This year’s main program presents three performances that could come under the term “installations”; Eternal Russia by Marina Davydova and Vera Martynov, Nachlass, pièces sans personnes by the famous Rimini Protokoll, and the work by the Israel artist Nadav Barea, Pa’am.
The three works are not as determined by the term “installation” as they are by the fact that they - each in its own unique way - quite differ from the rest of the programme: two of them are spatial installations (Eternal Russia and Nachlass), while the third does not feature a single person on stage. All three of them speak, in a way, of death and of dying. The dying of people, the dying of the ideals, but also of the memories of those people, of those ideals and of the past itself.
Way before Eternal Russia became an installation produced by the German theatre Hebel an Ufer, the Russian painter, Ilya Glazunov painted his “Eternal Russia” towards the end of the last century, a painting thematically dedicated to the Christianization of Russians. Its composition is clear: throughout the troubled past, the history of Russia and of Orthodoxy still persists in the shape of the procession moving “towards the observer”. His painting is, therefore, celebrating and eternalizing that fact.
Eternal Russia by Marina Davydova and Vera Martynov is far from being optimistic, despite the fact that it also marks an anniversary: the centenary of October Revolution. In a similar way like Glazunov’s painting, this installation has a clear concept of time and space but, unlike its predecessor, it displays the rotten nature of state systems, challenging and relativizing the possibility of change of a set social system.
Walking through a circular set of rooms, the spectators - or, rather, spect-actors - will have a chance to walk through several segments of Russian history - from the times of the tsar, to the present moment. The history will turn out to be circular and the system unchangeable, and it seems irrelevant what name it bears - is it an empire, a socialist system, or a democratic republic - it is all the same, anyway. The history of Russia is presented as a succession of failed revolutions. Such history is tragic and deserves to be the protagonist of such work.
After this artistic parkour, one could ask numerous questions: from whether anything can be achieved through revolution, to possibly most relevant question here: has Russia ever been - at least for a day - the utopia all its fighters desired?
And, talking about failed revolutions, does it remind you of the history of another country?
The authors of next spatial installation, produced by the Swiss theatre Vidy, are Stefan Kaegi and Dominic Huber. This time, the spect-actors will visit eight rooms, all of them being final self-portraits of a kind. In the course of two years, Kaegi and Huber visited places from where people leave never to return; they worked with them, asking them to come up with a room which would be their Nachlass (legacy). Out of more than two hundred testimonies, they chose eight.
Eight people have made a decision to - nowadays when the thought of the last moment is postponed as much as possible - come forth and meet it.
Nachlass is a kind of a documentary work but in a specific, fragile, tangible way. All the objects in the rooms belong to the people who may have long be gone by now; the object they considered personal and used them on daily basis. Those “objects” are not necessarily material; they could be their dreams, too. And, although they are dying, each of them says something about life. They are present through their voices and through the trace they have left behind. Within that material frame, they float between presence and absence.
Apart from exploring those deep, essential questions - as if that were not enough! - this installation is unbelievably layered. It will pose many questions which concern social and cultural issues, dealing with various nationalities and various political beliefs of the departing ones.
And in the meantime, the sky. Every now and then, a lightning strikes. Every now and then, another person disappears. But of those legacies we are deprived.
Pa’am is the transliteration of the Hebrew word פעם which means “time” or “once”, or, in this connotation, “once upon a time”.
Young multimedia artist Nadav Barnea has staged, by the means of eight monitors, an entire mosaic of memories and feelings. Through an abstract form, we will see a mixture of facts, thoughts, nostalgy and guilt, all linked by contemplations on losing the close ones, on death itself.
Although this work is not literally a spatial installation, it is also somewhat specific; there is not a single person on stage. Edward Gordon Craig would probably say - and better so! And he might be right - the absence of people makes the abstraction more vivid, and our imagination limitless. Thus the personal confessions of three people - the actress Ora Meirson, the musician Eran Zur, and the actor Doron Tavori - acquire a completely new, personal dimension. The audience will compare the memories they hear with their own, getting thus an unbelievable theatre experience (by theatre critics often equaled with trip?).
The lights, the music, even the silence, give additional dimension to this performance. Similarly to the performance Nachlass, Barnea relies not only on personal experiences; the performance represents an important social comment on society, on forgetfulness, on personal and collective responsibility, commenting on the biggest catastrophe in the history of the humanity - the holocaust.
The three installation which, each in its own unique way, deal with the topic of death, remembrance and the society, create a wide range of understandings of the notion. Observed as a whole, the three installations create a unique theatre experience. Although somewhat different, they offer unbelievable depth and space for personal contemplation and understanding. The lack of people in these installations will not go unnoticed, but there still will be people, the spect-actors, who will create complete and colorful images of remembrance.