camin… camin aktion?
camin is the Occitan word for the path or the way. Aktion, well… the German word for action ?
« The goal is the journey. »
That’s what is said about life’s major journeys. Traveling gives us the opportunity to lose our bearings and reach towards others, allowing for a change of perspective and casting our compasses overboard. Goethe said: « Those who know nothing of foreign languages, knows nothing of their own.” Traveling makes the spirit noble and rids us of prejudices. The Stranger, our mirror, our master of self-awareness.
When away from home, we bring something with us, we inspire, and we meet those who live there or who are just passing through. We share and continue on our path… differently… rich with human interactions (and a few blisters on our feet).
Isn’t this experience the same with Performing Arts? The path is the process of creation, the creator’s research. And once he/she has completed the work – which is more or less complete – the process continues. Work accomplished, but artist inescapably dissatisfied because it’s never really finished as Jacques Tati said.
But it’s this dissatisfaction that fuels creation: he/she who constantly ponders yet who is crazy enough to exhibit the creation of his doubts in front of a crowd.
Now it’s time to meet the audience, audiences, and community: Performing Arts lives. It lives on stage with audiences, and each and every time, it’s unique.
The theater, in its strictest sense, is this sacred ceremonial. Theater, theós and astéri, God and the Stars: the encounter with something spiritual that is created at this precise moment, a magical moment as Peter Brook describes it so well in The Empty Space¹. Inexplicable why it happens (or not), but when the artist enters in communion with the audience, that’s when we’re moved, when the catharsis is released.
This is also when the art of the interpreter is embodied: the dancer rehearsing sequences his body has memorized, translating emotion into movement, and who lives each instant like it was the first by being present in the space, rhythm, time, music or silence.
It’s the actor who shines light on the text written beforehand by an inspired author, and who brings it to life, making us vibrate.
The choreographers’ or directors’ magic enchant, shock, move and interrogate us. In other words, the magic makes us different than who we were when we arrived.
This magic is also sprinkled onto the many technicians, who bring life to the theatrical machine. They bathe the stage in ephemeral colors, create subtleties and nuances with sound, have the knowhow to manipulate machinery; they are our Deus-ex-machina.
The Production team has innate listening skills to transform the artist’s dream into reality and to convince others to close their eyes and just listen.
The Administration team knows how to navigate the ship within the twists and turns of obligations, which are not only outrageously complex, and at times, paradoxical.
The magic continues to shine with the workers backstage, and cleaners who give us a pleasant environment. The ushers are the angels accompanying the spectator into this dreamlike space, the theater.
If the goal is the journey, and the process is the heart of the show, we can compare ourselves to walkers. Just like those who walk the unknown beaten track, they arrive, stay, then leave… it’s similar in our professions: we come from afar, we live with residents for a single evening, and just like the buskers of yesteryear, we leave straight away carrying with us, a one-of-a-kind experience.
On a journey and in our professions, we accompany and we are accompanied. We depend on each other, and it’s a good thing. Artists need accompaniment to travel from amateur practice to emergence or professionalism, in order to acquire their language, this universal language in which they speak to us. Accompany those who will hold the reins of tomorrow’s production and organization, a new generation of artists with their own aesthetic and language, who will build theaters on our foundations.
We travel mentally and physically. But the most beautiful is living together for a lapse of time, creating together. Listening to and understanding others, taking steps away from our own perception of things is also a way of getting closer to each other. We inevitably have places we love all over the world; places where we like to settle and call “home”.
The notion of a country or a specific culture (if that exists, I have my doubts) fades with life being lived, with encounters on journeys, with love: we accumulate successive layers of identities, visions, languages, customs, and all of this makes up our own unique culture. We transform throughout life into something universal if we dare to admit it, without the fear of losing ourselves, but with the courage of finding ourselves… in others.
This is the way I understand the notion of “homeland” (because those who speak of roots, speak of the land that nourishes us), not an exclusive idea, but a land of refuge, an inclusive notion. The soil we walk upon, the landscapes we travel across, the country we settle on for a fleeing moment or for a lifetime, we, immigrants of life, strangers everywhere else, but at home.
This place, a lottery of geography and time, where chance or another destiny dropped us at birth… This land where we pass through to end up somewhere else, like a spotlight that shines the present moment on our ephemeral existence. And during this short moment, we can choose to live, to live with others, to live the performance.
La vida es un sueño, wrote Calderón – Life is a dream.
Performance can be an awakening.
Notes by Dirk Korell, 2009
¹The empty space, Atheneum, 1968.
Photos © Dirk Korell