DIRECTOR, PERFORMER AND THEATRE WRITER TORMOD CARLSEN BRINGS HIS SITE-SPECIFIC SHOW/INSTALLATION RADIO B TOWN TO METEOR FESTIVAL THIS YEAR. INFLUENCED BY AN INTEREST IN LANDSCAPE THEATRE AND WORKING WITH LOCAL ARTISTS, HE HAS CREATED A SCENIC POEM TO THE CITY.
I’m making installations more and more these days, but I’m educated as a classical theatre director and also in contemporary aesthetic theory. My practice in the last years has been a lot about developing these ‘one man’ theatres – installations with no actors but which are spaces that are performances in themselves. With this piece, Radio B Town, we have made a structure to sit and listen to a radio show while watching a view. And the show is about that view. It comes from the idea that when you watch a landscape, the landscape has some kind of an impact, it does something to you, but it’s hard to grasp exactly what it does, what type of power the landscape has. What kind of power does the atmosphere of a place have? What I find interesting these days is trying to investigate this landscape perspective and how that can be used to work in a performative sense – so what is this landscape experience in regards to performance. You sort of get in a loop, you watch and you reflect, and then you think. It’s a reflective space, a self-reflective space, because you’re watching your own gaze as you’re watching the concrete. It’s somehow meditative but it’s also entertaining and a bit like investigating. When you watch a cityscape, you think ‘Why did they build the streets like this?’ My hypothesis is that this state is a state of developing knowledge, it’s a way of understanding the world.
In the experience of the show, we try to make it a bit like a Japanese gentleman’s club – the audience comes in, we give them blankets and headphones, the broadcast has already started, they sit down, and then we open the curtain and they sit and watch the cityscape here in Bergen. And we try to involve local artists and local resources in the creation of the project. In this piece, it’s about what type of ideas and fantasies this place creates in us. There are three acts, a bit like traditional theatre. The first act is mostly about what the view is, the second is more about all these ideas it’s triggered in us, that’s when we start to add contributions from the different artists we’ve been working with. What we’re dealing with very much is how this view affects us as artists and how we interpret our surroundings.
One thing that was a big influence is this whole idea of landscape thinking as a way of knowing, of understanding the world. There’s a book Land/Scape/Theatre from 2002 by Una Chaudhuri and Elinor Fuchs, who will speak at a seminar at the festival, concerning the spatial shift in theatre and suggesting a landscape paradigm in the arts. Another influence was Gertrude Stein, her landscape thinking or her landscape plays. And then there’s the composer Heiner Goebbels and his notion of landscapes as music. In music theory, you have this idea of layers, and when you start dwelling on a landscape, it’s a bit the same, it’s always composed of layers – beneath the ground there are fragments of old houses, and beneath that the soil, and beneath that the stone. So you think in layers and it’s more a musical way of thinking than it is a performative way of thinking.
It’s easy to come from the outside and look upon something as a tourist, but for this to work we’re dependent on getting a more inside view of the area, because there’s something very different between living in a landscape and watching a landscape. So we talk about this stuff with the local artists and think about what it means to live here, to use this area, to be part of it, what does it mean to their identity. And of course, people are very different, so from there on things develop very differently. Some of the ideas they have or we have don’t fit in the end so we just cut them out and use them for another project. Some will be used but not in the way they were intended to be. That’s where the composing element comes in – first there’s a phase of creating and then a phase of composing.