THE DEFORMING/ABSTRACTING BODY OF D.B.INDOS
THE DEFORMED BODY DECONSTRUCTS THE BODY'S VERTICAL AXIS - THE DEDEIFICATION OF
THE BODY, THE REDUCTION OF THE BODY TO A REGRESSIVE PREIMAGE OF A 'SUBNORMAL' BODY: PERFORMER AS DEFORMER, THE ONE WHO UGLIFIES, DEFORMS AND DISFIGURES THE IMAGE
OF THE BODY.
'THE SON' AND 'LABYRINTH' MARK A TRANSITION FROM THE THEATRICALISATON OF PERFORMANCE TO SOUND PERFORMANCES WHERE THE INSTALLATIONS-SCENOGRAPHIES START WAILING AND THE PAIN OF THE BODY IS TRANSPOSED INTO AN ARCHITECTURAL SCENE OF MENTAL SUFFERING.
INDOS'S INSTALLATIONS, OR AS I CALLED THEM EARLIER HIS SPIRITUALLY RECYCLED JUNK,
ARE ACOUSTIC AND KINETIC INSTALLATIONS. IT IS A QUESTION OF TRANSFERRING THE KINETIC RHYTHMS OF THE BODY TO THE SCULPTURAL, TO THE MULTIPLIED ACOUSTIC-KINETIC INSTALLATIONS WHEREBY THE ARCHITECTURAL SCENE, CONSTRUCTED WITH THE THEATRICAL MUSEUM OF METAL JUNK-FIGURES, BECOMES A SPIRITUAL/MENTAL EXTENSION OF THE BODY,
Deformations / D.B.Indoš's Body Abstractions
In Damir Bartol Indoš's performing of autistic movements and of the body consacrated to the symptom of mental/transcendental experience, he reduces the body to the regressive archetype of 'subnormal' body: a performer as a deformer, he who de-divinises the image of the body. A deformative body is a body of abstract movements that 're-turn' the body into its beginning. Suzana Marjanić's text follows the performance of the body in 'mental pain' using the examples of several performances by the Croatian alternative theatre company Kugla, led by Indoš, which have been come about under the aegis os spiritual impulses Indoš attributes to Heraclitus and R.D.Laing.
FRAGILE. DO NOT TUMBLE! - Lada Čale Feldman
About the performance School Bus by D. B. Indoš
I cannot expel from my memory the day when Damir Bartol Indoš, invited to the promotion of Artaud’s book The Theatre and Its Double, confessed his debt to the French theatre of cruelty poet and confided that he has gradually moved from his one-time preoccupation with global political injustices - the question of What am I to do now - to tenderness for those closest to him, supplemented by the question of What was in the beginning, which had also troubled Artaud, the surrealist shaman. If there is anything that obstinately distinguishes Indoš’ performances from the boringly quasi-pluralist art-as-the-cultural-industry landscape, it is precisely his replenishing ability to dance (or de-form through distortions, as wittily put by Suzana Marjanic) in those seemingly separated, though in fact inseparable extremes, in utterly serious, personal, even physical torments, perpetually connecting the alleged incompatibilities: the cruel and the tender, poetic solitude and theatrical grouping, contingency and the absolute, surrealist avant-gardism and archaic ritualism, the macrocosm and the microcosm, the performer’s autobiographism and polysemantic representational metaphor.
The seeming narrowing of his ethics and metaphysics to the horizon of his own family and neighbourhood might be read as the petty bourgeois motto My home is my castle in a different ideological framework, if it were not for Indoš’ persistent putting of his own life’s body to the test of public inquiry into the roots of violence, eloquently dispelling all doubt as regards the consistency of his turn. Limiting the field of one’s ethical action to those for whom one is directly responsible – say, one’s own child – suddenly inverts the relations of phylo- and ontogenesis. With each and every child civilization is faced with a “historic opportunity”, as the saying goes, to mitigate the effects of its repressiveness, or, as is most often the case, to strengthen them: the hic Rhodus for anyone who would jump at its multilayered masks, with school as the guiding principle. A concerned parent, once s/he realizes that environmental disaster encompasses primarily the daily contamination of children, from inculcating the grammar to the demand for prompt multiplication of five-digit with two-digit numbers, may even abandon the anti-globalization protests and truly attempt to go back to the beginning growing before her/his eyes, continually vitally curious, like Adam in Indoš’ performance, to investigate whether in the beginning there was the Spirit, God or Monkey. They may even ask whether they themselves produce some domestic violence – say, during parental disputes, which for their uninvited children witnesses acquire the proportions of a cosmogonic earthquake – or they might climb the school bus, where the precious cargo is tumbled.
Indoš’ latest performance, weaving both the gossamer lyricism and the drastic roughness of its predecessors, daringly contrasts and glues together dilemmas of our concern for those closest to us, global war disasters and rhythms of the cosmic mutiny, and unsparingly displays the range of now invested, now disinvested orientation of its actors, borrowed from the different phases of the bus’ daily routine, who seem to be waiting distractedly for signals to join in, or move aside in the gap created, say, between Hana’s mother and “the role of Hana’s mother”.
The School bus, the children’s vehicle, vehicle for children, is equally meant for children as is Indoš’ eponymous production, in which children, including his own child, perform for children, just as much as this world is, after all, made for children who still stubbornly climb its stage. Metal cave, along which a group of children and grown-ups is deployed among a mass of objects they will use as percussion – from actual instruments to a drawer full of frenzied, hopping hardware for a DIY project aided by a drill – and from which a “real” engine will soon twang, like a stranded wreck still able to emit loud sounds, is thus equally the stage itself, the bus, and the city street down which the monster speeds.
Not only is such the setting of the piece, the time is equally polyphonic: the performance is set in both now and every day, at the pace of precise points in time, points of departure and arrival to school, for each one individually, when it is turn for a certain stop and certain child’s turn – then again, it is also set in the dreamtime, or, rather, in the nightmaretime, when the bus might be “sleeping”, like Indoš’ bicycle, waiting for the new day and the new round, haunted by delirious images of bus-hunter, bike-driver, Indoš himself, the tamer with whom the monster has fused in personification, like a bully identified with victim in interchangeable positions of the sadomasochistic clinch, shouting to its naturalist landscape a spiteful romantic prose verse “arrive right on time, rejoice in the cause of the strain, suffering!”
Therefore it is possible to attribute the opening monologue sequences, which Indoš lets echo slowly in the depths of a metal megaphone with a stertorous, guttural resonance, to “the school bus chaperone”, Indoš himself, on stage and in life, but also to the merciless box of the bus, which ventriloquially speaks through his mouth, tamed by the chaperone’s stubbornness to pick up every single child, instead of ruthlessly speeding by, roaring through the streets. But not even the chaperone can escape manifesting something of the traumatic stamp of his metal alter ego: his voice rattles like the engine, competing with its deafening crescendo - in order to be tender, he must be even rougher. He happily suffers when, catching up with his bus duty on the bicycle, he passes “cow dung on the Jakuševecka street”, “rat roadkill” and “the neighbour’s pigs” - the sad relicts of an entirely involuntary resistance to the hygienic cultural habits, stumbled upon by the lost children like Marko Burazin - boldly shouting to be “both spiritual and material”, thus debunking the highfalutin philosophical (not to mention theatrical) dichotomies into the daily rigorousness of their necessary oblivion for the sake of the inexorable concreteness of the immediate task, to see every child, to remember every name, together with every stop, to know everyone’s schedules, everybody’s story… Breaking into the bus is not only breaking into a certain number of irreducible anthropomorphous tiny beings, like “the first grader Vedran”, or Pavel with “holes in his trousers, on the bottom”, but also a collision with the neglected small forms of communication of the “give me five” type, or letter formation with fingers, a collision with fight, children’s violent bullying and quotidian heroisms integrated into the strategies of the unprotected, like that of Tin Francic when facing the importunate skinhead: “I must always be prepared to be beaten up, I must be brave for the sacrifice of being beaten up”.
As I have already mentioned, it is not a performance for children, although it is neither a didactic play with children, whose relatives fill the historic regions of the theatrical infantology. It consistently refuses both the torture of education and the torture of the theatre (often harnessed to serve educational purposes), but also the torture of the theatrical rehearsals, which hide in the base of smooth edges and shiny surfaces of, say, oriental techniques, years and years of crushing the child’s spirit and body. But it is neither the result of an idealized assumption, which guided the theatrical experiments of the 60’s: creation of an utopian space of lovely laboratories, which would use the raw material of children’s fantasy for the numb limbs of adult forms, renew the pent-up sources of the children’s phase of the theatre culture in a popular performative archaism and blaze with new freshness of the theater of shadows, puppets, masks, circus, invoked to heal and re-form the neuralgia of the daily routine.
The School bus attempts to avoid that sort of pseudo-recognition of a possible input and aesthetic commodification of not only the civilisation’s folklore, but also today’s wild growth of children’s folklore, the protoabsurdist ditties with the only necessity of perfect rhythm and rhyme, pleasure in the timbre of produced syllables and letters, or protosurrealist transformations from Nataša’s game, in which one needs to perform a lexical-gestural confusion between eye and nose, nose and toes, neck and mouth as swiftly and deftly as possible, notwithstanding the coercion of the regulated affinity of languages, notions and phenomena, which is repeatedly emphasized by the lessons of foreign languages. Performative presence of his children resembles the organizational chaos of handwriting on the pages of their notebooks, which create the sheets of the theatrical booklet-notebook, where knotty orthographic, semantic and mathematical mistakes are mercilessly corrected in red, but where the marginalia of smuggled children’s remarks are also listed next to numbers and commands like stop, record, play, eject. There is an attempt at suspending suchlike order-issuing when it comes to the impurities of children’s involvement with the tissue of performative action, the clash of Victor’s, Hana’s, Zvonimir’s and Katarina’s personalities, and of the privacy of Viktor’s mum and dad with a suddenly spectacular professionalism of the showman Indoš in a new context: fragile voices, unpredicted panting, accidental collisions of the bodies, everyday clothes, even the sometimes indecisive willingness and unwillingness of participating, de-familiarized and removed from any exhibitionist intention supporting the resonant presence that does not attempt to coagulate individual components into a perfect whole.
What is thus questioned are our inculturated limits by which we mentally bind both the children in the audience and the children on stage: the edge against which the performance keeps rubbing, almost intolerably closely – with its cacophony, narrowness of the anxiety-ridden playing space, simultaneous solidity of the cage’s metal walls and their transparent opening to our eyes, the proximity of the children to the humming of the engine, the drill and the hopping nails, all that aggressive baggage – is the same edge, however, that does not concern us greatly when children need to be sent into life, where it is necessary to quantify and grammaticalize things, time and people until one feels nauseous, and most of all to eagerly correct oneself, before and after short breaks in a Disney-like kitsch.
In contrast to that, this performance lists battered and repeated scenes of a cartoon, assembled from the moves of children’s hands, above the space of the transparent bus’ lower mould. Alas, those lovely non-standardized moves cannot but shape the contents imposed on them, from the aforementioned rat to the professions they need to enumerate in German, to the fair mermaid’s song, sung by Katarina, temptingly laid down upon the “proscenium”, next to Indoš the chaperone and Mic the driver. The same goes for toys, those fabricated diminutives which not so much poison, but in fact create the allegedly innocent children’s imagination: the insertion of Laing’s dialogues with his own son and daughter – revealing Adam’s preference for the warplanes to the passenger aircraft, although he warns that bombs must be used “only if absolutely necessary” – sufficiently demonstrates just how much self-deception and deafness one needs to maintain the fiction of children’s isolation. That is why the performance makes so much noise, sounds the alarm by reconstructing the chaos in which we are basking, and in which it is difficult to hear music in oneself that makes children, like one of Laing’s patients, swallow vinyl records, or understand the reasons that make Nataša confer white scrolls of blank paper upon the quarrelsome parents.
The trance of the final dance anarchy in the bus full of tumbled children’s bodies, with the swallowed melody “crazy little thing”, with which the embryonal catatonia of Indoš’ performative trademark is associated, is therefore far from the soppy invitations to find the child in ourselves: the screeching of the school bus’ brakes before a possible traffic accident reveals who is at the wheel, although in the rolling bosom of an equally perilous threat, with equally fervent and justified desire to join other fluttering legs and arms. The end of the first performance that I saw was both somewhat calmer and somewhat more melancholy; the faithful driver was bidding his exhausted farewell to the bus chaperone, looking forward to a beer with his lads, in a temporary lull, the dusk of the yellow light.
Translated from the Croatian by Lada Silađin