Walking into Forgetting. Lecture Performance. Museum of Nonconformist Art. St. Petersburg, Russia. 2016
Walking into Forgetting is a performance lecture experiment in which my text 'Forgetting as Activism' is presented in tandem with a reading and retelling of Plato's Allegory of the Cave.
The piece begins with a performer in the role of the lecturer, embodied split in two forms - the physical or actual (lying on the ground at the museum entrance) and the virtual (video image projection at the lecture site). The lecture begins with an image and text presentation of 'Forgetting as Activism' at the site, followed by an audio reading of Plato's Cave that begins without any introduction, and with all revealing signifiers removed from the text. The lecture site becomes a living metaphor for Plato's cave, its imaginary structures and laws, the social condition, and the essential dilemma of freedom. The performer on the screen collapses and disappears, after which her physical counterpart at the museum's entrance slowly crawls into the lecture site, on her back, with her eyes closed. Together with performers who are anonymous among the audience (and gradually join her at a specific climax), she deconstructs the symbolic and actual structures of the site, exploring a new understanding of community with the audience through this process. The performers activate the site, moving through it, over it, under it, into and beneath the chairs, knocking them down, rearranging them with and without people seated on them. Using the body and not words, they subvert common language in engagement with the audience - violence becomes love, falling becomes floating, bodies seem to touch and collide but do not, destruction becomes creation, chaos becomes harmony.
In Plato’s Cave, prisoners are chained from birth and forced to gaze at a wall in front of them. They see moving shadows along the wall - they are shadows cast by puppets who are actually behind them and lit by a fire. Because the prisoners can not move their heads, the shadows and cave are their only understanding of reality. What would happen if one of the prisoners was to be freed and led outside to see the world as it really is? It would be a painful process, but after his eyes adjust he would realize that all that he had known before was only an illusion, and that he was now free and in truth. But would he wish to remain outside where he is alone in uncertainty and left to fend for himself? Or would he prefer the prison of the cave whose social order provides stability and communion. And if he were to return, and if he were to attempt to liberate the other prisoners - how would they react, would they be grateful and choose freedom? Or would they be angry that their illusion has been threatened and decide instead to kill him. The piece ends with this final question (would they kill him?) which I choose to leave open ended. We often have an idea that if we liberate someone we are doing something good for them, but with freedom comes responsibility, fear, and uncertainty, and this is not always desired, even if it were to bring one closer to truth. Many would knowingly (and perhaps even wisely) choose the illusion. Where does this leave us?
Performers: Vitaly Kim, Alena Chiklina, Katarina Maran (Stage Dft Theatre Collective)