on ecountering the cities

Some Background Thoughts

A myth of our information society suggests, that its sufficant to be informed in order to take part in society. But most of the information we gather is mediated non-verbally. For our first impression of people it not so important WHAT they say but HOW they say it and we create relations through smell and not through Google. As a performer, I have the priveledge to create a setting for a real experience/encounter instead of referring to some sources of information.

In „the Visitor“ I am in the image, I acknowledge the fact, that through my pure presence I take part in creating a moment, a society, a culture, that I cannot take myself out of it. When I walk along the streets contacting strangers, I try to encounter what I cannot grasp: all the other realities that influence me without that I ever physically meet them. Here I meet them and I mirror them and thus I don’t only observe their reality but also irritate it. Just as well as they irritate mine. We are concretely creating a new situation, a new relationship, not through a nice communication but through an unconfortable confrontation.

The random encounters in „the Visitor“ are a meeting of strangers and thus these encounters are often strange, awkward and funny. It is a meeting of people that don’t seem to know so much, nor about each other, nor about themselves. The fact of not knowing is not covered by any role, policy, courtesy. It stays strange. It is strange to be strange. Rules are there to cover that fact and guide and prevent you from the ridiculous state of not knowing. Same as the role prevents you from the ridiculous state of not being anybody. Beyond the rule and beyond the role is a state I am tracking. It is the ridiculous state of not knowing anything and not being anybody that offers a potential of becoming, a potential of creation. The potential to become someone else than before, the potential to create a scene, a story, an encounter that was not there before.

“The Visitor” roams in the public space of the Mega-cities Mumbai, Shanghai and Sao Paulo. She enters other people’s situations. She attends other people’s life. She is not communicating, interacting and exchanging. She is relating silently, physically, observing untill she finally adapts the identity of the people she attends. „You are becoming more and more like me“ says Christina, one of the protagonists to her in the movie.“The Visitor“ is not performing her identity, because being herself is not what it is about. In fact her identity may be completely interchangeable with any other of the people she mets. But this interchangeably and assimilation don’t mean that she unifies with her protagonists. Lovers meet as strangers and become one, the strangeness is vanished by unity, the strangers melt rather than they clash. Whereas „the Visitor“ and her encounters stay strangers. The film doesn’t reveal the comforting beauty of unity but the melancholic beauty of strangeness. Its language is not the one of understanding but the irritating, funny language of misunderstanding. Even if there is an undeniable aspect of love for me in the recognition of each other as strangers.

As our living space, the cities, starts to look similar on a worldwide scale, it gets harder and harder to recognize a place. What happens to our longing for the “other place” when cultures and environments assimilate to a point where “being in one place or the other matters not”? (Rosa Cuidad). And couldn’t one transfer this thought to human lives and start to wonder if being oneself or this random person in the streets of Mumbai or Shanghai matters not? I guess this thought actually scares us. We might become more alike, but that doesn’t bring us together. It was more comfortable to think that we have nothing to do with each other.

We are all living in circumstances that advantage huge rises and falls. It is not the American dream of the dishwasher becoming a millionaire. It is the global nightmare of a roller-coster of social positions. So what globalization means is that, if we are seated then literally all in the same boat, weather we like it or not. I don’t feel like a secure Westerner, even if I am in comparison to most people in this world. In Mumbai, during one of the improvisations, I sat down on the street, hold up a bare hand and stared straight. After two minutes a young man, about 16 years old, gave me some money. I remained seated and other people joined. I was quite shocked. This was not what I expected at all. I thought that I was obviously different from other, really poor people on the dusty street of Mumbai, I was a woman from Western Europe. But when I sat on the floor, I took in the role of a beggar and everybody accepted it immediately. Only by standing up I left the beggar behind. (Still a huge privilege that I can leave this role.) These days social roles are simply no longer secure. And that is why for me representing roles that are fixed is just not anymore what it is about.