Tuesday, May 05, 2015
Q: What is the role of language versus the rich visual imagery you employ to an ever increasing degree in your plays?
HM: “The worst experience I had during my stay in the United States was a film I saw called Fantasia, by Disney. I had never heard of it and actually ended up watching it by mistake. There were three films playing in the same movie house and I went into the wrong one. The most barbaric thing about this film, something I learned later, was that almost every American child between the ages of six and eight gets to view it. Which means that these people will never again be able to hear specific works by Beethoven, Bach, Handel, Tchaikovsky, etc., without seeing the Disney figures and images. The horrifying thing for me in this is the occupation of the imagination by clichés and images which will never go away; the use of images to prevent experiences, to prevent the having of experiences.”
Q: What has this got to do with your theatre?
HM: “Wolfgang Heise, a philosopher here in the GDR, once said that theatre is a laboratory for the social imagination. I find that relevant for what we are talking about. If one starts with the assumption that capitalist societies, indeed every industrial society, the GDR included, tends to repress and instrumentalize imagination—to throttle it—then for me the political task of art today is precisely the mobilization of imagination. To return to our example of Fantasia, the metaphorical function of the Disney film is to reduce the symbolic force of images to one meaning, to make them immediately allegorical. The imagery one finds in the early Russian cinema, on the other hand, is like the torrent of metaphors at the heart of Elizabethan literature. Here metaphors are constructed as a kind of visual protection against a much too rapidly changing reality, a reality that can only be dealt with and assimilated in this very special way. A world of images is created that does not lend itself to conceptual formulation and that cannot be reduced to a one-dimensional metaphor. This is what I try to do in my theatre.”