Text by Tuire Tuomisto
Actor Tuire Tuomisto and Director Tuire Tuomisto are having a conversation about the performance The Other (Reality Research Center, 2012), in which they both were present.
(Sound of drops dripping)
ACTOR TUIRE TUOMISTO (ATT)
I have always thought that acting is a study of ways to exist in the world. In each performance, there is a specific logic of being on the stage. This logic is somehow a variant from an experience related to my life or an existing phenomenon that I pay attention to –
DIRECTOR TUIRE TUOMISTO (DTT)
I didn’t get to say anything so far.
(Hamlet’s ghost passes by, they don’t see it)
I thought…I was about to start by talking about acting as an allegory to empathizing.
Ok, go on with your theory.
It is not really a theory. It is stuff I found out by myself.
Are you sth like a misunderstood Stanislavski?
No, not at all. Was he misunderstood? Hearing his name reminds me of an actor who told me that when he was studying in the Theatre Academy in the 70s with Stanislavski’s methods they had to bring a lot of objects to class. The Other project was also based on objects that belonged to a person we did not know. Ahmed’s objects.
What’s that you said?
It was an internet address. A blog commenting about how Stanislavski was misunderstood.
Right. So, in The Other, I wanted to think about what the concept of a role really meant. If a role means empathizing with someone or something, what am I capable of empathizing with? And is there something that empathizing is not possible with? If acting is about relating to something or someone, is there a way to relate to materials or objects, in a way that I find the equivalence of my life history in them so that it is ”true” to me?
I picture a role as a chain of anchors. Each anchor connects to a feeling, to the performing space, physical position, or an image. When I repeat this chain, it possibly becomes a whole in the end. A whole of something presented as a character.
A whole of something is a parameter with a chain of anchors connecting in a squid-like way.
These are very long statements.
Maybe you can write a book about it.
Acting is a complex thing. I can’t simplify it too much. In a way it is ”art of the moment” but in a way it is not.
Well, because there are so many expectations concerning what a role is, what it should be, and what it could be. Just not to lose the art of the moment and find your feet in cement.
Or just ask the director to help.
That is an option too, of course.
Should I say, thank you?
I think it spelled J-E-S-U-S C-H-
I am going for a walk now.
Ok. Director is taking a walk. It means there is time for another round of experiences on creating a role.
(Sound of a big metal gate opening and closing. From the sound you can hear that it is an antique one upgraded with modern technology)
Also a role is an act of naming. If I say I am now Ahmed, I will be Ahmed regardless of whether I empathize with Ahmed or not. In contemporary theater performance, I can have a role, several roles, or no named roles at all. I can also define that I perform ”as myself.” The process of creating the performative parameter is the same whether I define myself as ”Tuire” or ”Hamlet.” The emphasis is more on the side of willing to consent to the logic or the world of the performance —
(Same sounds of the gate opening and closing. Then self-assured steps)
I am back! ( kkkk echoing)
I have something to say when you are finished.
Give me a moment –
I can build ”Hamlet” out of very personal material. On the contrary, I can perform as ”Tuire” and that can mean whatever I want it to mean. I can act the ”me” through detail. Or an exaggerated, enlarged ”me.” From a spectator’s point of view, the connotations with ”Hamlet” or ”Tuire” are different for sure.
No. Maybe I should really write a book about this. Or a booklet.
But your turn now.
A director I know said that this is a dying profession. Maybe it’s the end of authoritarian working culture but not the whole profession. It has been said that the director is always looking at the work from the outside. I quite disagree, especially if the work has been created from scratch. I do find connecting points in these processes.
Such AS? (echoes as an ass, ATT blushes realizing it but hides the reaction by showing it)
Like scaling, wondering about, sorting out, packing, unpacking, packing again, destroying, going back to point zero, starting scaling again, realizing no time to wonder about, and starting packing, packing more. Then there is not much more you can do. Except for leave.
I never do any of that.
(Pause, cold and normal sweat in silence)
You made up the headline of the story.
You gave the big picture. I am bringing in the details.
The headline should somehow be connected with the content–
I also want to tell you about this interview I read in a magazine. It was about a famous actress who said that she is happy to be an actor hence she can live so many lives. I did not understand that. Maybe she meant forgetting oneself temporarily? I am not able to escape myself. I can not stop existing as myself. I interpret everything through myself and the life I have lived so far. Whether I want it or not.
Her idea of a moldable actor makes me feel envious. I am not like that. Moldable.
…maybe you could talk about the ethical challenges when it comes to performing as someone? Especially in this case when we were working with someone with a different cultural and social background? Ahmed from Baghdad. Ahmed used to live in a big house with marble floors and here in Helsinki Ahmed lives in a tiny little studio flat. That’s a big social drop.
During the time I was preparing and planning this concept, I read the book ”Tekstuaalista häirintää” by the dramaturg Juha-Pekka Hotinen, the title could be translated as ”textual harassment”. Since we were dealing with a real person as material for the role, I felt that it was not enough to just imitate him. Also, ethical questions rose during the process.
Ahmed whom we worked with said that he thought that what we were doing was unethical. He said ”philosophizing” and combining facts and fiction is just not right, because it would portray him wrong. Wrong means not realistic. But I will not go any further with this because otherwise, he should also have the right to participate in this conversation and he’s not present.
Anyway, these contradictions led me to think about the basic questions like how can I perform as someone else, can I perform as him and name it as him?
Hotinen writes that dissolving a role is a waste of time if the concept of self behind it stays untouched. He criticizes the concept of a ”solid self” and introduces the idea of polyphony and subrole. These concepts allow the existence of simultaneous and several me-strategies.
In conclusion, I thought, what is the point of even trying to create a solid role if the world around me is more-or-less solidly fragmented?
The name of the project ”The Other” meant the unknown other as well as referred to otherness.
So what do you mean by the title ”Empathize or die?”
PERFORMANCE ARTIST TUIRE TUOMISTO (PATT)
I think the headline is associated with the change in atmosphere when comparing 2012 and 2021. Being an ethical artist is not optional anymore. Or a nice bonus. You have to consider the ethical dimensions in every bit of your work.
To make space. Forget yourself but remember who you are in a way at the same time.
(PATT straightens out the crown on her head and has a chary royal-like smile while stepping smoothly out from the space. Steps so light that it barely echoes).
Collaboration work with Reality Research Center, Club Real (Berlin) and Baltic Circle Festival 2012.
”Four actors meet a stranger. They go to their house, wear their clothes, eat their food, watch their favorite TV shows and reply to their text messages. They go through the stranger’s stuff, and make conclusions about them. The Other is a performance where the viewer meets the “born-again” inhabitant four times, interpreted by four different actors. It is a performance which that takes place in a home where someone lives their his complex daily life. How do we live here? How are we supposed to live here?”
Tuire Tuomisto, Georg Reinhardt, Marianne Ramsay-Sonneck, Jonna Wikström, John Dunn
Producer Annu Kemppainen