Friday, 14 September 2012

Fire Into Song

Show Name: Fire Into Song
Artist: Cara Berger with Victoria Beesley and Vanessa Coffey
Venue: Arches LIVE 2012
Date: Tue 18 - Wed 19 Sep 2012 | 8.15pm (1 hour) | Studio | £8/£6

Description (from Arches website): Drawing on a wealth of texts, from Ovid and Hesiod to Kafka and Helene Cixous, Fire Into Song shines a new light on the Prometheus myth by asking: can we imagine a female Prometheus?

Dance, spoken word and live improvisation combine to create a new and surprising performance each night as the main themes of the myth – the disintegration of the creative body, fire that brings life but also consumes it, and the creative act as one of self-destruction – are reexamined from a feminist perspective.

Gareth K Vile: Ah, the classics... Ovid, Hesoid: all full of fun, flair and casual misogyny. How does it feel making a piece that is explicit in its feminist intent yet working with some texts that, in my opinion, were there at the birth of the patriarchy?

Cara Berger: I completely agree. Ovid (whose work features in Ted Hughes’ translation) was writing at a time where women and the feminine were being increasingly written out of myths. In fact, I would go as far as saying that the Prometheus myth, as a myth of origin, plays a pivotal role in this since it succeeds in ignoring women and their bodies in the process of creation. 

Such texts feature in the production as I am interested in working in the context of shared narrative and imaginary fabric and doing work on it. This means that one can’t just leave the old stories behind (and the Prometheus myth is a very persistent one that carries over into Christianity for instance) but instead I try to work on transforming them. For such a project myth, which is transformative by nature and calls to be re-written is very appealing.

The female Prometheus... reminds me of The Modern Prometheus, which was written by a woman... is the idea of female creativity not so much a problem of innate ability but transmission?

Yes transmission has been a great problem, women have of course always been creative but often their work has been seen as minor and hence wasn’t entered into the canon. However I also think that women are discouraged, when they create, to think about what it is to be a woman (in the many different ways one can be “woman”) and to create from that point of view. 

This, I think, links back to the idea of female creativity being minor, the belief that what deals with women, the female and the feminine is in some way less general or abstract and in effect less meaningful. It is also about recognising that much culture is produced from a perspective of male experience and that this sexual difference is inscribed in artworks. Art is never sexually neutral, even if we might believe this at first and when an artwork is not specifically concerned with gender and sexuality. It is always inscribed with desire.

Over the Fringe, I spoke to a young of young artists who would be doing things like "reconstructing gender roles" but denied that this was feminism. It was then I realised how old I was -  I have no way of making a distinction between the two concepts. Why do you think that some artists fight shy of being called feminists?

I have a hard time understanding such statements too. It seems that some artists are worried, they might be perceived to be “single-issue” driven – a perspective that I think denies the profundity of gendered and sexed experience as it saturates all other experiences (just as class or culture or race do too) and cannot be reduced to specific moments where these “roles” appear. 

But more importantly, the term feminism got a dirty name somewhere in the late eighties and began to be seen as old-fashioned, proscriptive and joyless – the opposite of what may feminist theorists and practitioners. Cixous in particular, actually advocate!

I have however been noticing a movement towards embracing the term “feminist” again amongst young people across the gender spectrum. That said, a lot still needs be done by young feminists to clarify their position especially in relation to earlier activism and thought.

 I draw on Cixous who started writing in the sixties and sometimes I do find it terrifying how true her writings from the sixties and seventies still ring. I have never been able to get to terms with the idea of “postfeminism” I’m not really sure what it is although I’ve read plenty of it. It mostly seems to be a way to say feminism without using the “dirty word “ itself…

I find Helene Cisoux really hard.... can you give me a quick run down of why you have picked her work?

I find Cixous work appealing as an artist, since it is a call to creativity. It is not just a critical apparatus but it demands direct application to art production. Cixous herself has written dozens of books and a number of plays, many of which have been translated from French but this tends to be largely unknown in Britain.

Her work is founded on Freud, and his deconstructor Lacan. So she believes that sexuality and desire is inscribed in our fantasies, our dreams and the art we make. But it also goes beyond this and impacts on the way we interact with others, the way we govern and the whole political scene. Desire is political and ethical.

She also believes that there is such a thing as masculine desire and feminine desire and that these are not bound to men and women – so a man can be feminine and a woman masculine, and this can change from moment to moment. In her analytical work she looks at how these two “economies” play out in different works of art and shows how the masculine has been privileged throughout Western culture. The masculine she understands to be ordering, conserving and unifying while the feminine resists closure, it is excessive, tactile, musical and riskful, it celebrates difference and multiplicity rather than sameness.

Oh, hang on, I've got stuck in the theory.... can you tell me how you translate the ideas into a theatrical experience?

We have worked a lot on giving up control over meaning so it becomes contingent and the materiality of the theatre can take hold, so theater can become tactile and voiced. To do this we have created a “poetry generator” which was developed by Calum Rodger and coded by Sebastian Charles. We’ve fed 16 basic sentences (from a novel by Cixous called The Book of Promethea) into it and it now creates endless new combinations. 

This generator is the basis for a large improvisation piece in which we combine dance, words, voice and sound that will be different every time it is performed. What we’re aiming at is excessive meaning and sensory impact rather than presenting a nicely ordered myth that can explain and encompass everything and everyone.

We are also thinking through the relationship with the audience and how the audience can be implied in an exchange. How them being in a room with us, with their own creative potential, their own desires and images can somehow be drawn on, without being put on the spot.

No comments :

Post a Comment