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"You didn’t see me" (Stefan Pente a.k.a. Mélanie Enragée)

by Diego Chamy

The following text is a review of a performance that had place at Ausland, Berlin, on December 6th, 2006. The performance was part of the festival “Tanznacht – Tanz made in Berlin”.

In a way, Stefan Pente is dancing. Even though through his body we cannot see those movements that we are used to relate with dance, those movements that represent dance (or theater, or dance-theater). He dances and his performance is a singular point in the festival because with it he tries to escape from representation, control and normalization processes. Pente is courageous – he thinks, and to think is already to move. We don’t see him moving his body in a way that we are used to, and maybe we don’t see him at all, but he does move. And he is doing it fast (or slow, it’s the same).

“You didn’t see me” treats the problem of representation. Pente speaks to the audience, shows some stuff in a video projection, he dresses, he undresses. But he is not hiding neither is he ignoring the fact that he is on stage; he is not trying to create an illusion neither is he trying to make the audience forget that we are seeing a performance. He speaks to the audience as if the performance hadn’t already started (and it didn’t, it never starts because there is already something happening). There is a video but the screen doesn’t work as an organic part of his material; it’s just a screen on which he shows a video.

With his speech he brings to scene concepts that appear in works of some French contemporary philosophers, and he does something with those concepts. It’s neither an explanation nor a description. It’s a pragmatic. It’s a scenic art piece that might be closer to philosophy than to contemporary art. But... isn’t philosophy already a kind of dance? If to think is to move, then it certainly is. And beside the speech and the quotidian movements he makes (to walk, to speak, to dress, to undress...) there are a few other body movements, actions and positions in the performance which are all very focused and concentrated, and they slightly displace and destabilize normal understanding, forcing us to ask questions and to look twice.

He announces that he wants to create a no-body, a no-one, to go out of control. And he wants to do it right after saying it. What will he do? Won’t it be dangerous? If you go abruptly for a no-body construction you take the risk of being disintegrated, you can easily fail it and die. Asignificance can be full of life, it can reach a new conception of freedom, but it must be taken carefully. If Pente says: “this is no-sense” and then he makes a no-sense action, is it still a no-sense action? Or it is already something signified as a no-sense action (and because of that full of significance again)? Asingnificance does not mean no-sense. No-sense could easily become nothing, become something passive. But hopefully Pente is making a lot of problems and reaching interesting places, opening some doors, showing us and sharing with us how he tries different things. And he is making all this in a completely explicit and transparent way.

Are we able to see something if we don’t know beforehand what it is? And if we are not: what can an audience that isn’t close to Pente’s thoughts see? We know that a strange machine is working at all times giving us a sense for our sensations, telling us how we have to see. And because of that we understood: we didn’t see him.

Representation supposes control because for it to work a system is needed which will determine what each thing represents. And it supposes normalization because inside its system everything will receive a meaning; and the system -significance- works with a certain approach to sense and to thought without accepting others. Other ones wouldn’t be normal. “A language used for freedom will be forbidden by the institutions”[1]. And more than that: will be codified with movable codes (or axioms). Things are valued only by their significance, and the significance is always given by an external figure. This external figure is the one that detents the power, the one that controls. This figure is the machine that Pente is trying to fight.

We didn’t see him. We have seen something else. Everything is a distortion. Are we able to build up our own distortions or are we going to accept the distortions that tend to control us? We didn’t see him, and we are happy to be able to see that we didn’t, even if he was just there, in front of us for a half an hour. Pink surface with two black holes.



[1] Pente, Stefan, “You didn’t see me”