No Way Out of the Labyrinth

Was it a thriller? A hopeless love story? A melodrama?
Is it about aliens, or dead men, or vampires, or lovers, or a fantasy. Or is it a dream, or a cinema experiment, or the myth of Orpheus, or about the way we remember things, or just “about a persuasion”
… or a pop video?

Schloss Nymphenburg, München

Schloss Nymphenburg, München

On Film, Performing, and Theatre
L’Année dernière à Solitude is an experimental theatre project that appropriates some strategies, techniques, and/or glamour of the iconic film of European modernism L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Resnais/Robbe-Grillet). The project consists of two parts – the spatial installation Traces that deals mostly with the visual, or better, material traces from the film – and Couloirs (Corridors), a performance that focuses on the dramaturgical discourse of the film. The project can be seen as a discussion on deceiving and unstable, unverifiable nature of memory; the significance of meaning or communication in an artwork; or perhaps as a political discussion on parasitizing (and its implications) on the film that caused hermeneutical controversies in the film establishments for four decades. But it is also an intimate puzzle on the emotional dimension of s/Solitude.

The reconstruction of the film was executed in such a manner that the procedures of the director, scriptwriter, cinematographer, editor, set and costume designer, etc. were treated as artifacts, elements from which the new visuality or performativity is drawn. The film is torn to its constituent elements, that are then ‘set’ in the conditions where each of them ‘performs’ – but in such a way that the viewers are not merely observers or witnesses, but participants, with the film ‘happening’ to them. As the film itself, this project is also, in almost every segment, ambivalent. Did we meet last year at Marienbad?  Did we meet at all? Is this a theatre project if it starts with an exhibition and ends with film screening? Does it contain live performance, or are the voices that deliver the text in English twenty minutes after the beginning of the screening and completely disappear towards the end, merely a sonic trompe-l’oeil?

On Traces of Memory
In the core of this reconstruction is the dilemma of memory and remembering. Splitting the project into two parts, in the first part in the gallery conditions, we display traces of the film as artifacts, traces of events from the film, that is events that definitely happened. A broken shoe, a broken glass, the leisure game NIM, garden-riddle from the film with its surrealistic shadows, and finally the very confusion about the place of the events materialized in five identical maps of a single baroque labyrinth garden named with five different toponyms mentioned in the film. By offering shredded information about the film and letting the audience to explore, without any instructions, we intend to artificially create memory of an event, to be activated one day later, during the film screening/Couloirs. At a moment some situations from the exhibition appears in the film, the audience activates its memory and thereby it is included in the film itself. Finally, one of the monologues in the Couloirs‘ script, executed as Robbe-Grillet’s shots descriptions/instructions from the novel-script, directly describes the previous evening’s gallery situation. In that way, viewing the film formalizes memory, l’année dernière (last year) in the film, relates to the viewer’s yesterday.

On Couloirs (Corridors) of the Labyrinth
The text performed in Couloirs is comprised of three different discourses: dialogues (from the film), shots descriptions, and interpretation. The original dialogue from the film is stripped down to its basic features. It is spoken by the actress. Shots descriptions are simulations of Robbe-Grillet’s novel-script, and are delivered by the visual artist. Interpretation, a Frankenstein-like text composed of viewer’s comments taken from various sources, in which more attention is paid to semiotics rather than semantics – is spoken by the theatre director. All three of these discourses try to ‘co-exist’ within the film screening – sometimes as dubbing, sometimes as commentary, sometimes seamlessly, sometimes conspicuously. Nevertheless, each of these three texts diverges in its own way, distances itself from film interpretation. Furthermore, the texts perpetuate the controversy about the meaning, as if the hermetics of the work are tripled and further reflected as in an endless line of mirrors. In a way, these three texts are close to the nouvelle roman strategy: they offer descriptions of things (film) from as many points of view possible, but without interpretation.

The film projection on three transparent screens is endlessly multiplied on walls and floor of the venue. In that labyrinth of light and shadow, like phantoms, the voices and decentered, almost hidden figures of authors/performers appear. Discrete parasitism, like some kind of performers’ resignation… An exegesis of this film text was never the intention of the authors. The strategy that was adopted is one of uncritical ‘adoration’, and a literal attempt to enter the film by the audience as well as the authors.

Coming back to Solitude after a year they weren’t able to recognize themselves. Were they here l’anée dernière, or was it in Marienbad or somewhere else? Or was it us?

Bojan Djordjev