I Do Not Think But I Still Am

Zlatko Wurzberg

The starting point of the project is a curiosity about the expression “heavy thoughts”, where the adjective “heavy” usually associates the notion of physical, in contrast to the noun “thought”, which connotates more abstract concepts. The expression is a metaphor of the relationship between corporal and reflective, concrete and abstract. The backbone of the research is a possibility of establishing a foothold for reflective states or of staging a process that produces them. The performance is staged as a lecture.
It is impossible to define this piece in terms of its genre, as its construction relies on a transposition of the performance conventions. This results in semantic jumps which fuse the variety of material and its sources into poetic images. In broad terms, one would call it theatre but it would be more accurate to talk of a happening or even cabaret.
“How Heavy Are My Thoughts” continues with the auto-fictional theme in Ivana Müller’s work. However, the earlier performances were based on dance or were at least organized around a dance core as one of the levels of production of meaning in a dialogue between the way of presenting and habits of observing within the framework of theatre conventions. Formally, this piece is more concerned with the conditions of a stage performance. It deliberately destroys live performance by a neutral screen image and the lightly hysterical talk of the narrator/lecturer. Just like a novel about a found manuscript the writer of which multiplies the levels of the author’s detachment from his story, this author organizes the presentation of the contents on several levels: there is an auto-fictional character on stage that is identified by the initials I.M. and whose identity is adopted by the narrator. It is also an embodiment of Ivana Müller in a simple homonymy of the initials (“I am”). The lecturer/narrator presents the contents in a chronological description of events and in the fictional and documentary video footage that construct a story. He uses them as arguments to support his statement. In terms of literary theory, one would say that the author concurrently uses a diegetic and a mimetic method to present the content or, in other words, the indirect narration of the events and their presentation. However, as we are not dealing with text only but rather with a performance, the artistic method is more complex. As in conceptual art, the author dematerializes the stage incarnation of the piece by articulating it in language. The parallel presentation of events is mediated through the discontinuous images of the video footage that divorce the performance from its direct stage experience.
In terms of contents, the fictional character Ivana Müller, i.e. I.M., is in search of a proof of a material difference between the “heavy” thoughts and “light-mindedness”. It is not only about her subjective experience but an apparatus of knowledge is evoked, too, in order to provide an ‘objective’ confirmation of this question: the persons interviewed define the problem within a philosophical and scientific discourse, from the physicists to the psychiatrists and psychologists. A magnetic resonance image of the brain is even presented that Ivana Müller underwent as her character. In the process of rearranging of such situations into new relationships – with situations in which, for I.M., the expression “heavy thoughts” implies a semantic challenge the one moment and a gymnastic one the next, superior intelligence comes forward as true idiocy. (The video footage with naked I.M. running through the open space of a field can be read as a citation of Lars von Trier’s movie “The Idiots”.) Accordingly, this question runs up against the wall of the absurd only to bounce off and into a new situation once again where it repeatedly confuses the ideas and logic of conventional comprehension and produces a “handicap of logos”. Therefore, this piece is open ended and discontinued at the point when the stage time coincides with the real time of the audience, creating an illusion of a live performance for just a moment. A series of such burlesque acts is immensely entertaining on one level but a burlesque is not what this piece is about. It uses burlesque to inverse the values and conventions of the performance art aesthetics freely and inexorably.

published in Vjesnik, Croatia, 2003