Performance Living Picture    

    Living Picture Living Picture

Concept   Living Picture is a performance in which artists and philosophers merge in an übersichtliche Darstellung. A frozen moment in order to rethink the meaning of this defence-ritual and what it has to tell us today.

The title ‘Living Picture’ refers to the well-known idea of ‘Tableau Vivant’, describing a three-dimensional picture, presented as a scene on stage by a striking group of suitably costumed actors or artists’ models, carefully posed, who remain silent and motionless as if in a picture. In this way, it marries the art forms of the stage with those of painting or photography, bringing art pieces to life, emphasising a particular dramatic moment.
  The Tableau Vivant originated in the Middle Ages in Europe as depiction of religious episodes carried on a pageant wagon or float in procession during a Church festival. Since the 19th century, tableaux vivants and their related form were referred to as 'attitudes'.

Shifting between the theatrical and the pictorial, between performance and silence, or between history and vivid presence, tableaux vivants are an art form in their own right. They direct the gaze towards the gesture, towards physiognomies. They demonstrate human activity precisely because the people in them remain standing still and present a ‘frozen moment’.

Scenario   In the thesis, the term ‘Living Picture’ refers directly to the main topic, that is, the übersichtliche Darstellung. In a ‘Living Picture’ - a Darstellung - the connections between the various parts of an
issue are made visible and thus become apparent. And this gives us the opportunity to reflect on them. It is related to our powers of imagination and can be understood as a special kind of understanding, something that I call 'poetic understanding'. Language is more than mere propositional content. A 'Living Picture' tells us something, but also brings something to mind. As Wittgenstein says: 'The whole weight may be in the picture' (LRB 72). It is something magical in that it connects the picture as part of our language with our own feelings and thoughts, that is, with our language. A ritual as a ceremony is an event that impresses us by means of all kinds of special effects. It creates a special setting - a special atmosphere. The phenomenon of the ritual or the ceremony itself is not something special - has no meaning - rather it is the whole gathering, the entire setting which impresses us. With these pictures we are able to express what is important in our life, what we think is great or wonderful. On the other hand these pictures can also deceive us. In the Netherlands (and maybe elsewhere too) the defence of the doctorate dissertation is a public event; it is a ritual, symbolising the transition from student to scholar. The candidate has to defend the insights gained over some years of study into a particular field, be it science or philosophy.

Instead of the so-called 'lekenpraatje', usually prior to the PhD defence, I want to emphasise the core issue of the thesis by means of a performance: the merging of artists and philosophers in an übersichtliche Darstellung as a frozen moment, in order to rethink the meaning of this defence-ritual and what it has to tell us today. Again, it addresses the question that triggered the start of this project, but now - after more than four years - in a reverse way: Is there a way of doing philosophy as well as making art, i.e., the art of installation, in which each of these disciplines not only merely refers to itself or to some ideal, but remains attached to and engaged in the world - a way that brings the concepts revisited, revised or remodelled back to the world in a meaningful manner?
  The artists and philosophers, together forming the doctorate commission and participating in the performance, are not reduced to one another; each of them has his or her own specific space. This space is marked by and composed out of fragments that were once pieces of art works that were completed in the course of this project. Thus, art provides the context for philosophy and philosophy provides the context for art.

In the late afternoon of November 11, 2008 fragments of the InstallationPackage 'Do not Erase . . . wait for Meaning' are placed in the old Lutheran church. November 12, at 8.30 hrs everyone is present in the old Lutheran church, so that we can briefly go through the performance, have a look at the installation where everyone is supposed to be standing etc.

The paranimfen and the promovenda have taken their places. The members of the doctorate commission (each of them carrying the book) enter the church one by one, accompanied by the beadle. After a short interval, a frozen moment in which the tableau is completed as a Living Picture, the beadle puts the insignia on the chair of the committee and directs the members to their seats in order for the actual defence to begin.

Standing in the installation, the members of the commission are looking strait into the church. They are expected to stand still and keep concentrated as much as possible. The paranimfen and the promovenda are looking away from the audience and the installation when the performance starts. During the performance they will turn around, one by one, each of them at a different point.

The ritual is supported by sounds: narrative as well as music. There is a male narrator (English) as well as a female narrator (Dutch) who speak the sentences that are taken from the descriptions of the works of art that were made during the project and culminated in propositions, the so-called 'stellingen', which normally accompany the thesis. The two narrators remain invisible. The spoken text intermingles with phrases from K-H Stockhaus's ‘Stimmun'’, Paul Hillier & Theatre of Voices. Harmonia Mundi 2007.

Timeline   12|11 2008
  Performance on the occasion of the defence of dissertation Remodel[l]ing Reality
the Old Lutheran church (UvA), Amsterdam.