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Postat pe 06.20.2019
Talking to Visky András about the production Porno

 

The rehearsals for Visky András' production Porno, directed by Răzvan Mureșan, which has its opening in September 2019, have started at the "Euphorion" Studio of the National Theatre of Cluj-Napoca.

 

Visky András is artistic director at the Hungarian State Theatre of Cluj, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Theatre and Television from the Babes-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca, Professor at Károli Gáspár University of Budapest, member of the "Széchenyi" Academy of Letters and Arts affiliated with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences from Budapest, and last but not least, a playwright in Lessing's sense of the term, and a writer. He wrote several volumes of poetry, prose, and especially theatre: The Escape, The Disciples, Juliet, Long Friday, Alcohol Drinkers, Born for Never, I Killed my Mother, Porno. The translation of his book The One who Sees the Voice - Márti Sipos in dialogue with Visky András was published at the "Camil Petrescu" Cultural Foundation, as a supplement of the magazine Theatre Today. George Banu said about the author: "I have known Visky András for a very long time, and I think our authentic, deep friendship relies on the outmost respect I have both for his texts and for his existential relation with the theatre. For him, theatre is not just smoke screen, is not posh entertainment, but an act of reflection, which we are invited to constantly reiterate in his performances produced with Tompa Gábor".

 

Visky András was kind enough to answer our questions and give us details about the writing and production of the performance Porno, which was already presented in theatres from the United States, France, Hungary, Poland, but also to share with us his thoughts about theatre.   


You are artistic director at the Hungarian State Theatre of Cluj, an Associate Professor of Performance Art, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Science, a playwright, but not just as the director's friend, but rather as writer of theatre texts. How do you think your perspective has evolved from Juliet, The Disciples, Long Friday, I Killed my Mother, Born for Never, Alcohol Drinkers and others, to Porno?

 

Visky András: Looking back, it rather feels now that I evolved from Porno towards Juliet, The Disciples and the others, than towards this recent production. The deepest personal traumas come harder to the surface, they need much longer time to find their most adequate form, and to become an expression of pain, humor and liberation. I wrote many plays to avoid Porno, especially since the topic and the personal investment asked for a radical poetic expression. The 1989 loss of a child, which was caused to a great extent by the National Security's psychological pressures upon my family, gradually overlapped with the idea of a deep inner Revolution, in the absence of which the social and political freedom would have been a (self)destructive fiction. Twenty years after the so-called true events, I finally managed to write the play. The writing process took me back in the reality of 1989, a lonesome, barren, brutalized year of Romania's recent history.

 

In the "Preliminary observations" from the beginning of Porno you cite Heiner Müller's playwriting. Is your text a "distant echo" of this "poet of the German theatre", since your writing has itself an extremely delicate poetic quality, even when it conveys a mind-shattering message?

 

V.A.: There are times when I feel very close to Heiner Müller's playwriting, as well as to his poetry and theatre writings, which help me commit the dramatic material to a private perspective. The problem of theatre's social-political responsibility raised by this play led me back again to Müller. Poetry can turn a series of personal events into collective emotion, no matter how bloodstained, which in our case happened literally, they might have been. Theatre has no other immediate reality outside itself, outside his specific poetic expression. I nurture this somehow naïve desire to provide the spectator - who often, unknowingly, gets extremely close to you - with an essential, sharp, but also very delicate experience of personal introspection. We are certainly equal in terms of frailty. I believe that the theatre spectator exposes himself as much as the author or the actor.   

       

How did Porno come up to life?

 

V.A.: I wrote this text for the National Theatre of Budapest within a project where ten writers - from Péter Esterházy to Pál Závada - were invited to write a play based on the ten commandments. I got the "Thou shall not steal" commandment. My impulse to write came from the inner need to set myself free from something I had experienced with my wife, it was the need to write about political pornography, about the evil grasp of the political system that turns the human being into its own property, into an inanimate object, into a tool of nothingness. We experienced that defining moment when you had to ask yourself bluntly: what does it mean to have a third person in your private, sexual life as well, a third person lingering through the microphones set throughout our apartment? I think it's important to underline that this third person joins us through hearing, so he or she reimagines what is happening: this makes you his own creation, makes you lose your autonomy precisely when you think you live most freely. There seems to be an unmistakable political orgasm as well, a masturbatory act of pure power, which indulges itself in possessing, mastering, being worshipped by all those who make the Mehistophelean deal with the system. You don't need specialized knowledge of political science to understand that the laboratory of the unleashed political force is the woman's body, and thus the newborn, unborn or stillborn child's body. Could we picture the year 1989 as such a child of Romanian civil society? I had a freeing revelation while I was writing the play, when I realized that the command "Thou shall not steal" refers first of all to the process of estrangement: it means to deny somebody his own freedom, which is never experienced in the "singular", but always in the "plural" of an essential communion. But while I was writing the play, the story seemed to drift towards a sentimental side with great potential of public success, to one of those coups de théâtre I try so much to avoid - since in theatre the name of the Devil is not boredom, as Brook says, but empty success. What helped out of this conundrum was the title and a radical change in the meaning of the word porno, which came to serve as the codename given by the Security to the main character. The Security baptizes its subjected bodies. Even so, especially with the production of Poznan's Nowy Teatr, the production was successful, and was performed more than one hundred times, during its three-year stay in the repertory.    

    

Those admittedly false archive documents from the National Council for the Study of the Security Archives (CNSAS), do they recall your theory of the "barrack theatre", which is meant to enable the cleansing of all the unfortunate slag garnered through the dramatic experiences your family went through during the forced residence in Lătești?

 

V.A.: I truly hope so. The fictional documents were inspired by many real documents. I also devised and organized an itinerant exhibition with the 1300 pages from my file that I found in the CNSAS archive of Bucharest. To me, the "barrack theatre" depicts theatre as an openly assumed prison environment, as the intimate space where we tell ourselves in a whispered voice untold and unheard things. In performative terms, universal imprisonment defines, for me, the situation of an individual who no longer lives in his own body, but takes on a persona, or even multiplies his own existence in various ways. In my opinion, this is a universal metaphor, which stands for all that we lived and still live during such circumstances. We want to live, for instance, in somebody else's body, we want to inhabit those empty perfect vessels that are forged and provided by the mass media. We want to save ourelves in somebody else's imagined body - but theatre doesn't provide us with this easy disappearance, on the contrary, theatre makes us find ourselves in all the experiences we faced, even as innocent victims. Unfortunately, the political denies any mature individual the right to become an innocent victim.

   

The production was performed four times in theatres from the United States, France, Hungary, Poland. How do you think the Cluj public will receive it?

 

V.A.: I really wanted this production to expose me to the Romanian public from Cluj. Porno shows my bareness and frailty, so to expose myself was essential in order to actually feel at home here. I express my deepest gratitude for Mihai Măniuţiu and the team of the National Theatre of Cluj, for their generous welcome of this project. I hope with all my heart that the public will experience the same emotional pressure, but also the same liberation I felt myself, and many other people from those cultural spaces I talked about. Seeing the production might make us lose our sleep, but it will definitely help us live happier, because blessed are those who cry happily.  

 

 

An interview by Eugenia Sarvari