Interview with Claire Counilh for the Festival d’Automne in Paris, 2012



Interview with Barbara Matijevic and Giuseppe Chico by Claire Counilh


Claire Counilh: In I am 1984 and Tracks, your two previous performances, you delved into the past, examining history as staged storytelling. Forecasting, which concludes the trilogy, deals with the future. How did you approach history that has not yet been written?
Barbara Matijevic and Giuseppe Chico: The idea was never to predict the future, but rather to make temporal and spatial shifts using a very simple theatrical device whose function was to undermine the visual unity of physical reality on the stage. We wanted to provoke a break in this continuity, to crack it open – using a laptop screen – in order to create, literally the “windows of the possible”, capable of appearing any time and any place.
What interested us was to shift the evidence of what is given to see towards a different regime of perception and meaning. The reason why we chose to approach future via images is because future, as an unrealized event, exists only as an image, i.e. as a projection of the mind.

CC: The video and the screen have a special place in Forecasting, notably in the relationship with the individual. Is this a vision of the future or an observation of the present?
B.M & G.C.: We wanted to create a space-time suspended between two parallel systems of perception: that of the physical reality and that of the screen. We chose the body of the performer as their meeting point: when the two worlds collide, the body is caught in a paradoxical situation. It becomes a double body, composed out of a combination of possibilities, the result of which surpasses the individual body. It is both itself and the others, it is both here and elsewhere, present and absent. It is open to new interpretations.

C.C.: In this perspective, does the individual become a crossing point between these two worlds that you mention: the physical reality and the screen? How should he or she respond to this new function?
B.M. & GC: When we were putting together this game based on the shifting of bodies and spaces, our goal was never to produce a persuasive rhetoric concerning the ways in which this body should react …
The bodies on the screen do not really act on the body of the performer, but this game of “as if “ creates an interesting dynamics. The natural relationship between cause and effect is broken. This break up puts those bodies in a relationship where they can respond, adapt to their functions and their destinations, but also miss them, make mistakes. Thus the stomach on the screen becomes the head of the performer, the text spoken by the performer does not match the action on the screen, etc.. It is on this multiplication of (dis-) connections which establish the relationship between bodies that we have based our scenarios.

CC: You use a lot of videos from YouTube, illustrating the proliferation of personal stories in favour of the single Story. How did you work with this tool?
BM & GC: Indeed, for Forecasting, we used only amateur videos taken from YouTube. We have spent countless hours searching through them, watching them, sorting them out.
Before choosing one of them, first it had to be in good quality and in life size, 1:1 ratio. Next, we tested how they could be put together, the type of narrative that it created. It was a process that relied heavily on chance, – the videos that offered the best solutions were often found by sheer luck …
We were fascinated by the floating quality of these videos, ranging from commonplace situations, movements and everyday objects and the possibility of their usage as a new tool of self-narration. There is an enormous potential in this collectivization of knowledge, obsessions, abilities…

CC: Have you tested yourselves the potential of YouTube that you mention?
BM & GC: Yes, working on this piece was quite a dizzying experience… Throughout our research, we had to both interpret the stories of others and tell our own. This parallel work of narrators and translators demanded that our idea of the performance be constantly reconsidered. The introduction of each new video resulted in changes that were not easy to anticipate, and often called for an overall reconfiguration of the entire performance material. But as exasperating as it may have been sometimes, it is precisely this complexity that has led us to link stories and images in ways that we would not have done otherwise.

CC: The idea of future is often associated with the imagery developed by science fiction. What role does science fiction have in Forecasting?
There is a moment in the performance in which the type of narration is explicitly that of science fiction literature, but ultimately it is only one among others. At the same time, one could say that the entire performance is based on an idea characteristic of all good science fiction – that of cognitive distance, which means that it evokes a dislocated reality, a vision of the world transformed into what it is not, or not yet.

CC: How does this “dislocated” reality manifest itself in your performance?
BM & GC: It manifest itself through the staging of a body capable of changing its status in a second. A body that is an actor-spectator of both its own history and that of anyone whatsoever. In short, a body that can constantly reconfigure the meaning of its experience.

CC: Should the way our bodies are rooted in the world evolve according to technological progress?
BM & GC: It is impossible to deny that technology doesn’t only change the world, but also our bodies in this world. In the trilogy, our work was based on the practice of internet surfing. One could say that the internet is now in our blood and we must learn to live with it. After years of clicks on different interfaces, objects in the real world no longer seem quite the same. We believe that theatre should take into account the numerous ways in which technology is influencing our bodies, our understanding of narratives, our relationship with culture as well as our understanding of presence.