When working together with Christoph whom I now and always have trusted, it has seemed to me we were steadily losing sight of one another but still keeping an eye on the other. What caught my eye – and his – about our work, could not be used directly by either of us. Yet the word inspiration (I mean, he inspired me for sure, whether the reverse is true, I don’t know) is not appropriate either. On the contrary, because it wasn’t just a matter of stimulus. I saw and see Christoph as a visual artist. His work in the theater has been constantly moving in this direction, in a procedural direction that progressively has been making something that can be performed in the theater but was not theater, was something else. Since I can’t approach him, only toss pieces of text at him like stardust, I don’t exactly know what that something else is. What I do know is that he has never really used my texts – not even at the opening-night of “Bambiland”. He could have staged the same performance without a single sentence of mine, with completely different sentences, it doesn’t matter from whom. I’m convinced of that. My sentences, the few he did use, were working in another way but not as theater texts staged by a director. They ushered something in which (“usher in” – the word could mean that the bull mounts the cow, because they brought her in to him for that purpose; or that someone is allowed to do something) – which simultaneously revealed, in this process, that it was dealing with something completely different. No one knows what it does and what that Otherness is it could have to deal with. I can only talk from the outside like a person eating a piece of bread, starting at the crust and nibbling away in a spiral till it is gone.

The Animatograph is a translator. Everything is possible in and on it, and thus everything is impossible just by happening. A revolving sheet of film that everything that is can get on. All aboard! It presents, especially in permanent revolution, a continually moving “transformational body” (which is to say, one that records all takes and gives back what it plays so it gives you nothing you ever had, because it’s playing back all the time anyway, taking and giving nonstop; it takes and gives everything possible, Schlingensief calls it a “soul writer”, it writes down what’s there but isn’t there) – a kind of focus coordinate which can only be seen from a single spot and from none other. Yes, in itself it is only one coordinate, which is to say, in reality none since coordinate systems always arise in several dimensions (none and at the same time infinitely many, because this Schlingensief Animatograph construction is like a teetering mobile, everything is in motion, the various focal points slip away, let’s put it this way: for one second there is a focal point and then suddenly no points which you could bring into focus – or into a focus group – or bring up just like that, but they’re still focal points and the texts still have to get on there, and it doesn’t matter which, yes, it does matter, but the deciding texts always come from his, the artist’s, own experience, no matter who wrote them, anyway usually himself. Everything him. Everything his. And very big. That’s what makes it art as opposed to theater which somehow casts the experiences of strangers, rattling and jolting and groaning, onto a stage environment and manages to produce something different in each and everyone in the audience). What Christoph manages is a coordinate system completely without – or perhaps – with infinitely many dimensions. They mill around, yep, there they are already, a few ounces of dimensions (a little bit goes a long way, let me tell you!), and they are all part of something, and that something is not a dramatic work that is going to be staged but part of a work of art. The Animatograph runs by staying in place. It turns in place. Like a rotary clothesline. The only moving part is what moves him. You can project onto a person that Schlingensief places on stage (and who is supposed to do this and that and sometimes doesn’t and while he’s, well, not doing it, something else arises) everything, and that togetherness with the other people on stage is expressed only as a variable; this dissimilarity tolerates no focal points which might locate something. And if they could, they would be something completely different again. No one knows what all can still happen. I think that Schlingensief’s work with the handicapped, for example, with a group that has always played a role in his artworks, is aiming precisely for this kind of aleatoric expression. The unpredictablility of these performers who, if they were moving lines, could just as well be pick-up-sticks as parts of a circle, create a projection space for bodies, and the bodies transmogrify that space every time they appear. The “when” is simultaneously the “where”. One can define the space but not the people. The appearance of people (not the people but their appearance is what counts) is taking place, but it makes no theatrical sense, makes no sense at all because the appearance in space is their sense and purpose. A line alone defines nothing in itself. It is defined by what is expressed about it and what can be measured according to the degree of its curvature or straightness, and one can measure both, but the meaning is always different because neither a circle nor a line are what one strives for. Wait and see if and how they result in infinitely varied possibilities or not, these lines that are drawn and into which one can project everything – and they never feel insulted because they are projections themselves. They are projections onto projections onto projections. And the performers, some relying on their mood or inspiration (one couldn’t direct them or only a little bit), the others focused onto a stricter choreography (the favorite actors who are always involved) are changing their form by not changing it. They are not plasticine or plaster one can mold something out of. But they are volatile, amorphous bodies in another way still, bodies that form something in themselves (not of themselves!) and remain something else even before something is made of them, even when they stay the same, continue being themselves or are completely out of it. What was that there? One can set limits for it, but one can’t do that in an artwork. Wittgenstein says (in case anyone asks): “Was THAT thunder or a shot?” Maybe one could ask in this case, “Was that a noise?”

I ask myself what turns my texts (that are no longer even that), as soon as they’re in the artist Schlingensief’s hands, into noise, white noise, so that they are no longer what I intended, what they were originally supposed to be. What’s all this noise about? It’s about nothing. I’ve caught on already that it’s not noise anymore, it’s something formal, that no longer has anything to do with the original noise source, my text, the way I conceived it! Or so little that the text itself disappears completely. When this artist puts his hands on what I’ve written, it turns into something else, and what it really turns into is Disappearance. Ultimately he no longer needs what I’ve made, ultimately it doesn’t have to be there because it is THERE and defined in another way but in such a way that one cannot ask anymore: is that a noise? The noise is over; now what one sees and hears is a projection onto the Animatograph on which you can project anything at all; and oneself, if still a part of it, disappears without a trace and becomes nothing. There is (I won’t say “was” because it happens all the time as soon as it’s there) something there that disappears. Something disappears by being there. If nothing were there, it couldn’t disappear. And something not there is retrieved constantly. But is still gone. This interference between my (ultimately no longer existent) texts and what the artist makes of them although they are no longer there, maybe once were there, no, most definitely, but they have no meaning for him as texts, but as something else (and how do you distinguish texts that are there and not there from those that are not there but there again, just, well, different? But this HOW DIFFERENT is what I can’t fathom, I can only limit it to what yet again no longer is), and this Otherness that immediately, no, in that very instant, becomes something else, I mean the interference of the interference: I’d love to understand that better! But one can hardly figure it out because one would have to figure oneself out first and that is difficult for someone who is anyway never all there and if at all, then only wants to get away from herself. In that respect of course Schlingensief did me a big favor (he doesn’t know it, maybe he does). He transported me out of myself by transposing what I wrote into another dimension where it can no longer represent anything but still passed through his creator hands and was made to disappear. I no longer have the possibility to find out what might have been the basis of the difference in approaches, his and mine, because mine are no longer at hand. That’s a lot to have on one’s hands (on one’s mind is something else). The Other, the artist’s creation, is present now. But I’m left out. But I’m left. You know what people say when they don’t want to be somewhere: Okay, do it, but leave me out! Nor can I define or even fathom or delineate the transformations between my texts and what becomes of them in Schlingensief’s hands – when they become nothing. I can’t say – as with other directors – : I meant it this way or that way, and he turns it into something completely different! (Precisely for the very vague reasons mentioned here, I would most precisely not say that – because something completely different SHOULD be made of it, not so I can save my skin but so that I can break out OF MYSELF at last!).

Schlingensief is my disappearing assistant. I am my main character in disappearing. When he takes something from me, it is gone, and I’m gone too, but simultaneously there again. That’s what makes art: disposing of something and retrieving something else that contains no trace of what originally made its small contribution. He validates someone who wanted to be present through writing by making that person disappear. By expelling all possible transformations of stage “material” and propelling someone out of himself till every intention one might have had, vanishes. One stands there with mouth agape, gaping and simultaneously vanishing but not in the sense that an accomplished master might vanish in his own works (whereby only the works remain), but by someone being there and then being gone. That is good. It doesn’t happen, I think, when the artist sees every reality I believe I managed to put into my sentences as potentially performable, nor does it happen when he chooses one possibility out of many that slumber in a text (and they can sleep there till they turn black) but when he chooses NO possibility and then describes and transcribes them. For himself. And what comes about, and what I am no longer a part of, is the transition of the artist into his own sentences which he retrieves from someplace entirely different, from himself maybe or not from himself. What matters: it’s not from me. Not from me. But still I am there, though fortunately I don’t see myself anymore; I can only extract myself from what I see by confirming being gone and by seeing what is still there, I mean what is left over, which is, to be more precise: nothing. I like, with respect to my texts, not being in agreement with the artist Schlingensief, but it is not as if we’ve misunderstood each other. We understand each other by me having to disappear – something I already knew before and wanted – not disappearing to reappear differently but not reappearing at all, shrinking not like a wool sweater desperately stretching its sleeves out of the hot water but in the sense of total-self-dissolution. I can no longer check whether I am still present in something I no longer preside over or whether I am already totally gone. But even if I were to disappear totally, it would be a wonderful feeling I cannot describe. Maybe this inability to describe is the lesson of the artist who has to reject all description and describing in order to get himself into position, his weapon cocked. Was that a noise? NO, one cannot say that anymore once you’ve heard the shot. Maybe that would be a presence: a very loud, very brief moment that might be defined but not by me; I don’t exist anymore. Nothing moves from outside of this art where everything pushes towards the outside and is visible on the outside. The variations and transmogrifications, countless, they might also contain me, at least one or the other of them, but they don’t contain me. I am them because another person said: I.

Elfriede Jelinek

(Translated by P.J. Blumenthal)

Foto: Hamburger Abendblatt


Translation impossible © 2010 Elfriede Jelinek


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