1917


A theatre performance by Rogério Nuno Costa


In collaboration with Luís Lázaro Matos, Kristian Palmu, Niko Skorpio, Francesca Rayner and Jani Nummela


With the support of: Là-Bas Studio/Kaapelitehdas (Helsinki, Finland), Museum of Impossible Forms (Helsinki, Finland), EKKM – Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia (Tallinn, Estonia), Teatro Feiticeiro do Norte (Funchal, Portugal) and Ballet Contemporâneo do Norte (Sta. Maria da Feira, Portugal)


Starting Point

“1917” is the upcoming production by Portuguese theatre director, dramaturgist, researcher and curator Rogério Nuno Costa. Set to premiere in 2020, the theatre performance will consist in a cross-disciplinary collaboration between artists from Portugal and Finland, following the artist’s interest in post-dramatic theatre, contemporary dance and visual arts, in straight relation with the fields of philosophy, literature, geography and history. The performance will propose a re-writing of the contemporary art history’s official narrative (post-Duchamp’s “Fountain”) by the means of a queer, non-normative and post-colonialist/de-colonialist lens, simultaneously suggesting a discourse that will be both post-historic and nostalgic. Taking the poetics of the solitary artist as a visual, literary and dramaturgical starting point, the piece will be based in an autobiographical narrative, a “dialogical monologue”, multilingually written in Portuguese, French, English and “Novilingua”. Having the text as its central element, the work will feature contributions from Portuguese visual artist Luís Lázaro Matos, Finnish sound artist Niko Skorpio, and Finnish/German light designer and video artist Kristian Palmu. The final goal is to create an oniric experience by the interconnection of text, movement and projected light/video, a dialogue between fields, but also a proposition for the creation of an artistic “buffer zone”, a secluded experimental laboratory where a group of artists may test the possibility of solitude one might experience while being together. In other words: the building of a “solitary togetherness”, ultimately questioning the primary notion of working collectively. At last, the performance aims to rhetorically (re)construct the alternative history of those silenced, oppressed or invisibilised. After Jack Halberstam’s “The Queer Art of Failure”, the performance is a literary apology of failure through self-chosen isolation; not a selfish individualism, rather a “conceptual isolationism”. A healing through suffering. An ascetic and mystical experience.


 “Nude Laying Down On A Couch, D’Après Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending A Staircase”, performative photograph by © David Pissarra with Rogério Nuno Costa (first residency at Pólo Cultural das Gaivotas, Lisbon, 2017)

“Nude Running Over A Couch, D’Après Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending A Staircase”, performative photograph by © David Pissarra with Rogério Nuno Costa (first residency for “1917-19” at Pólo Cultural das Gaivotas, Lisbon, 2017).


Further Conceptualisation

In 1917, Marcel Duchamp writes 1917 in an upside-down urinal. In 1919, the same artist draws a moustache in the most important portrait of the history of art, not the original one (he’s not Banksy), not even a reproduction (Pop was yet to be invented), but a portrait he painted himself, copying the “original”, and, by doing so, stating: I prefer not to. One hundred years later, we still don’t know how to deal with those radical endeavours. More than clever attempts to revolutionise, shock or transgress the art world (or to prophesy the end of art itself, some might have said…), those historical epiphenomena hide a more obscure quest for a self-imposed ostracism and loneliness, as if it was impossible to do anything more after having obliterated almost everything. Duchamp spent decades doing “nothing at all”, the reason why Vila-Matas dedicated some footnotes to him in his non-book of negative authors, those who have decided to stop pushing the pen and let their silence do the talking instead. For “1917”, I’m interested in reformulating Duchamp’s question, assuming self-neglect and oblivion as an act of resistance. In addition, I’m interested in appropriating Vila-Matas formula for the production of the text: how can one write a “book” that is just the footnotes of an invisible “text”? Footnotes do not just festoon the text of “Bartleby & Co”; they are the text. This strategy of providing the caption with as much importante (if not more) as the captioned image, is probably one of the fundamental operational concepts of my practice, both as performance artist, researcher and writer. In “1917”, I intend to amplify and expand that pattern. Ultimately, “1917” is an autobiographical statement about how can one perform an exercise of resistance to a commonplace — theatre as a literary, artistic and historical established order —, with the purpose of elevating failure, deviation, disruption, forgetfulness and the “readymade” dramaturgies of everyday life to the status of “main courses”, at the same time avoiding the problematic ethics of celebration and homage.


Performance Preview

[Museum of Impossible Forms, Helsinki, December 2018]