Statement on Dramaturgy

Performance Research Sep 2009English
Volume 14, Issue 3, September 2009, p12

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Instead of making a statement on dramaturgy, I will focus here on describing the role dramaturgy has had in my own work and outlining a type of dramaturgy that I am hoping will emerge with more prominence in the near future.
A while ago, a friend of mine asked me what a dramaturg’s role really was in theatre. He said that his first association with the word was that of a Turk who made a lot of drama. When I think about it now this rings quite true. A dramaturg in my process is a kind of a ‘Turk’, someone who is somewhat alien, who maintains his or her otherness and distance from the process in order to be able to ask questions about it. And it is also someone who makes a lot of drama, someone who asks questions about things that might otherwise slip by unnoticed or be taken for granted.
Most of my work is concerned with issues of presence and embodiment and procedures of fictionalizing. I often take original material from other sources: films (embodying the movement of the actors), my private life (moving my furniture into my installation), weather conditions (collaborating with the factor of its unpredictability and ‘givenness’). Then I set up ‘generators’ that process this material to produce new work. These generators are, in fact, dramaturgical structures, and their transparency in the work is as important as the material itself. I might call it a dramaturgy of space, which renders both the content and the manners in which that content is produced visible at the same time.
Working with a dramaturg is for me as important as working with any other collaborator. I set up a certain dramaturgical structure (a generator), which might, for example, be based on a timeline of a certain emotion. Once this generator is clear to all of us, we use it as an anchor to hold the rest of the elements together, a red thread that runs through the process and the performance and to which everyone can relate. A good dramaturg for my process is someone who manages never to lose sight of this red thread.
The second role of dramaturgy in my work concerns the creation of the thread that connects all the individual projects into one ongoing exploration. This refers not only to how this installation or that performance share elements and expand on different aspects of them. Even more importantly, it is about how I can use certain elements from my projects, as well as from other people’s projects, art history, politics, daily news, weather, my friend’s lives etc. in order to contextualize them differently in each new work I make. And further, how these elements can affect and loop back onto the original material they were taken from, and how they can re-appear with each new project. Therefore, this red thread of dramaturgy extends itself through my projects in time.
The third level of dramaturgy in my work is the one I find very important for future dramaturgies. By this I mean attitudes that can help make dramaturgies of real-life events transparent. They may include: a dramaturgy of one’s own life (how I fictionalize my own life to give it a grand narrative); a dramaturgy of community life (that makes visible the strategies of staging, fictionalizing and performing day-to-day life); a dramaturgy of virtual life (that makes visible the strategies of fictionalizing, staging and performing political and other events through the mass media of TV, film and the Internet).
Ideally, this kind of dramaturgy would be capable of underlining the network-like relationship between these three threads and could incorporate them into the art-making process, where not only life is a generator of art but art is a generator of life in a transparent way.