cobaye vs cobaye | 2003
Cobaye vs. Cobaye was a 10 day research period that culminated in a single performance / presentation of results. The point of departure was an interest to work on ‘associations’ between concrete terms (words, gestures, objects, etc.) as a way to generate meaning, rather than a work on structure (see Mites got no problem). The trio was also interested in detaching from their individual disciplines (movement, sound and stage design), very much an organizing principle in their previous collaborations, to take on a more equal role in the elaboration and execution of the performance.
A catalog of words, gestures, sounds, commands and objects were assembled over the course of the working period. During the presentation, a computer program backstage randomly selected combinations of these elements, generating tasks that the performers would then execute in front of the public. Different objects in combination with different actions and sounds produced endless combinations. While watching the performance, the public was asked to play an association game based on similar principles. The intention of the game was to give the public a key to ‘reading’ the performance, while at the same time producing a doubling of terms and associations.
In Cobaye vs Cobaye, both the public and the performers become 'cobayes', human guinea pigs in an experiment with an unknown outcome. Though the focus was on ‘reading’ and the production of meaning through association, the random method of composition and the sheer amount of associations produced had the tendency to dilute this clear starting point.
Though the result was rather chaotic, prompting many questions from the spectators, several aspects of the experiment would continue to play in subsequent productions of C+H: The role of the performer as the ‘executor’ of a task and the importance of the role of the spectator in the production of meaning.
Linked to this is the idea of the theater as a 'simulator' – an empty room that can be filled in endless ways, creating different situations to be lived together with a public. Rather than 'represent' these situations, as in classical theater, their interest increasingly became to try to actually create the situation with the public.
The project prompted the trio to reevaluate their approach to the Stage and the ritual of theater going more generally speaking. Rather than focus on the stage, they chose to divide the theatrical event into a before, during and after, giving the respective spaces - theater lobby, stage and bar, equal importance. This division and subsequent research led to the pieces Prelude ‘A’ (before/theater foyer), Bühnenstück (during/ the stage) and Conspiration (after/the bar/café).
Heike Langsdorf, Christophe Meierhans, Christoph Ragg, Karl Wedemeyer
frogs OS, Nadine, VGC