MATTER HAS SOUL - by Kirsti Ladegård

it is no longer the subject which attracts,
but the object which seduces.

Jean Baudrillard

There is a deep concentration in the rehearsal space.

On a table, covered in black cloth, lies and object: a body. A womans bodys, without arms or legs, with a soft stomach, rounded hips and sexual organs. We call her O.

Per Arne studies that which lies before him, with nervous respect, intrigue, and a good deal of horror. With one hand he holds her hips. The other slips into an opening in her back. He moves his hand carefully inside her stomache. Her stomach moves in and out. She breathes.

On a stool a little way from the table, lies O's head. Beside the head lies a hand. The head rests on the hand. It sleeps.

Kirsti stands behind the stool, her right hand in the head. It lies quite still. She focoses on Per Arnes work with the body, consentrates on listning to the breathing, trying to find Per Arnes rythme.

When she feels she has it, she begins carefully to move her hand in the head, lifts if gently on the inhale and lets if drops slightly on the exhale. Remembers how it is to dream: how the chin moves over the pillow, how heavy the head feels, how one can make sudden movements in a moment of discomfort in a dream. She lets the head move in time with the body, as if they were one body, as if they weren't seperated. It's as if in a dream: an amputated body, searches for its self.

Now the head pulls itself out of sleep, lifts up and opens its eyes. Half awake, it begins to sway. It sways towards the body, remains hanging over it a moment, and lands on the throat.

Now 0 is more than an object, she has become a person with thoughts. She can see herself and the world. She has woken up. But what has she woken up to? It's hard to move, without arms and legs, as she is. In her amputated body she's chained to the spot. This is her world: this body, this place.

0 tries to understand her own body. She resembles a baby who doesn't yet know what she is. She tries to be in her body. She fumbles after it: troublesome to breathe, troublesome to move, troublesome to lift her head.She crimps together, stretches out, lands on her back, rolls forward and backwards, like a beatle. Uncomfortable. The body is uncomfotable.

After some days, they have begun to understand each others rythmes, the others ways of moving her. They try to make things, nothing funny or surprising. Just try to understand her, what she is, what she can do. Two of them, trying hard to give lifeto a dead object. In deep concentration, feelings trying to live in this being, this strange being without language, but with a skin, sensative to the touch. Now, Kirsti brings her hand out from under its head and lets it rest on her hip. Begining to explore the body. The body listens. The head lifts up and looks at the hand. It is her hand, or someone else's?

It goes both ways.

One moment its her hand, an exstension of an arm we don't see, but which we can imagine clearly, as if it was there. Next moment the illusion is broken: the hand moves into an impossible angle, the arm is gone and the hand doesn't belong to her anymore. Suddenly the hands travel over the body becomes unexpected.

It's unrurly. What does this hand want? Tension rises. We find ourselves in the middle of experimenting with 0 as an erotic object. It feels ridiculous and beautiful simultaniously. After this improvisasion, we take a break. We're tired, but we smile. It works. It realy works. Gerd, the director is besides herself: the figure is realy exspressive, even when the movements are very minimal, just the breathing, small movements. It sets off, loads of strong images and assosiations to do with the body and its identity, our theme for this performance. As we make the coffee, we talk about skin. I read some texts from Steven Shaviro who is part of the inspiration for the piece.

The skin is a barrier; seperating the outside from the inside. It is the seperation between me and the world. Skin, keeps me inside myself, as well as being the vehicle to reach out to you with. See as I reach out to you; but the skin is as a prinson wall: isolating each of us in our own room, alowing us to comunicate only through hammering and knocking. The boarder between me, and the world; a very sensative boarder.

During lunch we talk over the relatioship between the puppet and the puppeteer. In Figuretheatre, it's become more and more normal for the puppeteer to play fully vissible. It's not just about visualising the relationship between manipulator and object, but about performing it. Who is the puppeteer? Is she the puppets partner and opponent, or nuetral helper?

The puppeteer who chooses to be vissible on stage together with the puppet must work at being present in their own body and the puppets, at the same time.

In Figuretheatre the energy circulates in a triangle: player-object-public. It's a complex stream of information which requires precise articulation, on the part of the player in order to lead the publics focus. It's the player who through each action on the stage decides where the publics attention is directed: is it, to the player, the object itself, or the relation between the two?

The publics focus will always be on the living pupeteer to start with, until the pupeteer, with a deep concentration on the puppet, leads the public to focus on the puppet. To be a puppeteer, is all about the ability to project your breath, and life and movement from your own body, without taking the focus away from the puppet.

Already in the relationship between the puppet and the puppeteer, there lies a dramtic latent conflict. The puppet is a slave, and the manipulator its master, who decides over its life and death. I have seen many performances where the drama is carried out, of the puppet which tries to escape from its master without luck. Eventualy it grabs some sicsorrs and cuts off its strings, with the sad result you can image.

To be a puppeeteer is to project life into a dead object.

Those of us who have experienced the magic of this, can understand the sharmans who know as we do: that matieral, has soul.