Blesok no. 30, January-February, 2003
The Ready-Made and the Macedonian Theater
on the examples of the plays “Macedonian Bloody Wedding” and “Macedonian Story”
The Macedonian theater-scene, adopting and developing the postmodern postulates, even in those poor times – shows the surprisingly inventive work on the theater elements, norms and conventions. Within the frames of the theater-plays, the bold experiments emerge, with which the theater language gains in its freshness and “artism”. With that, the new and inventive means and methods are being implemented. The interdisciplinary and intermedial characteristics are some of these – more explicit – characteristics in the many of the latest theater-plays. Namely, the expression means that belong to other art-disciplines are implemented within the frames of those plays, which, keeping the whole of their inherent characteristics in the new context – create a certain duality and some marginal atmosphere that enriches the theater act.
An example of such interdisciplinary method is the “borrowing” of the technique from the visual arts – the ready-made, implemented within the frames of the theater music and scene segment. To be economic with this text, we will analyze this characteristic on the examples of two recent plays: “Macedonian Bloody Wedding”, directed by Ljupco Gjorgievski, put on the scene of the Bitola People’s Theater (through its music/scene participation of the band Foltin), and the miseenscène of the play “Macedonian Story”, directed by Bonyo Lungov, put on the scene of the Children & Youth Theater in Skopje.
The ready-made is a technique, characteristic to the visual arts. It origins from the Dadaism (1913-1918), when Marcel Duchan put the (already widely known) pissoir named as “Fountain” as a legitimate art-deed at the art-concourse. The most concise definition of the ready-made is that it is an object of the non-art origin “borrowed”, defined and exhibited as an art-deed, with or without interventions on it. The main goal of the Dadaist ready-made was to shudder the high academic audience. Later, the ready-made is continuously exploited within the frames of the avant-garde and neo-avant-garde movements. The Postmodernism, within the frames of its style arsenal includes all of the historical techniques and means of the art-expression, depriving (or “mellowing”) them from their primary contexts. The same case is with the ready-mades of the artists that we will speak of here. Their goal isn’t to shudder the audience, but to make the play more vivid and more complex with the extraordinary use of the objects, and with their paradoxical linkage, in order to provoke the audience’s attention and to point on their – let’s call it – magical level, and finally – to influence stronger upon the audience’s perception. Probably by accident, although the mutual influences aren’t improbable, in both of the above-mentioned plays, the use of the ready-made is linked with the material of an ethnological origin, which, by the choice of the artists is turned into the music instrument (in “Macedonian Bloody Wedding”), and into the theater scene-requisites (puppets – in “Macedonian Story” is a puppet show).
The use of the ready-made instruments and music, at the Foltin band – is the consisting part of their even more complex whole of their participation in the play. Their participation in the play continuously swings from their “theatralization” in actors-characters, to their role of the passive music ensemble at the scene, or – from their role as the music background off the miseenscène, to their role of performing band that has its own independent part within the frames of the play. All those levels of their appearance widen the play and the theatrical act. Namely, they create an intermedial situation, the blend of the theater and the music performance, more or less independently one from another, within the wide frames of the single play. In “Macedonian Bloody Wedding”, as a continuity of their previous performance phase, they use various utility objects, that by their choice become music instruments. In the theater play, the use of those scene-requisites is highly motivated. They are a part of the ethic segment of the play – so they have thematic and illustrative function, referentially anchoring the action in a recognizable historical context. Within the frames of the very theater act, their use is multifunctional. For example, the sequence with the sharpening of the sickles and scythes: at the denotative, thematic level, it’s the part of the tool preparing, as the sequence characteristic for the ethnic theater-play. At the symbolical level, the sharpening of the scythes and sickles alludes to the preparing for battle, insinuating the future fight. At the same time, with the choreography of the act, a certain ritual dimension is added to the genre, and the rhythmic sharpening of the tools creates the sound, which has two meanings in the play: as music background, and as the builder of the psychological atmosphere in the scene. And finally, the created sound is the well-known and very characteristic rhythm of the band Foltin. The same case is with the wheat sowing and the horn blowing sequences in the play. Except the use of the music instruments, Foltin and the director of the play use their ready-made bodies (their appearances) in the play. As a part of the crew that participates, and doesn’t act in the play (non-actor crew), their appearance at the stage shouldn’t enter the frames of the theater play, and it shouldn’t become a theater sign. But, the Foltin band often, with the ready-made decision suddenly transforms and becomes a part of the actor’s team. In that case, their role swings from the mutes in the mass-scenes, through the different modifications of the role that the chorus in the antic plays had, to the real characterized episode roles.
And the play “Macedonian Story” has quite a similar use of the scene-requisites. Namely, it is present in the creation of the puppets that are main bearers of the action. Here, by the director’s choice, the most various ethnic materials (cloths, linen, tools, kitchen pots, parts of furniture, etc.) transform to puppet characters who get the real and conventional drama roles. In this play, the ready-made is used to frolic the play, and to make it more interesting for the young audience, and in that frames, to place more effectively the didactical segment: the introducing of the national tradition and folklore elements. In the rhythm of the music background, thanks to the craftsmanship of the puppeteers, the images and narratives are presented very effectively. With a tripod, broom and folk-shoes – a donkey has being made; with sickle, wooden spoons, broom and pottery – a bird; with sieve, spoons and potter – a bear, etc. In the more difficult variants, as the ready-made material are even the hands of the puppeteers, which in whole, doesn’t enter the frames of the theater’s signifying elements. So, with the combination of arms and brooms the birds are being presented in the play… The different dimensions of the used furniture serves the differentiation of the characters, gender (male/female), age (old/young), physical appearance (fat/thin), etc. After the creation of the figures (the characters), they always enter some kind of a drama action in which we recognize the known folk sequences: the hansom young bachelor seduces the beautiful young girl, the elders advise the youth, people handling the animals, etc. And even more, an anthropomorphizing of the zoomorphic characters is being achieved: the two birds can love each other or they hate and peck each other; the animals from different species are in certain relationships – from friendship to animosity – depending on the kind of the animals, that associates to the folk fables, etc.
The use of the ready-made in his historical conditions was an act aimed against the elitism and the high-erudition of the art. Although the artists that used ready-made had a wide art knowledge, with the very act of pronouncing of some common object as an art-deed, wanted to destroy and get down the walls and boundaries between the life and art, to widen the frames of the art-deed and to show that anyone can be an artist. The use of the ready-made in the Postmodern, as we saw in the two examples mentioned above, looses up the limits between the art and life, widens the frames of the art-deed, but it doesn’t place the art-act only within the conceptual choice. That’s the deception of the Postmodern: behind the (at first sight) common and democratic act, available to anyone, a great elitist erudition, skills and craftsmanship are hidden. In our examples, that’s shown by the band Foltin, by the actors and by the directors of the plays. With these two plays, the Macedonian Theater had his high moments.
Translated by: Petar Volnarovski
From the book Florilegium