Philosophy that electrifies the audience? Possible! Philosophy on Stage #4

Ivana Covic is a participant at the festival; currently writing a PhD thesis focusing on the relationships between the contemporary arts, philosophy and bioethics at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Vienna.

What happens when philosophy and art come together?

From 26th to 29th of November, a peculiar festival took place in the Halle G and Studios of Tanzquartier Wien. The PEEK-Project „Artist Philosophers. Philosophy AS Arts-Based-Research“ (led by Arno Böhler) and Tanzquartier Wien have united in exploring the field which opens up when philosophy meets art. The outcome of that investigations turned out to be quite exciting. Although the atmosphere created and maintained over the course of four very intensive days cannot be translated justly to the paper, at least a glimpse back into the festival can try to captivate some of it.

Since the scope of the whole festival was too immense to touch upon on every lecture, performance and intervention, a collage of several will be used to portray the underlying idea being consistently represented throughout the festival. The star-philosopher of the whole festival was indeed Friedrich Nietzsche, whose idea of the fusion of the resistant forces of both disciplines as a “foreplay of a philosophy of the future”, as creators stated in the description of the festival, was omnipresent in the background of it all.

 

The beginning

In the afternoon on 26th, the festival was opened. From the very beginning on, it was clear that following Nietzsche’s ideas is leading to very interesting results. So, for example, in the first night we could see, intervention by DANS.KIAS & Saskia Hölbling bodies (with)in fences, which through effective means of exposing the bodies encountering the fences, was able to represent the Nietzsche’s idea of Eternal Recurrence. When bodies go through the environment what happens is a lot of ongoing struggle, a lot of tension, but as well moments of intimacy and peace, which then over again need to be interrupted because the endeavors keep on going.

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Another vivid way to put the philosophy on stage was presented through the lecture-performance of Arno Böhler, Susanne Valerie Granzer and Hans Hoffer named Nietzsche et cetera. Kant in Analyse. Through the use of their imagination, they have brought Immanuel Kant (who died in 1804) on the couch of the office of Lou Andreas-Salomé (born 1861), to reflect on the thought by Friedrich Nietzsche (who was born in 1844) that reasoning is instinctive activity. To Kant, that thought was initially preposterous, but in the end, the stubborn and disturbed Kant is left unarmed by the amazing psychoanalyst. Through staging Kant and Andreas-Salomé in a very convincing and entertaining way, it was demonstrated that doing philosophy by engaging in interplay of this sort can indeed be marvelous and inspiring!

This lecture-performance was followed by something quite different: the lecture-performance Disquieting Moments: On Uneasy Bodies and Images by Kamal Aljafari, Sandra Noeth and Susanne Valerie Granzer. The scenes from three movies by Aljafari where enriched by intertwined juxtapositions spoken by Aljafari and Noeth. While Aljafari was mainly tackling with the moving personal stories of the people and the wounded cities, Noeth was filling it with beautiful and unsettling verbal pictures of wounded bodies, borders, narratives, movement, violence and spaces. The overall setting was very poignant and burdensome, urging the audience to involve into this heavily poetics of movement and paralyses; hidden and presented; wounded and yet beautiful. It was all wonderfully pointed with the words of Giorgio Agamben from his Homo Sacer,  performed by Susanne Valerie Granzer.

Philosophy & art, day & night

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27th and 28th where the days which were framed by morning lectures preceding the festival in Halle G and night lectures, starting late in the night (around midnight). The very fact that people were listening and contributing from the early mornings till the depths of the night speak a lot about the dynamics of the festival. Philosophy and arts were truly lived throughout those days, even coffee and lunch breaks were in the halls of the Tanzquartier Wien so that this was a continuous loop of life and philosophical theatre. What is also worth mentioning, is the dynamics within the Halle G – the space was constantly reconfiguring with each and every performance, people and sitting-cubes changing places, performances taking places in different parts of the hall.

Morning lectures were organized around the reading of the selected parts of the last issue of the queer-reviewed journal Sublin/mes, titled: Nietzsche, wie?. On the second day the reading was accompanied by Tanja Traxler’s lecture Nietzsche and Physics, where we were presented with concepts from physics (interconnected with philosophy of Nietzsche) in an immensely entertaining way. Tanja was writing an email to Nietzsche, with the burning questions concerning his take on the atomism, and even got a live Skype response from him while giving us her speech!

Graham and Helen Parkes’ Being Here. There’s no App for That is through Graham Parkes’ perspective reminding us on the importance of Nietzsche on being here in space as opposed to there (meaning virtual space). Through the journey with philosophers like Plato (and his famous cave), Zeno and the unavoidable Nietzsche, Graham Parkes’ has something very important to tell us – come back to here and now, look around and experience the world first-handed, not just through the screen. But then there is his daughter Helen, to remind him (and us all) with her fitting interventions to use the technology and the apps to, among others, meditate or to answer the call of his beloved wife in the middle of it all, and lastly, using the computer technology to play the music to her father so he could gift us all present there with his charming dancing moves at end of their amazing performance.

Franz Hautzinger, Wolfgang Mitterer and Hester Reeve opted for a radically different approach in bringing us Nietzsche. During the performance Of Sound in the Landing Page, Hester Reeve was silently conducting Graham Parkes and Georg Stenger to create sounds from Thus Spoke Zarathustra using everyday objects in very unconventional combinations (like umbrella or a fork on a piece of glass). Except of both professors being indescribably charming on the stage, the sound effects they created along with Reeve, Hautzinger and Mitterer were quite impressive in the end.

 

The nights

Night lectures that took place in the Studios of Tanzquartier were very picturesque. For instance, the absolutely marvelous lecture-performance Cicadas don’t sleep by Veronica Lion and Sarah Mendelsohn (with Brigit Michlmayr) offered a beautiful aesthetic experience by combining the reading of scenes from the Ingeborg Bachmann radio play “Die Zikaden” (which is capturing the exchange between island inhabitant and an escaped prisoner), enchanting music and a repetitive screen in the background with assemblage of the short videos with cicadas.

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The closure

The final day started with the performance on Nietzsche’s text Über Wahrheit und Lüge im außermoralischen Sinne. The concept of the performance, the wooden construction and the text edition was done by Peter Stamer, while the piece was performed by Frank Willens. In the midst of talk about truth, word and concept, the construction on which Willens is performing shatters (purposefully) down, intensifying the fragility of all these things we (humans) dare to so courageously talk about. This mighty performance is followed by another potent one, the one by Nicholas Ofczarek & Chor Max Reinhardt Seminar. The ending is as artist-philosophic as it goes, while Brian Massumi & Erin Manning’s Twisted Nietzsche is running on the screens, everyone in the audience picks one of the selected Nietzsche’s quotes scattered around the room and in an act of collective performance, by reading the quote out loud several times, we all wave this vivacious festival good-bye.

Über das Event hat auch Julia Garstenauer berichtet, ihren Blogpost könnt ihr auf unserer deutschsprachigen Seite lesen.

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