Just the Beginning
“HIGHLY ENERGETIC JUMPS OF HALF-NAKED BODIES – THAT’S ALL THIS PIECE NEEDED TO REVEAL THE PITIFUL STATE OF REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY WITH THE MAXIMUM IRONY.”
Radio Študent Ljubljana
The performance coincides with the elections and addresses the future president of the country: “Dear Mr. President, we do not ask who you are; we are happy that you are, what you are. The President! You’re ours and we’re yours. Without hesitation. Without a doubt. On the live and dead. Dear President, we are and remain your happy collective, your team, your voting body, your Via Negativa.”
Just the Beginning is questioning the role we citizens play in a democratic system, the role of the voting body. We can choose only between the options given to us. Even if you choose not to choose, you are counted in. Representative democracy is very intelligent machinery that crunches everyone – those who vote for and those who are against. Our voting body is not here, in order to express its will, but to maintain the system. Our democratically elected representatives are doing just what the voting body is willing to accept and support. We exhaust our voting body to the limit of our physical endurance.
Conceived and devised by the group.
Performers: Katarina Stegnar, Grega Zorc, Vito Weis, Anita Wach, Boris Kadin, Loup Abramovici, Lada Petrovski Ternovšek
Concept and direction: Bojan Jablanovec
Music consultant: Tomaž Grom
Styling: Mateja Benedetti
Light design: Igor Remeta
Producer: Špela Trošt
Production: Via Negativa with support of Ministry of Culture, Science, Education and Sport of RS and the City of Ljubljana
Premiere: 11 NOV 2012, on the day of Slovenian presidential elections, The Old Power Station Ljubljana
Duration: 70 min
Who is not jumping, is not a Slovene
Radio Student Ljubljana, 19. Nov. 2012, Nenad Jelesijević
This performance is different. It starts off in such a peculiar minimalistic way: the performer comes bounding onto the stage, with a wide but frozen smile on his face and continues bounding. His jumps are repetitive, rhythmical and endless, almost euphoric. The whole situation gets only amplified, for each next performer repeats the motion and continues with the energetic leaps, which go on and on, ad infinitum. This “who-is -not-jumping-is-not-a-Slovene” situation is an endless template for all other action on the stage. The first sentence to be heard from the mouth of one of the performers after much jumping strikes one as almost prophetic: “And this is just a beginning.”
With its performance And this is Just a Beginning, the third in the series Irresolvable, Via Negativa wanted to show how happy we are that we live in a democracy. The premiere was staged on the day of presidential elections, and in the open invitation this is how they expressed their allegiance to the institution of the president: “Dear Mr President, we are not asking you who you are, we are happy that you are what you are. The President! You are ours and we are yours. Unreservedly. Unhesitantly.Onto life or death.” Onto life or death was also what the performance was about.
We saw an abstract voting body ready to leap from the past into the future, and which in fact got slowly melted from its legal abstract form into a stark reality. In the shape of performing artists, the voting body was carrying out impossible tasks, while bored in its own stupidity, redundancy and paralysis. When this and such a voting body started having hiccups – at one point in the performance, the performers began communicating with each other through hiccups – we could discern that this is mainly to do with the syndrome of bourgeois stuffiness. In other words that nothing can be changed in this exclusive capitalist society with which we are evidently satisfied, despite the fact that people, up to their necks in credit, are mere marionettes of the system that still relies on their inexhaustible patriotic passions. In short, who isn’t jumping is not an – indebted – Slovene.
The irony on the theme of a brainless herd that occasionally partakes in the electoral farce comes through in the performance at every step. The voice intervention of one of the female performers in the shape of reading an address of one professional politician with a heavy non-Slovene – in other words foreign – accent comes at the right moment: „We need unity and solidarity … to succeed in the global market of nations … the constraining divisiveness is making us paralysed.” And the legendary fascist-like sentence on top: “Love of one’s country is a question of civility of each one of us … we need more patriotism!” The grotesqueness of these uttered platitudes, alongside all the “erroneously” read-out words, which the other performers correct here and there, is very well accentuated in the way the performance is directed.
Meanwhile, the masterful jumping continues on the stage, jumping in continuity – of what? Of the status quo which capitalism so masterfully maintains? Freedom is outlawed; the state of law regulates our lives, enslaving us through borrowing and in various other ways forcing us into competition which in reality does not work, since the production mechanisms are ever more murderous. Exploitation culminates at this point; neoliberalism breeds fascism and vice versa.
At the end of the speech the performers withdraw from the stage. They start throwing shoes, and soon the stage is filled up with shoes. This way the performers’ absence is only more noticeable, accentuated and radical. The shoes flying onto the stage to then rest there invite at this key moment associations with concentration camps. Then, item by item, performers’ clothes come flying as well, eventually followed by naked performers lining themselves up with their backs facing the public.
They start smacking and whacking each other on their buttocks. The whacking progresses into real blows. Is this meant to be applause? An allusion to a sudden end to the performance? Or does this group action reflect the subconscious of a people suddenly surfacing? Or, is it symbolic of a short-lived release from under the terror of a nuclear family? Perhaps it is only to do with a release of tension which quickly manifests itself as aggression between the actors. In any case, this is the point of momentary pleasure, whatever that might be: pleasure in the moment of socialization. Go and see the performance and switch on your imagination at this point.
“And this was just a beginning,” we are again told by one of the performers. Highly energetic jumping of half-clad bodies continues. Direct light, the audience too is in the spotlight, one microphone, occasional intervention of repetitive, if lucid, music – that is all this particular performance needed to render the pathetic state of representative democracy with maximum irony; the poverty that is growing. The role of the artist which in the conditions of the status quo can only jump in his or her nakedness, for s/he is declared to be a redundant social parasite. S/he can be the court jester. Hey, hey, who is not jumping is not a Slovene, neither from the Primorska nor from the Gorenjska region, hey, hey, neither from the Štajerska nor Dolenjska region, who is not jumping is not a Slovene. Art needs to be a commercial good. The artist, however, is still a living body! And bodies can be pawned in movement, protest, resistance, and process.
The performance was jointly created by Katarina Stegnar, Grega Zorc, Boris Kadin, Anita Wach, Loup Abramovici, Lada Petrovski, Vito Weis and director Bojan Jablanovec. In positive sadness of Via Negativa’s highly topical piece I found myself contemplating in the rhythm of performers’ leaps Nenad J.
The backside of the voting body is red-hot from all the slapping
Delo Ljubljana, 13 November 2012, interview with B. Jablanovec, Maja Čakarić
Transitions 1. Balkans, Athens – reactions (in Greek language)
16 March 2014, Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens