Valerie Smith, In conversation with Discoteca Flaming Star (2010)
„Wut as an emotion ‚happens to us‘; it is not ours, but manifests itself in forms that are historically and socially determined.“ Discoteca Flaming Star in conversation with Valerie Smith
VS: When you think of the issues that the exhibition brought out, how do you see your place in it? What is your attitude, your position?
DFS: For the conception of our performance, we worked a lot in the space of the exhibition. During this working sessions the encounters with Jimmie Durham’s piece became more and more revealing, each time we visited the space: it was very intense how the piece grew for us as a sort of “inverted plunder.” There we were, not among the remains of a plunder that someone had used to make something. It was more the inversion of the chronology of a plunder, constructing and making detailed abysms out of it with fragile small elements, thresholds and transitions. This way of working: stumbling, not yet understanding, helped us a lot to build up our performance.
VS: What is your interpretation of Wut in general? Your reaction?
DFS: Wut as an emotion ‘happens to us’, it is not ours, it shows itself under historical and social specific forms. When trying to identify aspects of its current forms around us, we always came back to speak about exhaustion. Wut awakens when experiencing empathy or passion when witnessing or suffering injustice. But that emotion seems to freeze under a feeling of exhaustion when wanting to transform it into collective thoughts and actions.
Our approach is about overcoming this personal, individual feeling of exhaustion and trying to give the emotion of Wut the space and body of a collective process from which to think. Now, the question would be: what enables that transformation? Going back to Durham’s work might help to start giving an answer: perhaps it has to do with a capacity of bringing different temporalities together, inverting chronologies as well as letting documents of the past activate us and engender a rhythm in front of the blockade.
VS: The music you played was very repetitive, methodic, mechanical almost like a factory sound, which seems to follow its own logic that went against the grain of the recitative of the Stein text and the a cappella of “Seasons in the Sun”. Is this a use of music typical of your work, or did you decide to create this arrangement especially for the performance?
DFS: We conceive our performances as a whole space, a temporary space that we try to build up with different fragile elements: musical elements—that could be understood as soundtrack—, the banners, our position in the space, the equipment, the projections (the vision and space track), the connection or distance to the audience (the presence and body track). In the case of the performance “Jacouzzi of Muddy Tears” the musical elements were built upon the desire of using the 1999 Muslimgauze’s track “Jaccouzzi of Tears.” This helped us to group and develop the other elements around this core. We always work in this collage manner in which the different elements affect different levels, registers, chronologies and anachronisms of text, language and sound. In this performance the collage was created through a very dense layering—a back and forth movement of denseness.
VS: For your performance at Haus der Kulturen der Welt you chose to perform “Seasons in the Sun” (Rod McKuen/Jacques Brel) and original text excerpts from Gertrude Stein’s controversial novel, The Making of Americans . Why did you choose these particular pieces for the performance on the occasion of Über Wut?
DFS: We always work compiling and re-thinking past working experiences through our current research and – in this case – with the thoughts on the exhibition described above. Somehow when thinking of exhaustion and Wut, we came to speak about “amok-contexts”. And so we identified the need of a casually-cruel and dense text-tonality knotted on a film like timbre with the atmosphere of the exhibition, that would allow a sensitive concentration, as for example the soundtrack of Gus van Sant’s “Elephant” achieves.
Jacouzzi of Muddy Tears” became a live improvisation with some very rigid and pre-defined elements, whereas other elements were explored with and in front of the audience. The two texts and audio elements you name in your question were pre-defined:
Stein’s Text we encountered when looking for a text that would work in the international context of the exhibition, a text that would bring density and air at the same time. We needed to have a repetitive musical text that would speak about lives with precise but neutral observations, as for example police protocols do.
A text with suspense and without vanity: able to interact with the other elements of the performance.
When these needs were identified, Dagmar Gabler remembered “The making of Americans: a family history and history of whole humanity”. We tried different excerpts – some of them worked out perfect at the rehearsal and then while performing.
“It happens very often that a man has it in him, that a man does something, that he does it very often that he does many things, when he is a young man when he is an old man, when he is an older man…”
“Seasons in the Sun” is a song we love and adore and we needed it to be there, to support us. It is a song in which the singing voice addresses the moment of death in a way that overcomes the fear and anger about the reality of death, the fact of dying.
1 Muslimgauze was a music project of British ethnic electronica and experimental musician Bryn Jones, „creating their own musical mix of Western and Eastern cultures“. Source: HYPERLINK „http://www.muslimgauze.org“ www.muslimgauze.org
2 In The Making of Americans, Gertrude Stein sets out to tell “a history of a family’s progress,” radically reworking the traditional family saga novel to encompass her vision of personality and psychological relationships. As the history progresses over three generations, Stein also meditates on her own writing, on the making of The Making of Americans, and on America.