Meg Stuart
Damaged Goods
Jozef Wouters/Decoratelier
Radio France International, Hunter - Rosslyn Hyams, 09.02.2015 [ Engels ]
Independant Dance, Crossing Borders Talk: Meg Stuart, Frank Bock [ Engels ]
Onderhandelen en twijfelen in ruimte. Dramaturg Jeroen Peeters in gesprek met Jozef Wouters over het project INFINI van Decoratelier - Jeroen Peeters (19.08.15)
Négocier et douter en espace. Dramaturge Jeroen Peeters dialogue avec le scénographe Jozef Wouters sur le projet INFINI de Decoratelier - Jeroen Peeters (19.08.15) [ Frans ]
A game of Borders, Interviews with the artistic team of 'UNTIL OUR HEARTS STOP' - Jeroen Versteele (2015) [ Engels ]

Excerpts from interviews by dramaturge Jeroen Versteele with Meg Stuart, performers, musicians and designers during the creation process of UNTIL OUR HEARTS STOP.

Meg Stuart: Based on my experiences with contact improvisation, I was eager to test some ideas about contact and touch. I started to work on the skin and borders. Where does one body end and another begin? Where lie our personal borders? In which zones do we feel free? Where is our behaviour totally allowed and where not? Where can we pass our own limits? I was curious how to create a sense of intimacy in a theatrical setting, a theatre stage instead of a hotel room. How then, can you still talk about intimacy and internal exposure?

You see people on stage. You share their questions, their doubts and fears. Though you’ll never understand exactly what they are, somehow a bit of mystery always remains.

In the very beginning, I was inspired by the story of Cornelius Gurlitt. I was curious how it’s possible for someone to slip through society like that – somehow knowing that what they’re doing is wrong, but, in a somewhat unhealthy way, still getting pleasure from art, or paintings in this case.

I often wonder what Gurlitt was doing with them. They obviously gave him a sort of comfort. They might have been a substitute for – familiar – love and braced him against the experience of loss. I was moved by him saying that it was more painful to be parted from his paintings than to lose his own mother. Love comes in strange formats. Looking at extremes opens a window to yourself, your fantasies and your edges.

After a while, I began to see Gurlitt as a kind of magician, who made both himself and significant art disappear. I became passionate about the ‘magic act’, about illusion – which in general is the basis of theatre. What is the exact moment in which we believe? How do we divert attention in performance? What do we need real magic for?

Together with the performers, I began to explore what is magic. And by magic I don’t mean those big fancy tricks we know from Las Vegas, but those little moments of astonishment and ‘wows’. Magic evokes a kind of re-enchantment or reconnection to the wonders we know from our childhood. During creation, we invited a couple of magicians to the studio. One was a mind reader, a mentalist who hypnotized the whole group simultaneously and put us into trance. While improvising and performing you are in a kind of trance as well. In fact, I think we’re all walking around with our little trance states and it’s all about what trance of others you can or can not relate to.

This work contains an aspect of healing and support. The body is a mysterious thing. Being touched on certain places, during a certain treatment or massage, could make you scream or cry. The body is a container of memories and we don’t always know what’s in store and what could possibly trigger what. I believe in the body’s ability to heal itself. There are certain dramatic events people recover from. It’s possible to reintegrate yourself in the world. We are social animals who need social contact. We need these constructed possibilities of ‘play’. We need to witness social interaction. It keeps us going and it lifts us up. Sometimes, I feel, there’s a lack of willingness to be silly and creative. Often, there is not enough trust in the room. Our social relationships are built on protocol, fear even. We have a lot of limitations. Some we don't even know where they come from. In social relationships, a lot of time goes into negotiating our limits: how far or close are we to each other? How do we answer our e-mails? In a way, it is all a game of borders. Why can’t we just say: “Okay, let's have trust! Let's say what we want if we feel like it and if we don't feel like it, that’s ok too”. I would like people to meet each other differently, even if they are strangers.

Jared Gradinger: The experiences we’ve had as a group are what’s most important to me. When friends ask me: “How are the rehearsals going?”, I tell them we participated in a Tantra workshop, which really changed the way we move and look at each other. All this - working with Meg, the input she gives us - completely changed me. Making this piece, for me, is about all of this. It’s as if we’re re-experiencing things we’ve done together – a crazy world with its very own logic.

Kristof Van Boven: For me the project is about how one can be stuck in the past. And about the lack of a collective conscience. One can pull a rabbit out of a hat, but that doesn’t change the fact that a large number of people is still dying every day. Magic is really only for the “lucky few”. The classics still do the trick, but only for babies. Somehow they grow up and can’t be scared or charmed anymore.

Maria F. Scaroni: What’s new for me is the returning fear of getting hurt, of constantly putting yourself out there and to build a trust. It’s an old story but one experiences it anew, with new people and new games. You wear a dress, simply because it’s a dress. You don’t play around or comment on it. You’re not following an imaginary scenario. You just face it, that’s what’s really entirely new.

Claire Vivianne Sobottke: When you watch pornography on a television screen, you feel safe, secure. That is not the case with theatre. I think it’s a good thing the audience is touched by it, especially because it’s about intimacy. I find it striking that in English the words ‘intimacy’ and ‘intimidating’ are so related to each other. Very often, intimacy is a blatant attack at one’s own person. It can also be the opposite: relaxation, warmth, being able to lie together, to talk, to belong together. It can also be that.

Neil Callaghan: For me, this production is about desire and the ways and means to express desire. The stage is a place where one discovers desire, even if one doesn’t know exactly what it is. It’s a place of sensitivity, experience, sensuality, it’s about skin. It’s not about analysis or interrogation but about doing something and seeing what happens.

Leyla Postalcioglu: It’s about contact, but not only in the sense of the body. A lot of things from my past that have to do with contact are coming to the surface. Every touch will trigger a memory. It’s as if the 34 years I have lived are in this piece. It’s about the way we touch or don’t touch things but also about our inability to handle everything. I would love to reach out my hand and contact the outside world. It’s impossible to be in contact with the world, with everyone, with what we see on the street or in the news. There’s a strong desire for this type of contact.

Paul Lemp: Meg Stuart and I know each other for 15 years and have already made several works together. It helps me to experience this type of performance and to find myself in it in a musical way. We started of with very little, catchphrases like ‘Big Band’ - which eventually resulted in a jazz trio with bass, drums and piano – or with a concept like ‘intimacy’. Over several months, everyone begins to work with these elements, until it becomes a common piece in the end.

Marc Lohr: At the beginning, in the first few weeks, I was super stunned. Of course, the goal is to work toward something concrete, but I think this production has made me a better person. On a daily basis, you work together with ten people on a very intimate level given that it’s about the interpersonal, about things that a normal musician generally wouldn’t showcase on stage. I would say it has helped me. It helps to forget virtuosity.

Stefan Rusconi: I’m deeply moved by the facets of magic at issue here – the radiant, spreading into something positive on the one hand, and the dark, profound energy on the other. Contact is also an important theme. Being on stage during the process was both fun and valuable. It gave me the opportunity to experience what it is like to give yourself form and structure in a space by using your own body.

Doris Dziersk: An important element of this stage design is the facial, which should create the impression that you find yourself in an underlying space, a cellar. In an early stage, Meg talked about how she would like to see a certain desire in the performers to ascend. And to go up, one has to be down. The diamond shape and the color lilac were there since the early stages as well. We have been inspired by magic, magical spaces, playing cards and tricks.

Nadine Grellinger: The first scene is full of colors, worn by the performers. A moving painting is created, just like the one by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, that appears later in the performance. You can almost feel the longing for the outdoors, for life. Just like the dancers, the colors add something vital.

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