Work – Theatre – Protest
Between the 4th of July and the 10th of July 2011 we were asked to join the artistic team for ‘ne travaillez jamais’, a co-operation between the Staatstheater Stuttgart and the Institute of Philosophy at the University of Stuttgart.
Ne travaillez jamais was a collaborative laboratory combining research, theory and practice that explored and responded to the definition and thematic of ‘work’, and its relationship to theatre and the act of protest/resistance. Three days of theoretical lectures and seminars, led by Dr. Claus Baumann and Antje Géra, were followed by three days of practice-based workshops, delivered by a team of stage directors, scenographers and performance artists.
A kiss with a fist
Our workshop would be site and context specific, taking a closer look at the social and political narratives/hierarchies of the theater, while reflecting on our own situation and position, our relationship to the Staatstheater Stuttgart, and our unavoidable subjectivity.
We decided to concentrate on the logo used by the Staatstheater, a green clenched fist that can be seen provocatively raised above the theater, reminiscent of the Mercedes Star that turns on top of the main station.
Our response to a symbol steeped in political and revolutionary reference, and the way in which this relates to the contemporary institution it now represents, included a video documentary and a series of activities that took place during a staged presentation at the end of the week.
A fairground strength tester was placed at the entrance to the theater. Audience members were invited to punch the scales as they entered the auditorium using the boxing glove provided. The results were added together to measure the total brute strength of our audience. Each audience member was also provided with a small resistance pack, including a green glove, a satirical pamphlet and a paper-bag balaclava.
An opening scene for the staged presentation is devised to focus on our immediate environment and explore working conditions and the values attached to different roles within the theatre.
A technician is asked to come on stage and perform a variety of simple actions. A voiceover narrates the scene and describes the increasing amount of money we will have to give this individual, based on existing rates of pay. As soon as he steps onto the stage in front of an audience he receives an additional 7,67 €, which is raised to 10,23 € if he appears under theatrical lighting. Performing an action equates to an additional 12,78 € and wearing a costume is compensated with 20,55 €. If he speaks on stage his role changes and he is categorised as an extra, receiving an extra 30-€ o top of his salary as a technician.
Following the final theatrical episode of the evening the lights went out on stage and the audience were asked to pull on a green glove that could be found in their resistance pack over their right hand. They were then asked to raise their arm and clench their fist, placing their thumb over their fingers to form the logo of the Staatstheater Stuttgart, at which point there is a brief flash of light, as a photographer who has crept unseen onto the stage takes a portrait of the audience; A sequence of events that playfully exposes the associations and implications of this act, for the audience, the theatre as an institution, and theatre as an artistic form; The multiple narratives of the clenched fist.
The resulting portrait has been offered to the Staatstheater Stuttgart for use as publicity material.
A video documentary exploring the corporate use/narrative of the clenched fist and the concept of work and resistance at the Staatstheater Stuttgart was pieced together from a collection of interviews and encounters that had taken place during the workshop.
The film included references to the process of editing and analysis, highlighting our own individual agendas and motivations. At times the group would take intellectual pleasure searching for (and finding) psychological or physical evidence of social inequality, contradictory positions, capitalist hierarchies and apathetic misconceptions.
A discussion arose after Katrin Jaeger (Director of operations) asked us not to use a part of her interview in which she admits that women are paid less than men in the theater, but that it was hard to do anything about this. This led to a debate about censorship, moral responsibilities, and artistic integrity. The group voted to show the clip, resulting in a furious reaction from Katrin Jaeger who we informed of this decision before the final presentation. Having been told that it was too late to change the video, the group was shocked when the scene was censored by the technical team running the show. Who had ordered this intervention/reality-check remains unknown, but it was probably more revealing than the video would have been. The censored clip became the talking point of the evening.