skidan
Video Lecture by David Riff
Film Scene from the film Homeland of Electricity by Larisa Shepitko
Music Isaak Dunaevsky from the film “Captain Grant’s kids”
*Obshezitie / seminar-commune is a series of 48 hour seminars initiated by the Chto Delat? collective and the Socialist Movement “Vpered” in 2009, dedicated to the idea of political subjectivation through collective practices, and aimed at breaking the conventional formats of discussions and conferences and promote a dialogical, conflictual and personal relationship to knowledge production. An enormous number of events occur within cultural and political spheres that aim to address ideas around collectivity and the politicized subject. Lectures are read, seminars are conducted and exhibitions installed, but nothing is really at stake at most of these events; there is no feeling of shared struggle and no sense of solidarity is established. We should try to make it otherwise!
For this seminar at SMART there is an urgency to address what is Communism, if there is any sense to draw on this ideology again and whether the concept of communism has any relevance to contemporary cultural practices?
This is a documentation of the learning play realised at Institute of Contemporary Arts, London on 10th of September, 2010 in a frame work of the exhibition of the Chto Delat? “The urgent need to struggle”
Participants: Jelena Vesic (Prelom collective – Belgrade), Vladan Jeremic (Biro Belgrade), Carrot Workers Research Group (London), Alexander Skidan and Dmitry Vilensky, Chto Delat collective (Russia), Factory of Found Clothes (St. Petersburg), Nina Gasteva (Iguana Dance (St. Petersburg), Steve Edwards (Historical Materialism – London), Turbulence (London), Unltra-Red (London); Ehsan Fardjadniya (Parachute-Artists (Nomad)), Amsterdam; Marina Vishmidt; Vladimir Jeric (Vlidi – Belgrade)
Based on 48 hours Communal Life Seminar
Presented by Factory of Found Clothes & Chto Delat?, choreography of Nina Gasteva, and the participants of the 48 Hour Communal Life Seminar:
The title-question the play What struggles do we have in common? addresses the urgency of reconsidering the cultural field as a battle ground – where different forces of politics, aesthetics and ideology are confronting each other. That’s why the play scrutinizes the rather typical conflictual situation when artist/intellectuals who have chosen the necessity of carrying on their work in a framework of institutional landscape are confronted with the protest of activists who consider this position as a betrayal of political agenda in a favor of branding a personal/collective carriers detached from any political relevance.
Through the staging this conflict and its different aspects we suggest the public to engage with this issues and try to find a way how to resolve the conflict otherwise.