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vampires of the 21st century oder was also tun?

der standard
süddeutsche zeitung
theater der zeit


der standard, vienna, 09.12.2010

By Ronald Pohl

theatercombinat with a concert of words and voices in vienna's cartographic institute

vienna - through the 700 m² printing hall of the former cartographic institute we hear the voice of helmut schmidt – so contained, so agreeable – the german chancellor who turned down every legitimacy of the RAF in front of the german parliament.

even if the highly aged former chancellor still is, chain smoking as ever, with us: this icy cold performance is most of all an acoustic sèance. Claudia Bosse (theatercombinat) and four actors conjure primarily announcements of loss: The narratives of social coherence are destroyed, life has collapsed into an exercise of simulation. Whoever still beliefs in the power of uproar seems to be – with all due respect – a jerk. The enchanting effect of this production, composed of texts, sound recordings and actors who seem to be moved by ghostly hands, results from an impression of inaccessible sternness. Bosse's approach – the performance has been shown in Düsseldorf at first - produces the melancholy of elaborated gourmets: You observe the actors like planets on their orbits. Texts by Seneca, Baudrillard or Marx reach us like songs from the grave of the long-term-memory of human imagination.
Each walk on high heels seems to be a calculated risk. Each biographical plea of the actors documents a defeat. You can't get warm with this evening. But you have to appreciate!

der standard
süddeutsche zeitung
theater der zeit


süddeutsche zeitung, 10.12.2010

By Susanne Drees

Those vampires have nothing to do with morbid romanticism. What claudia bosse does to her spectators and her performers is actually an effrontery: a total excess of demands.

A young woman describes her life in future tense. Who will she be, what will happen to her, which people will cross her way? Loudspeakers are telling her story. In this space, the spectators are separated from the theatrical happening only at first sight. The performers act between the theatre styles while the lascivious voice goes on. The young woman will meet a man. They will love each other. And then she will cut his head off in a restaurant. The present is always there in this cat-and-mouse game of reality and fiction. In Claudia Bosse's production, she tackles with full force into the utopias of the actors, who recount their lives in verbal snapshots and long cascades of words. And with the present, violence and destruction come into play. Claudia Bosse calls that “auto-fiction”, a catchword obviously highly appreciated by this director. Another one is compositional narrative. And this sounds how the space looks like: technical, cold, structured. At FFT in dusseldorf, coproducer of the play, you are confronted with a sparse plain. On it, four performers, three women, one man. The “structure” is a protagonist, if you actually want to talk of “characters” in this apocalyptic scenario. Bodies and words are cut-up in units of meaning, modules of intertextual play. Sometimes the text illustrates the traces of the body, sometimes it counteracts them. Claudia Bosse's vampires have nothing to do with those abundantly resurrected revenants of our latest media history. No morbid romanticism, no gothic wrapped in cotton-myth. The chill results from the border-crossing actors who rage through their systems of life like intellectual zombies. The space is captured by changing formations. The actors scan textual fragments by Seneca up to Baudrillard, they shout them out loud or trace the rhythm of the words, sometimes more like enunciators, sometimes more like actors. They tackle, literally and metaphorically: in concentric circles Caroline Decker, Frederic Leidgens, Yoshi Maruoka and Nora Steinig approach the core of a thought, a statement, a context. If you try to follow those movements, you will realise: you can only fail. Marxism, terrorism, theory, the system, expression, activism, violence. And each time Pain declares: I am already there.

Theatre to punch and hurt.

What claudia Bosse does to her spectators and her performers is actually an effrontery: a total excess of demands. A world-machine, whose personified instruments dance to Saddam Husseins shouts for the liberation of the people while he is sentenced to death, before performing a lap dance with a spectator, lusting after ultimate self-optimization. It is a possibility to demonstrate political theatre today – better said: to literally produce it. Not one narration, but many. And only those which fit up again and again in the minds of the spectators. Bosse's theatre wants foremost and all: to punch, and hurt. Courageously so: this giant archive of language, unmasking and striking, is not really chic in the contemporary theatre of today. The gestus is never ironic, it does not twinkle elfishly, it roars like thunder in chest notes of exclamation. It is rather a far cut from the absurd merrygo-rounds of the present as in Rene?L Pollesch's theatre. Like the series of tragedies, where the artist modeled material from antiquity, renaissance and baroque into discursive spaces ofexperience, “vampires of the 21st century” is more a demand then a staging. Its peak was generated in 2008 with “The Persians” by Eischylus, where 380 citizens created a giant chorus. The rituals of antiquity and their reflection in the present have been for a long time at the core of Bosse's work. The “fourth wall”, always acting as a shelter, is not broken down. It does not exist at all. In 1996, Claudia Bosse founded together with three artists “theatercombinat”. As artistic director now she creates together with dancers, performers and sound artists a meanwhile flexible stage-art body, introducing theatre in former industrial estates, ruins or slaughterhouses. “vampires of the 21st century...” is not an actual theatre piece. It is likewise the beginning and the end of a battle of dialogues, an artistic revenant. It offers a theatrical revelation: the limits of the genre become permeable. “What to do after the orgy?” one of the actresses shouts into the public. One answer could be: go “theatre”.

der standard
süddeutsche zeitung
theater der zeit


corpus, 12.12.2010

by Helmut Ploebst

As soon as a character is demonstrated as an artistic fiction and a performative reality, it is more than only a puppet of proclamation or a golem of narratives. Through the perception of the spectators it becomes a political configuration – a discursive gestalt, which is taken home by the public, albeit disfigured by memory. How this figure can be re-configurated anew, so that its form as perceived by the audience is not immediately de-politicized by classification, is demonstrated by Vienna's theatercombat in its new production „vampires of the 21st century or what is to be done, then?“ ... Here, art does not confuse itself with media-flagships, wherein the drafts of the times become entangled, evoking all sorts of hysterical ghosts. Art as Kassandra, that's over. It was quite nice, but never taken seriously. theatercombinat has decided to go another way. This time in a closed space – free from institutional bonding in Vienna – and it has detached itself from diverse theatrical texts. ...

The ghost of political speech

Here, perception integrates itself in a historic dispositiv, which reaches as a translation of 9/11 and its consequences into the now. All four actors speak german with an accent, which stages the language as a foreign one. The elevated bodies and the declamatory character of the speech lead the four characters through the vast space of the cartographic institute like excessive puppets of proclamation. “A specter is haunting Europe” is declared right from the start – and what follows is the specter of political speech with its peak in a dramatic monologue of the directory of Marx' “capital”. But, this process of mending and folding the cited material does not lead to cynical nihilism, but to a comedy of futility in a historical panopticon. Whoever has wanted to direct the course of history, has caused accidents of evil. Today, we know this. History consists of selfgenerating, finally uncontrollable communications. We no longer follow leaders. What to do then? How to navigate? The four characters in the play stride across the space, hurrying, dancing, stumbling, ever so close to ridicule. Ulrike Meinhof, Neil Armstrong, Nan Goldin, George Bush scamper along. What is to do after the orgy, the bloodlust, the rip off, the rape? What is to do for the political left, when it has a hard time to start anew, without alternative? Can it find a new fulfillment by its historical “red leash”? We don't know. But it is an urgent question: will the future again storm towards the past when the “coming insurrection” will take shape? „I would like to learn to live finally“ the characters claim. The specters of Marx are dancing in front of the vampire, the sucker. What are they doing? Do they mislead him in his excess? Or: when and how does art succeed in disturbing the logic of the bloodsuckers to perforate their veins? With “vampires of the 21st century...” theatercombinat succeeded in creating a revolutionary piece, that is for sure. The future revolution is already happening, this is what we hear there and then. And it could be true. This piece of revolution performs something which could also be the sign of an insurrection without centre or form: it de-figures – with crude realism – all schemes of “directed” programs or ideologies. We jolt, startled, and recognize that finally also thinking – after technology – reaches the new times. We already almost have the garlic, the stakes and the knowledge. We live in a society of fatigue dreaming of a new enlightenment. And the light, see WikiLeaks, is burning holes into the body of the vampire.

der standard
süddeutsche zeitung
theater der zeit


Theater der Zeit, 01/11

by Sebastian Kirsch

A "map of the present", that`s how director Claudia Bosse names her new production "Vampires of the 21st century or what is to be done then" and yet you will find in it fundamental questions that have had an impact on Claudia Bosse's work and on theatercombinat wien for a long time.
The term "map of the presence" is not self-evident; by thinking of a map you would think of something that gives you an overview not of a temporal phenomena, but one of space as it is usually conceived by common sense: a sort of container in which things are arranged either way. So time is excluded in maps. It gets complicated, when time is being involved, because then the question arises of how space and time relate and mutually produce one another.

It is this productive interface where "theatercombinat" settles, mainly with it´s urban-space installations; and "vampires" too, explore this ghost-like space.

At FFT Dusseldorf, the spectator-seats are removed to the steps, the audience is seated on cushions. The stage is empty, just a few loudspeakers are located at various spots within the hall.
The walls of the entire space are lined with blue curtains. The separation between actors and spectators is buried: the performers climb through the audience or operate from the crowd.
The four performers (Caroline Decker, Frédéric Leidgens, Yoshi Maruoka, Nora Steinig) mainly focus on the, at times seemingly fomenting, verbalizing of a text collage, which consists of very disparate material: Ovid on the passage from the Golden to the current age, sexual experiences of a woman (a prostitute?) with/on an old man, Wolf Biermann's song on the attack on Rudi Dutschke, a text by Baudrillard from the early 90s, that claims that we are "beyond the orgy", up to the enumerated headlines of Marx´ "Capital".

In the meantime we listen to historical sound-recordings: Ulrike Meinhof on the difficulty to unite motherhood and revolutionary activism, Helmut Schmidt on the RAF. We listen to recordings of Saddam Hussein's death sentence and in the end we hear Bush's speech after September 11.

Where does this initially seemingly raw mixture aim at? At first, terms like "speech-symphony" or "voice-concert" come to mind. It is significant that all texts deal with the topic of generations: changing eras, the hope for better times, war between sons and fathers, the drama of decreasing potency. And above all the question, whether we can define "generation" at all, "beyond the orgy" within the ahistorical present of today. The collage is also an archive of voices, which articulates genealogy in various ways.

Where do these voices come from? Where is their historical place? Do they get at us? Do they get to one another? How far do they get at all?
Such questions are pivotal points of the evening, questions that refer again to the relations of time and space.
However, designed for the 700m2 hall in the Viennese "cartographical institute" - another archive space, displayed on photos in the foyer at Düsseldorf -, the "vampires" have to fight with this small, and above all: frontal space of FFT. You can tell that not only from the depreciating voice in "Nachtkritik", but also from the conversations on the opening night.
"What do we still have to do with the RAF?", "Doesn´t Baudrillard's text seem antiquated?", "Why actually vampires of the 21st and not the 20th century?" – people ask, a bit at a loss. If you think about it, it becomes clear that these problems arise actually out of the frontal arrangement of the space, that strives to organize the action - crossings of the space of the audience notwithstanding - as on a two-dimensional screen. But it is much more important, from which exact spot of the space the sound/speech is coming from. From this perspective, a new dramatic precision, inherent to the work of Claudia Bosse, is revealed.

In this context, one should recall the medieval and early modern historical "Stationenbühne", that is now alien to us. Similar (and still different) to the "vampires", it is characterized by distributing various times in one and the same space.
This principle also governs Raffael's "The School of Athens", or pictures like Hans Baldung Grien's "Sieben Lebensalter des Weibes"; that depicts 7 times the same woman in different life-stages in the same room. It is this example of Grien, that makes clear how closely related simultaneous depiction and genealogical sequence are: each phase of life has its own spot in an all-embracing room, that is at the same time assigned and reserved; thus, life is about traversing a series of predetermined places.

This arrangement is, together with the christian salvation history and the ancient cosmic order, broken down; and with this break also space and time have been torn apart: You can recognize this with the set up of the "Guckkasten" around 1600, that organized time-sequences not in parallel, but one after another.

Therewith the knowledge has been forgotten, that the question of generation is, beyond all eschatology, always a one of spaces and locations, that have to be occupied, abandoned or passed on.

Instead, a random succession has taken place – the same random "one after the other", as which the "vampires" appear to us, from this frontal view.
In addition, along with the abolishment of their spatial markers, the times start to literally implode: parents confuse themselves with children, children with parents, fathers seek intercourse with daughters and compete with suns, mothers cannot let go - phenomena that are also worked through again and again by Elfriede Jelinek, who has been important for Bosse. One can call this incestuous interplay of times a cacophony – in fact, this is another term heard on this evening.
Even, in analogy to the competition of generations, a competition among the texts emerges: i.e., the powerful ancient texts make - like unrestrained show-stoppers - the contemporary daily-life reports look pale.

But this also means, that the frontal view distances the spectator, so he can feel comfortable. It is striking, that Bosse's collage does not involve an immediate contemporary text; of all things, it is the present, that creates a blank spot on the "map of the present"- and of course it is exactly this blank spot that the audience has to occupy, to conquer, the eye of the needle for the audience to filter in. The frontality however blocks or contracts this hole in the overall picture, so that access is hindered or even refused. But, you can reopen this hole, precisely when the spatiality of the theatre is not concealed, when the force of the machinery producing its images is contantly interrupted as in Bosse's theatrical practices.

This does not mean a return to cosmic salvation. The "vampires" do not present an orderly sequence, but a chaotic series, where the audience has to discover its eventual relations. But the question if there are any relations at all is directly connected to a return to space, that is at the same time its invention. Even more: The possibility to define and redefine time-spatial relations – which would be political action today - can only be opened up by eliminating a predetermined order. And it is this that you can learn from the "vampires of the 21st century". theatrale produktion und rezeption