#Why all these questions?
The Mouson-Springdance Dialogue, Franfurt
Completed by Jacob Zimmer May 23 2004
##What subjects are you really interested in?
Paralysis. Movement. Time - history and future. Frailty.
##Why is it interesting for you to occupy yourself with that?
The choice to stay or to go is fundamental and constant. It is a general I have found in all the specifics I’ve been interested in. History and the future are how we can have any hope for coming to grips with the present, or at least seeing in context. The point before we fail, when we are weak and about to fall but don’t, is perhaps as close as I can come to a statement of hope. It is at least a point I think is worth rehearsing.
##Why is it interesting for you to work with this medium?
Live performance is the only place where the line of risk and failure is immediate and constantly different. In recorded, “finished” or technological forms (cinema, video, vis. arts, new media) the failures/risks either happened before and then were selected or the are less of people then of machine. Both options I find less interesting. As for theatre - because I came to this point through text and dance didn’t seem to be an option. I could read Beckett and about the Wooster Group - they are part of the cannon - but only recently knew of Grand Union, let alone Meg Stewart.
##What have your performances to with you?
Everything. As much generalizing as there is in my first answer, it boils down to that I have a very tense relationship to apathy/paralysis/laziness versus engagement/movement/ambition. Most of the time I don’t want to move but know that is deadly so create problems (plays) for myself that force movement. This inner struggle is undoubtedly why I see it everywhere. I like watching people try to fail better, I like watching people read, I like people listening to music. I like to do those things myself.
##Do you have an opinion or point of view on the subject?
Yes. See above. The world is paralyzed and sinking, the only solution is to explode that paralysis. A solution that may not work for 300 years, or a little too late - but those are no excuses for not beginning. I choose to explode it by asking it (and therefore - myself) questions.
What is your attitude towards your medium?
“Dubious” “Like cheering for your favorite team that always loses.” Theatre is in a bad state, but therefore maybe a great site to work. Respectful- there has been much great work done, and I owe everything to the tradition that has got me here.
##Who looks over your shoulder when you are at work?
DD Kugler, Penelope Evans, my Mom, Bertold Brecht, Robert Plowman, Tim Etchells, Justin Evans, Mark Loeser, Ame Henderson, Jean Morpugo, almost everyone who comes to the show.
##What is your specific input in your performance?
So far - total. Conception, creating, direction, design (including graphic) producing. I’m not happy with my inability to say one of many - but the reality, despite important contributions from others, I’ve been pretty much a control freak. Out of necessity or desire? Good question. Both. Sometimes more one, sometimes more the other.
##Are you provocative in your work?
I don’t think so, but others have disagreed. I actually think I make very conservative, even reactionary theatre. But again there’s been disagreement. I don’t know many making the work I want to do, and I would like to create questions for the audience - so I guess that’s provocative.
##Are you making a comment?
Yes. What it is depends on the moment.
##Are you expressing feelings?
Yes. See above.
##What is your position as an artist in your work?
In the back of the house with a drink. I am outside of it a little. But also front and centre.
##Do you think people can learn something from you? Why are you not a teacher?
Yes. But what I’m not sure. I think that I have something to teach. Teacher: because I don’t know how to teach beauty and grace.
##Do you like to work with symbols and metaphors?
Yes. Though only sometimes obviously. Symbols and metaphors can be a way to step back from the reality so to try to look.
##Are you interested in psychoanalysis? What makes you want to use it in your work?
Yes, but in a wholly negative way. At least where Freud is concerned. There are no answers, only better questions, and they are selling snake oil. Use it in work: I try not to - but it is a vocabulary we all know now.
##Are you interested in politics and economics? Why have you not become a journalist?
Yes. Deeply. Because I don’t know how to journal beauty and grace.
##What is the relationship between your political interests and your interests in theatre?
Connected. They emerged at the same time but were separate. They have come together sometimes and influence each other heavily.
##Is there a project that you have been eager to realize for a long time now?
Yes. Dedicated to the Revolutions. The 7 play cycle of the scientific revolutions. Nuclear, Industrial, Gutenberg, Copernican, Newtonian etc...
##Where do you get your ideas?
Where ever I can. By trying to cast a wide net and making associations between what interests me.
##How do you judge the viability of your ideas?
Not well. Time and space seem to dictate what is possible. What ever is needed will be there.
##Is your idea one that you would want to spend a year or more on?
Dedicated - hypothetically. It has been in and out of the back of my mind for 5 years, but other projects have been more urgent or possible. I would be curious to know whether I have the patience/endurance/attention span.
##What does this idea have to do with you?
I’m interested in moments where everything changes. (probably because I’d like to have one) And how those moments don’t change everything so immediately after all.
##How does this idea become workable?
By finding the starting structures. The questions and form that let us start to work. By starting.
##How do you start a new project – from a tabula rasa?
Usually I start with a play or a story that engages me - then I try to think laterally from there, moving out and making connections based on theme, questions or gut feelings. Before rehearsal I have a collection of source material to bring into the room. Sometimes it is as clear as having a near complete script with visions of what it will look like, sometimes it is a pile of paper. I often start with an idea of the type of space I want to work in.
##Do you create a space for thinking within the work process?
I try. More and more I am trying to build time for reflection into the rehearsal process. The studio is not a great place for proactive thinking. In the studio I respond to what is happening, based on previous thinking, but instructed by my gut. I am uncomfortable with how anti-intellectual/critical this sounds, but it is true.
##How do you organize the elements of your work, your ideas, your media, your criteria, the technology?
Differently every time I think. The ideas determine the media and tech. The “style” is something that changes for each show. Sometimes it comes first, sometimes last.
##Imagine you are a painter: what is your attitude towards the canvas?
Critical and precise. I imagine that I would sit looking at it for long periods of time, with short bursts of putting things on it and then reflecting again and then changing what I had done. I would like to think my canvases would look like Rauchenberg's.
##Imagine you are a painter: what do and don’t you want to have on the canvas?
I eliminate nothing on principle. There would have to be empty or quiet space between objects for the viewer to make connections.
##How can you realize what is in your head?
Through honesty, asking to see what I need to see. “Everything works in my head” - E. LeCompte. Most shows have looked very different from what I initially imagined.
##How do you construct a performance?
On structures of time and space as much as narrative. By making sections and scenes and then putting them together. I am, however, beginning to question this methodology. I’m beginning to consider a more seamless way of building the pieces. Or at least of building longer, multi-layered sections.
##Do you choose one solution or do you explore several possibilities?
Several possibilities. Best idea wins.
##What part does the audience play in your performance?
That of witnesses. The role of the audience. I feel a great deal of responsibility to the audience. I think of them constantly in rehearsal and try to see my role as one of a surrogate audience member. This doesn’t mean I make any attempt to dumb down or pander. I want to make work that can resonate differently with different audience members
##Do you want something to happen between the audience and the performance?
Yes. Not sure what though.
##What do you expect of the audience?
That they are open to the possibility of something happening between them and the performance.
##How do you feel about communicating with your audience?
Ok I guess. Nervous.
##What do you want to communicate with your audience?
I don’t know how much control I have, or want to have over that. I want them to know that we’re all in the same room, and that that small fact has wide ramifications.
##Do you want to give something to the audience?
I would like them not regret the choice to come to the theatre.
##Do you think it important to know what the audience thinks about you? And about your work?
Yes, but I’d rather the answer was no. I want to be loved, popular and all that jazz - but refuse to do what it takes. I do like getting feedback, though it scares me to ask.
##Do you think it important that the audience believe you?
It is important that they believe I am moving towards something I believe. I don’t think it is necessary that they agree with me.
##Does the audience have to exert itself with your work? Do you want them to?
The audience has to engage in a slightly more active way with my work then with the average sit-com. But if they try too hard it won’t work either. I think they need to be relaxed in a certain way. Most of the effort may come after the performance.
##Is it important that the audience discovers the link between the performance and your idea that lie behind it?
##Do you think your inner world is interesting for the audience?
Yes. Mine and the performers. That’s the ego of being an artist.
##Do you want the audience to have an emotional experience?
Many. Not necessarily connected to each other (moments or other audience member) - Singular emotional response is a hallmark of fascism.
##Do you want the audience to start thinking about your subject or take a position on it? Why?
Yes. But not necessarily my position (though of course I believe I am right). Because the end result of the show should be more then fond memories of an evening out.
##Is to “realize” something for the audience the same as to “experience” something?
No. Realize - intellectual, experience - emotional and/or visceral. Though they can cause each other (eg I realized something because of an experience.)
##Do you set out to let the audience identify with the people in your performance? Or with your problems?
There is an amount of empathy required between performer and audience to engage them.
##What reaction from the audience would displease you?
##Is the audience informed about your subject before they enter the performance space?
Not necessary. Though sometimes it would help. Sometimes it hinders though.
##What is the aim of this piece? How do you propose to achieve that aim?
I don’t know.
##When openness is your aim, how then do you measure whether your piece is open enough?
When there are multiple possible meanings and experiences.
##How many objectives can you achieve with one piece?
I don’t know. I doubt it is limitless, but I also doubt there is a set amount.
##Can you achieve your objectives with the media you have chosen to employ?
Good question. I hope so. I think it may be the only possible media that could.
##Do you use material that is close to you and that which is distant?
##Are you reconstructing a situation in order to underline something?
##Are you looking for a framework? Do you want to limit or define your ideas?
Yes. I think frames are needed. Structures to hang the work on. But they don’t need to be evident to the audience. I do not think that structures need to limit or define material.
##Is your work open or closed?
Ideally open. But I have made closed pieces.
##Is your performance a statement? At the level of content or form or both?
More of question. On both levels. But I have made statements. And will probably again.
##What was your last performance about?
The stories we tell others and ourselves.
##Is there a connection between you last piece and this new one?
Yes. The pieces tend to build on eachother, though in unexpected ways. They pick up on the questions.
##What is your next project about?
The future and our dreams of it.
##How does ‘content’ become theatre?
By coming into contact with structure (where the body is also a structure)
##Do content and form coincide in your work?
##Can one separate content and form? Can one separate the ‘what’ from the ‘how’?
No. No. At the very least they comment on each other whether consciously or not. Therefor I think it better to make it conscious.
##What comes first, content or form?
Depends on the project. Most recently the question has come first. But I often design the space before creating the work.
##Can form be presented as content? Do you want it to be?
Yes. No - it is insufficiant. Formal questions are very interesting to me, but they are not enough.
##Can content direct you towards form?
##Is there a connection or a dissonance between the form and content of what you create?
Both. When form and content are parrallel or dissonant all the time boredom sets in. Variation is required.
##Do you think that aesthetics are a form of manipulation?
Yes. That doesn’t mean I don’t use them. I can’t think of an action that isn’t a form of manipulation - that doesn’t mean there aren’t important ethical questions.
##Have you ever considered leaving out any and all suggestion, illusion and reference?
I don’t think it is possible to be without reference, illusion or reference.
##What is specific about theatre for you?
The presence in the room of both sides of the conversation. The real time risk and possibility of failure.
##How specific is the medium of theatre used in your piece?
By attempting to forefront, at least sometimes, that issue.
##What do you mean by theatre and theatricality?
Theatre: a space shared by two people with a degree of intentionality. Theatricality: When I use this word, I probably mean Broadway, showbiz, glitz. It’s about facing the audience, smiling and putting on a show. I love ‘em both.
##Do you accept certain principles specific to theatre such as beginning, end, time-line, and the shared space of performers and audience?
“Surely Mr. Gogard, a film must have a beginning middle and end?” “Certainly, though not necessarily in that order.” Theatre happens in space, over time. So yes to the last two. Also, I believe that some sort of structure or organizing procedure is needed to communicate. Language is one.
##Is theatre the right medium, as far as credibility and identification are concerned?
Credible and identified with whom? In the large immediate scheme of things, I don’t think theatre has much credibility, nor do people identify with it in the abstract. In the real and in the long term, I must believe that it does or will. I make small things that may last the storm through oversight.
Where do you think illusion works best, in theatre or in film?
Illusion is most complete in film, no question. But if the measure of success is wonder, live illusion is unbeatable.
##Is theatre a medium suitable for education people?
Not large amounts of them. And also not for providing facts. But perhaps in prompting questions - which, for my money is the only education that counts.
##Are you eager to do something new in the theatre?
No. I am eager for change sometimes, but I doubt it will be something new.
##Is this the only way for to make theatre or are there others?
There are as many ways of making theatre as there are people who make it. This is a cliche, which takes away nothing of its truth. I am trying to discover the way that works for me for the next project - then it’s all up in the air again.
##According to you, what is dance?
I like the “body moving in space” to which I which I would be tempted to add the audience. When audience includes the self.
##How do you translate a subject into a dance performance?
Does your choreography say what you want it to say?
##Why do you choose this art form to say what you have to say? Do you use the medium in a way that is not possible with another medium?
It has been a long time since I thought of theatre as a choice rather than a reality of what I do. The art form has led me to my subjects as much as the other way around.
I try to make work that would be impossible to make in other mediums. Or at least look very silly.
##How do you arrive at your selection of artistic media, such as video and music?
By the demands of the material developed in studio. Also by private minor obessions or questions.
##What is the performance about?
Good fucking question.
##What statement do you want to make with this performance?
I don’t know. I really don’t know.
##Where lies the essence of the piece for you?
In the struggle to think ahead and maintain hope. Right now at least.
##Is it a conventional or unconventional piece?
Probably unconventional. Though I am obessed with convention - I want to put them together in unconventional ways.
##Is it a dance project, a theatre project or a plastic arts project? Why?
Theatre. Because that is the tradition I work out of.
##Is there a political aspect to the piece?
I am sure. Even in my small obsessions - wanting telephone headsets cannot not refer to call centres, and in Halifax that is a political statement. There will be other such minor references at least, possibly more.
What is the story behind the piece?
Mallory introduced me to Chekhov, Chekhov introduced me to the idea of “Perhaps in a hundred years.” In a nutshell
####Why do you wish to do this? And why exactly this way?
I don’t know. Because I need some answers (despite all railing against them) or at least better questions. Or rather because I have a need to ask questions in public. And this is the only way I know that isn’t closed.
##Why is this performance interesting to watch, to listen to, or experience?
Don’t know yet. I hope so.
##What are the other questions?