Have you ever deplored the replacement of a worn jacket? Embraced the joy of living in a new house? Dreamt of a bionic limb? Yearned to trade your body for another one? Feared to expose yourself to the future? Experimented with your life pursuing desire and imagination? In REPLACEMENT eight performers ramble different realities leaking and spilling over into their bodies. On the brink of loss and joy they cope with residues and monstrous emotions, intoxicate their thoughts, incorporate unsettling realities, find themselves upside down. Prone to shifting grounds, they experiment with space and exercise fiction in a theatre disguised as a laboratory.
Concept & direction:
Gaëtan Bulourde, Thomas Conway, Abraham Hurtado, Anna MacRae, Kotomi Nishiwaki, Vania Rovisco, Frank James Willens, Sigal Zouk-Harder
Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz (Berlin), Théâtre de la Ville (Paris), Productiehuis Rotterdam (Rotterdamse Schouwburg)
Halles de Schaerbeek, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts
Meg Stuart & Damaged Goods are supported by the Government of Flanders and the Flemish Community Commission
"I saw in Southwark at St. Margarites faire, a monstrous birth of Twinns, both femals and most perfectly shaped, save that they were joyn'd breast to breast, and incorporated at the navil, having their armes thrown about each other. It was reported quick in May last,and produced neere Turne-style Holbourn: well exentrated and preserved till now." (from the diaries of John Evelyn, London 1660).
In its long cultural history - from the undead creatures in the Greek mythology, to the grotesque aberrations which used to be put on display at fairs for the sake of entertaining the masses; from the figure of "Frankenstein" in the Gothic Novel of the same name by Mary Shelley to modern popular myths like "King Kong", and the Cyborgs in animated films like "Ghost In The Shell" - the "monster" has been the subject of many interpretations. What they all have in common, though, is the fact that the monster stands for the subhuman, the artificial and the deviation of "nature", which makes the viewer shudder with horror. It is an almost universal phantasma and container of fears in societies, which build a consensus of what "normality" and their "identity" is supposed to be by excluding the other, the strange, the abject.
If one considers the trace of blood which the regimes of the "normal" have left across the continents, throughout the centuries, be it the form of misogyny, racism, or homophobia: Isn't it then justified to mark the "normal" as the actual "monstrous"? If so, what are the clandestine connections between forms of representation in the theatre and the many masks of the "normal"? Shouldn't all our sympathy go to the "vampire", to the figure which gets up at night and attacks the logic of reproductive sex and racial hygiene by drinking and infusing "blood in a paradigmatic act of infecting whatever poses as pure?" (Donna J. Haraway, Modest_Witness@Second_Millenium, 1997)
In REPLACEMENT Meg Stuart and Damaged Goods discover the "monster" as a cipher, through which the theatre can turn self-reflexive and learn more about itself. This piece deals with the monstrosity of the theatre and the theatricality of the monstrous, human experiments on actors, and the phantom pain which occurs when life and its embodiments have ceased to exist and one thing gets replaced by an other.
Barbara Ehnes stage design transforms the theatre into a laboratory where the undead - otherwise banished into the realm of the invisible - becomes present. Eight dancers, each shadows of themselves, configure into choreography of vampiristic love and monstrous relations of violence in which dance and acting drive each other to their limits.
Meg Stuart about the creation and the performance
REPLACEMENT takes place in an "experimental environment", a laboratory, an observatory. That choice was made from the very beginning. Before I started with this creation, I wanted to do some real experiments, investigate, walk on side-roads and leave all possibilities open. I didn't want to focus on a finished product. We went into town with the whole team, tried out a number of points of departure in very diverse ways, absorbed those experiences and took them back to the studio.
The laboratory setting also refers to theatre itself, to the way a director gives orders to his actors, tries out a certain scene, asks an actor to move one of his arms or put a foot in the air, get into the skin of a character, etc.
I consciously pursued this association to theatre and its mechanisms. From my own and our fears today, in this society, we soon discovered the performer's deepest fear: the fear of being exposed to the audience, the fear of looking monstrously in the eyes of the audience. On the basis of that very concrete, tangible fear we explored the notion of monstrousness watching horror films, reading books and searching extreme motions and situations in the rehearsal room. But we also visited the "monstrous" in our minds, those demons everybody is bothered by. Or we watched ourselves in the mirror after a night out. Like a taxi driver said when I told him I was working on "the monster": "The monsters are in ourselves, but not everybody is prepared to recognise and acknowledge them."
Then there are Jacques Derrida's words: "Monsters cannot be announced. One cannot say: 'here are our monsters' without immediately turning the monsters into pets. "Monsters or monstrosity can only appear as a fictitious form. "Here is an issue for artists: how could one give the monstrous a fictional form while acknowledging that it also indicates an unruly, worrying and intrusive reality that resists the power of metaphors?"
We live in a society where virtual bodies, robots and plastic surgery are daily bread, a society where norms are changing quickly, where we have become much more inclined to consider deviations as abnormal or undesirable, because the "better version" is within reach.
REPLACEMENT is everywhere: it is in the coming and going of the seasons, the succession of generations and historical events. In daily life, employees are replaced by younger and cheaper people, lovers are left, clothes are worn out and furniture loses its shine... Besides, science and technology offer many possibilities to fix or change anything that is not entirely ideal or that does not respond to an ideal model.
In the show, there is a scene where an actress of flesh and blood competes with her own image on video: who will win the battle?
REPLACEMENT is not an indictment. I show what gets lost in the process of innovation, I show bodies which no longer represent an intangible entity and submit my performers to the researcher's merciless look. By constantly switching the roles of the researcher and the person he investigates, of subject and object, I want to demonstrate that nobody is solely in the position of the researcher, nobody is solely an object exposed to investigation. Those positions are exchangeable. Everybody takes one position now (outside the observatory), then the other (in the box).
I don't believe the process of judging, changing, releasing, renewing, etc. makes any victims. It is all part of our system. I am convinced that we are all driven by a natural tendency to experiment.
All the same, I am not euphoric about the possibilities we have nowadays. I keep wondering what price we will have to pay for yet another invention; what gets lost; if anything really changes and renews itself.
"If one, as an artist or writer nowadays, aims to speak about the times we live in, how does one avoid being crushed by reality, by a world overflowing with horror? Performance has to do with incarnation, which involves the risk of being overwhelmed by a violent reality, for which no answers are to be found. In his Norton lectures (1985), Italian writer Italo Calvino pleads for lightness, for a malleable, nimble and witted use of language to approach the heaviness, slowness and intransparency of the world. He says that a light and precise formulation could bear an intense awareness of reality, without the risk of being entangled in it. "
The American choreographer and dancer Meg Stuart developed her first choreographies in New York in the eighties. At the invitation of Klapstuk 91 she created her first evening length piece Disfigure Study. Around 1994 she started, together with her Brussels based company Damaged Goods, a series of collaborations with visual artists o.a. Lawrence Malstaf (Insert Skin # 1 - TheyLive in Our Breath -1996), Bruce Mau (Remote - 1997 ), Gary Hill (Splayed Mind Out - 1997) and Ann Hamilton (appetite - 1998). During the year 2000 until the spring of 2001, Meg Stuart and Damaged Goods created, in close collaboration with director Stefan Pucher and video artist Jorge Leon, the location project Highway 101 . From 2001 until 2004 Meg Stuart and Damaged Goods were 'artists in residence' at Schauspielhaus Zürich, where Alibi (2001), Visitors Only (2003) and Forgeries, Love and other matters were created. From the season 2002-2003 on the company also started a partnership with Volksbühne am Rosa Luxemburg-Platz (Berlin), where they recently created Replacement (2006).Back to top