In September 2021 I’ve directed an experimental theatre performance, co-created with The Scientific Theater Laboratory of the Ural Industrial Biennial. The project combines multimodal (multidisciplinary) performance and sociological research.
My playwright Alina Zhurina and I created a performance/research using survey, focus group materials, and quantitative data from “Yandex.Maps” analysts.
The participants will have an interaction with an inconspicuous, unusual, and urban “other”. They will fill in travel journals while listening to a podcast. The narrative is combining personal testimony and theoretical observations. Each next participant follows in the footsteps of the previous one – leaving a continuous line on the fabric of the city.
It was such a great experience, creating a performance about the city, with its residents as main characters.
Below you will find a translation of an article from the Cultura Yeaterinburga media portal. It’s a great guidance material to get a better understanding of this tricky theatre/anthropology project.
Text: Daria Sannikova
Photos: Tatiana Doukscha
LINK TO THE ORIGINAL TEXT
September 21, 2021
Don’t miss the green door in the grey city.
About the performance “Continuous Mapping”.
Last Friday, September 17, the Science&Theatre laboratory presented “Continuous Mapping” – a project within the framework of the 6th Ural Biennale of Contemporary Art.
The genre is declared as a performance; one can agree or argue with this, but it is not so important. We visited the first show and are ready to tell you why you should join this little adventure.
The promenade performance begins in the building of the NCCA(National Centre of Contemporary Arts). The director of the project Maria Staroselets and playwright Alina Zhurina meet the first guests. The journey is tailored for a small group of 12 people, but the sensations and impressions are very individual – the author of these lines will talk about their own.
Headphones and travel diaries are already waiting on the table: everyone will have to choose their own “logbook”, but from show to show these diaries will travel with different people and keep profiles, memories, advice, wishes, notes. So far, there are very few records, and you are looking closely at the previous owner, trying to imagine what they are like – your invisible companions on this route.
A calm and pleasant female voice greets you in the headphones; you open the diary on the first pages – get to know the previous owner and talk about yourself and your city. Formally, this city is familiar to you – Yekaterinburg. But it sounds, looks, and smells different from all of the other participants of the show. Many questions are taken by surprise: for example, what color is your city? And, seriously, what color? Gray, brown – like on this cloudy day? Or are the colors still bright, because despite the bad weather, the mood is good, and everything is perceived joyfully? What does the city smell like? Maybe the metro railway (the smell of the path from the railway station to the University building – my first independent route in the once unfamiliar Yekaterinburg)? Or maybe the Autumn leaves and fallen apples? Or coffee?
We got acquainted – now it’s time to hit the road. The route lies through the city garden. While you are walking, you hear the voices of the playwright and the director of the project. The two women discuss what the cities of their childhood were like and what worlds they invented to make it more exciting to live in them. You, too, begin to remember…
But a new task is already awaiting: An old photograph in the diary – black&white, taken here, in the city garden in the late 70s. We see a young lady in a stylish outfit, smiling at the photographer. The voices in the headphones ask you to look closely at the character in the picture and find the precise spot where this picture was taken. And when you find the spot, the picture ceases to be just a photograph – it becomes a portal in time. It would seem a simple trick, but you succumb to this simple magic and accept the rules of the game: this journey is not just around the city – this is a journey through the city, which you seem to know, but often you follow the same routes, without looking around, not thinking about what surrounds you. But things should be different today.
You pass through the gates of the city garden, and when usually it’s a gate – today it is a portal to another dimension. We enter the Greenwich shopping center, going up the escalator (or climbing the Ural mountains?) The voices are helping the participants use their imagination. So the whole shopping mall magically turns into an International airport. We meet a pink dinosaur statue with silly wings, and by using imagination – it turns from a faceless plastic art item, into an airline passenger who spread his wings to go to unknown distances…
When we look through the panoramic windows – we don’t see an ordinary mall, but a cozy European street. And suddenly, for some reason, it becomes terribly lonely: the city, the scale of which you forget in the daily bustle, begins to affect you.
The voice in headphones comes to the rescue (this is a different voice – different people come to “visit” the playwright and director, from researchers and philosophers to delivery guys, and they share their thoughts on the perception of the city). Suddenly (in September!) – the voice recalls the New Year holidays: the lights burning in the windows that illuminate the worlds of each apartment (and these words immediately make it quieter and more comfortable), noisy feasts, and wishes that are coming from the genuine heart. You will have to make one of these too: an empty postcard is already waiting in the diary notebook, and the voice asks you to write something sincere and give it as a present to any person from the group. Participants exchange cards, and you read what a completely unfamiliar girl wished you: to go to the sea and, if possible, not to overthink stuff. It’s a pity to part with the postcard, but I put it back in the notebook: I’ve received the message – but what if it will come in handy for the next traveler?
There are many emotional swings on this route. Walking through the underground passway, you listen to the fears (documentary recordings from focus groups) that overtake people in the big city. Remember yours. You open the diary, and your fellow traveler from the past again comes to the rescue: “Close your eyes and imagine yourself where you feel good. It is light and calm there, and a light wind blows over the face. “
A little later, you will write in this diary how you cope with fear and anxiety in a big city. But not yet – you still have one important discovery to make.
There is another interesting episode in the story, a quote from Herbert Wells’ “The door in the Wall”: ” at school, Wallace and his friends often played Northwest Passage. It was necessary to leave the house 10 minutes earlier, to follow an unfamiliar path, while not getting lost and come to school by the beginning of classes”. You, too, start looking for the “Northwest Passage”: the guidebook contains a transparent map (of Arctic Canada) with Veiner and Khokhryakov streets marked, and a red line leading from one street to another. This is the unexplored path – and indeed, you have never been on this route. Carried away by the story in your headphones, you overlooked the green door – will it appear if you go this or another unknown path again?