Hindernis (Obstacle)

9 December 2007

My friend Christiane Kühl is working on a publication project for Hebbel Theater in Berlin. The invite to participate is here:

As you might know, the Hebbel Theater will turn 100 years old in January. For this occasion I am editing a publication for the HAU (Hebbel am Ufer), some sort of dictionary. The idea is nice and simple: We chose 100 words from theatre texts written about 100 years ago and now ask artists who are important to the Hebbel Theater and its history to write a short entry for one of these words. Not academic or historical, but with their very personal approach. What we are interested in is to see how certain terms have changed their meaning, what certain concepts (can) mean today.

Well, and since you and Forced Entertainment were and are very special to the Hebbel, we would very much like you to contribute an entry to our book. I might as well say you are indispensable.

The word we would like to suggest to you is:

Hindernis (Obstacle)


The short piece I wrote in response is here:


The  obstacle might best be thought of as that which makes it possible to do something. Obstacle as the limit, the constriction, the barrier against which you struggle, but which – more amplifier than barrier, and as the force or frame against which you are pressed – makes your efforts and strategies visible; your jokes, grace, clumsiness, and other endeavours readable. Without barrier nothing is possible, nothing meaningful. WIth no obstacle to contend with, you are truly lost; thrown blind in a nightmare free space of unknown dimensions, temperature, atmosphere, and contents. With it, you’re already somewhere. In the dodging, railing, dance with its limits and possibilities is where all of your art, all of your sense, and all of your most productive nonsense lies.

Or: the obstacle as a point on a map – a thing between where you are now and your further off intention, supposed need or goal. You may never get there. But the obstacle helps you understand the terrain, an echo-location tool, giving shape to the truth or falsehood of the journey, the nature and manufacture of the need.


Looking forward to seeing the other entries, and enjoying the connection to both Marathon Lexicon and the Formula’s Project which I wrote about previously here and here. Forced Entertainment will be working much more closely with Hebbel in the next years,  a prospect that we’re also really looking forward to.

Philosophy And Technology 101

7 December 2007

Walking through a department store electronics department, I catch a fragment of conversation; some old couple talking to the white-shirt-and blue-tie sales kid right  by the display of SatNav and GPS systems.

“It knows where you are..” he’s saying.

Yes, it knows where you are..” they are saying in reply, like an out-of-synch stereo, “But do you have to know your destination…”

I know that these kinds of sales kids have a bad rep for not knowing much. But this question and its implications might well defy the best of us.



Their voices weaving in and out of each other like an out of synch stereo.

Their voices sounding less like conversation and more like the early stages of a Steve Reich tape recorder experiment from the 1970s.

Yes. Yes.
It Knows. Knows. Where you. Yes. Where you are. It knows.
But do you? OK? Yes. But do you. Really. Do you have to know your destination?
Do you have to? Ahh. Know where you’re going? Do you need to know that?
Is it necessary to know the destination? Because. That’s what we were wondering. Otherwise. That’s what we wanted to know

[Really liking these two, even though I only caught this tiny fragment of them.. feels like a Dickensian shtick one could work with. The doubled voice, the binary, the weaving, repetition. A hideous symbiotic creature.]

As Soon As There Is Trouble

5 December 2007

Following yesterday’s post my friend D sent a link to a clip showing Godard’s contribution to the Wim Wender’s 1982 documentary Room 666. Godard rambles in fine form, talking about the future of cinema and other things, wrong on some ideas (small things and small countries will disappear) cryptic for the most part, and right (so far as I can tell) on others.

Television is nothing to be afraid of… he says. It’s so small and you have to be very close to the picture. In the cinema, on the other hand, the picture is large and intimidating and you watch it from a distance. Today it seems people would rather look at a small picture close up than a large one from a distance.

Hard to calculate the ironies or otherwise of watching this fragment on youTube where the movie itself is cut up and stripped to its bones, distribution is all the time and everywhere (I mean that with some irony), and the picture got even smaller.

Godard in Wender's Room 666

Use Open Eyes to See with Closed Eyes

4 December 2007

My friend A. send a nice quote, translated from an interview with Jean Luc Godard in Zeit.

[he and his partner Anne-Marie Miéville] try to imagine the film together. We try to recall it. It’s as if clouds take shape, very slowly. I try to see things with my eyes closed because you don’t see the same thing with your eyes open. It’s not any different with a camera. You use open eyes to see with closed eyes.

Elsewhere online (here) I found a few other quotes from the same interview. I liked this one, for its summoning of an entirely solitary film-making practice.

Godard: It’s not as easy as it used to be to use a camera to see something you otherwise wouldn’t see. Directors are either confirming what they already know – or they’re confirming themselves with the camera. Like a knight would confirm himself with a lance. I’m going to shoot my next film alone – but really alone. I’ll adapt. I won’t film the actors together, but instead, one after another. I’ll make reservations in the hotel, too, if they come here to Switzerland. These are different films, but they’re possible. Fortunately, I wasn’t able to make all the films I wanted to.

KN: Why “fortunately”?

Godard: [laughs] Because they wouldn’t have been good.

The first part of this brought to mind a film I’ve never seen but which has always intrigued me as a concept – Wim Wenders’ documentary Room 666 for which, at Cannes Festival in 1982, he set up a static camera in an empty hotel room, inviting a number of directors to come in and give their thoughts, alone to the camera, on the future of cinema. Despite the fact that I’ve never seen this film I’ve often thought of remaking it – creating a contemporary performance and dance-makers ‘version’ of it. Maybe, as a form, the solo to camera has been too entirely colonised by all those many reality show diary rooms, and confession-cams, but I’m still intrigued by the solitary space – a hotel room, a question and a camera. I might work on a proposal.


Meanwhile I got back from a site visit to Rovereto for Manifesta 7.