Tuesday, 3 March 2015
Echoes_ Petra Tejnorová: Making of NEVINA by Kristóf Farkas
To be a Peeping Tom
The opening act of the Performing V4 – Biennial of VARP-PA Residents was a screening of Making of NEVINA, a behind-the-scenes documentary about the live cinema performance NEVINA/INNOCENCE of Sgt. Tejnorová & the Commando. The original production was a project with 26 people, 3 cameras, live actors, live editing, live music, in real time and in a realistic set. The adapted play was written by Dea Loher, one of the most important contemporary German playwrights, who often uses principles of Brecht’s theatre. As Petra Tejnorová introduced us the play, “it is a mosaic image of a society, in which people are searching for the meaning of their lives…”
Instead of staging the performance on the Biennial (it was impossible because of financial and production limitations), she briefly presented it in a making-of documentary. The screening made it obvious why she chose a play of a playwright operating with alienation effect (V-Effekt) and explained the necessity of such big technical apparatus. To reflect on a mosaic-like society Tejnorová staged and filmed, it seemed to be the best choice to show us her working method in merging the two art forms. While she introduced us how she researched and found ways to connect these, she also drew our attention on their most obvious differences, namely how they relate to, and how they define the act of looking.
With film emerging as a new genre, the authority of theatre had been questioned. Film has taken over the freedom of the eye, leading the view of the spectator with the camera. The acceptance of this control opened up different ways of perception. The use of technical “organs”, for example the various types of lenses and the camera itself with the picture strip in it, as well as the creation of replica justified the facts: we can watch the pictures again and again; we are able to see more by going into detail; we can get closer to the subject and peep without being present on the spot. The act of looking became a lonely attitude in a meaning of a perverted act. The realization of the deed, that everybody has to watch the same without feeling ashamed, established rather in-personal connections instead of inter-personal ones.
Walter Benjamin describes the situation of an artwork fighting to be authentic in his essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction as follows: „From a photographic negative, for example, one can make any number of prints; to ask for the ‘authentic’ print makes no sense. But the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice – politics.” This last statement may not really apply here, but the process of filmmaking is indeed trying to persuade us on every way – just by leading the eye. My first question is, why did theater start to incorporate filmmaking techniques or screen media and what are the advantages of this collaboration? Secondly, the question arises, why did it happen vice versa?
Instead of secluding themselves and guarding their authorities, performing arts and cinematography also took the first steps towards each other. From the Hungarian theatrical scene, the live cinema performance Hard To Be A God directed by the acclaimed film director Kornél Mundruczó and from the other part, Alejandro González Iñárritu's newest movie Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) could be mentioned as most recent examples, as well as now NEVINA. To go further, to talk about a making-of about a performance is not easy at all.
The screening of a stage screened is not just a repetitive fact, but also a multimedial act in the meaning of self-righting, equivalent to self-confirmation. Marshall McLuhann's famous quote summarizes it: „The medium is the message.” In our case, the short documentary about the project NEVINA justified the message of the project NEVINA. The question is, what is the medium? Or who is the medium?
In my opinion, film and theatre should cooperate with each other to call attention on their priorities to be able to fully describe their main subject: the human. Considering this, we can ask, is it important at all to talk about the creation and then watch the performance, or should we separate the message from the medium (human from theater and film)? The documentary's main purpose is – just like of the process of filmmaking, as I mentioned before – to lead the eye; in this case, to direct the eye on the human by showing him in his solitude caused by technical apparatus, but still in his entirety.
In the quoted sentence „mosaic image of a society, in which people are searching for the meaning of their lives”, the fusion of film and theater is the perfect conclusion searching for “answers”. In the live live cinema performance we would have the opportunity to change the angle of view and decide: are we watching or peeping? How do we treat the person double visible? This new genre merges the characteristics of film with the „open stage” of theater. Using a camera in a performance and then screening it at the same time is “not a big deal”, but it gives us the chance to change our point of view – still “not a big deal”. Still, in this case the performance NEVINA regenerated the aspect of looking by fragmenting the situation and this is the main merit of this performance according to the documentary.
In a film, a scene operates with different angles, but because of editing, we get the feeling of watching a simultaneous happening. On Tejnorová's stage, actors are far from each other and the only “contact” between them is the camera, becoming a real alienating medium. In theatre, the audience has the power to decide which scene they want to watch but in live cinema they also get the possibility to perceive and realize the apparatus' power as well. Our eye is the very special “space” where we unite the separate places and compare them to the screen. We have the ability of seeing the distance and the imaginary closeness altogether. Finally, this exposure put „the matter of act” into the spotlight; besides unmasking the complexity of holy technocracy and putting it into a gracious role at the same time. The merging of personal and technical practices in one performance has shown their major role without classifying, giving back the authority of both art forms.
When we are watching Making of NEVINA, we can't speak or we don't have to speak about film and theater, neither think about film-theater, nor film-in-theater but a new generation of spectators, who can be simple Peeping Toms, peeping with a wink addressed to the camera – ;)
Kristóf Farkas – KÖM by L1 Association