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There is Composition - The Trilogy
liebesgeSCHICHTEN
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some time after performing liebesgeSCHICHTEN

 

liebesgeSCHICHTEN began when I suddenly felt so affectionate for my lover that I began to write a story for him, the kissing story. It was August or September 2003 (we had been together for two years and eight months back then) and we stayed together at his parent’s place in Rome. It was that very hot summer in which lots of old people in France popped off (I had been there, too, before travelling over to Italy. As you can notice, I am still alive, which is because I am not old, but I can tell you: the only place you could really be then and there was on the water on an air matrace, floating along with your legs in the water and chatting with your sister. Not even the old houses with meter-deep walls could keep the big heat out. It was so hot that sometimes I was afraid the blood could stop flowing through my veins. This is no joke or exaggeration. My aunt who was going through her menopause at the time believed she went through a never-ending heat wave as the water was running down her body 24/7. At night we slept outside without a blanket and we woke up at 7 in the morning because it was too hot again. And so on.) As it was so hot in Rome, too, we had the choice to either stay inside the house or go to the beach and burn. My lover’s father had just bought himself a laptop, so I thought it might be nice to do some writing. And what came out was the kissing story the beginning of liebesgeSCHICHTEN, i.e. the first love story (Liebesgeschichte). And then more stories followed and when Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse fell into my hands it inspired the whole collection as can be seen most obviously in the subtitled, bilingual chapter-structure. More little prose writings came together, I notated my own, other people’s and made-up anecdotes of personal love stories. I wrote, as I call it, with the ear, with a particular attentiveness to rhythmic flow and melody for which sometimes I even use slightly incorrect words or sentence structures. In writing them the intention was for the texts to be spoken, read out aloud. Some of the chapters are connected to specific songs, such as “boyfriends” to Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita”, “The Werther Syndrome” to “Gloomy Sunday” or “First Encounter” to Vaya con Dios’ “Just a Friend of Mine”. When I decided to use the texts for a performance, I made a tape with all these songs to use as additional devising material. Also I started projecting chapter titles onto the wall during rehearsals and found a few objects which I wanted to use, such as kitsch ceramic flirting pigeons, two little playing sailing boats, a dictaphone to play the song tape with, a metronome and a tuning fork. The latter related to the musicality of the texts and could at the same time be used as a metaphor for that, which binds people together. There is the necessity to tune in with the other, find a common rhythmic base.

 

Thematically, issues of language and translation had become essential to the process of working with liebesgeSCHICHTEN. This might have its very origin in the fact that my lover and I don’t speak with each other in our mother tongue and that we share different languages between us to which we need to adapt depending on the circumstances and between which we also switch if we search for a more appropriate way of saying something. There is also a whole chapter that deals exclusively with issues of communication in regard of varying languages. Issues of language and translation are of great relevance to any kind of love story. The language of two different people will never be entirely the same, and that between a man and a woman differs even more. As we can move across boarders so easily today we all begin to live multilingual and such relationships become the norm. But often in love, communication through words provokes misunderstandings due to the differences in one as well as in different languages, and also due to the love for the person we are speaking with, which colours all words and leads us to misreading. Other languages, removed from words, paralanguage, gesture, looks, might gain more importance, and replace verbal communication where it fails.

 

So I started translating chapters into other languages, gesture language, movement, drawing or song. The idea was soon to make each chapter of liebesgeSCHICHTEN a miniature performance that could be performed on its own or between any of the other chapters so that the whole lot could be performed for an indefinite amount of time in arbitrary order. I began to devise these little pieces but soon felt my resistance towards the rigidity off a constructed, finished, polished, work. It seemed to contradict the lightness and the undirected flow of a love story and rather turn into something that resembled a planned marriage.

I kept experimenting in the studio and went through manic phases between despair and total excitement, swaying between theatricality and very minimal performing, once shaping the material and then again leaving it all loose and open. I didn’t move on. The evening before the first showing of liebesgeSCHICHTEN arrived and I had to make some decisions about what I would present, and the safest would have been to make a simple reading of the texts.

 

Instead, I decided that I go into the studio with all my materials (texts, props, songs, projections) and begin to improvise along some structural devices. I would not have to follow the chapters in chronological order. There would always be a moment of choosing the next story. This would give me control over dynamic shifts in the work. In these moments I could also be playful in my relationship with the audience, drawing on their reactions when making the next choice. I had the freedom to repeat one piece of text for an undefined amount of time and shift between modes of reading/speaking the texts (speaking it freely, reading it, telling it as a personal story, telling it to someone, alienating it by rhythmicising it or putting it at a distance to myself). I would have a microphone and stand and a spotlight to theatricalize the texts and scenes. The microphone also gave me the chance to play with directness or mediation and with the qualities and intensities of my voice. I ordered myself to be aware of playfulness and attentiveness to the audience, spatial relationships, rhythms and dynamics. As soon as I had fixed this framework I went to my friend Teresa’s birthday party and drank and danced, but not too long.

 

In retrospect I have difficulty to distinguish the rules that have been made before and those have been made during the performance. Some emerged out of spontaneous improvisations in the performing. Once I had discovered and explored them, they became so strong that they appeared to be fixed structures to both the audience and myself. One of these was for example the use of the little doll, with which I welcomed new audience members, addressing them personally with the little figure and moving it according to the dynamic of my welcome to that particular person.

Reflecting, I notice that silence and stillness should have been another element to be aware of whilst performing. liebesgeSCHICHTEN is a durational work, people can come back to it; yet I still have the urge to make them stay as if to confirm myself. In order to make them stay I believe, I have to entertain them and don’t allow myself to breathe. Yet this is what the work needs. It needs breath or it will fall together. liebesgeSCHICHTEN is a performance always on the edge of failure, a risk of death. If it loses its element of risk and feels safe to performer and audience, it also loses its fascination.