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2014-09-29

echoes _ Uri Shafir: Fail Better by Kristóf Farkas

Dwelling and chanting

All of old. 
Nothing else ever. 
Ever tried. 
Ever failed. 
No matter. 
Try again. 
Fail again. 
Fail better. 
(Samuel Beckett) 

Uri Shafir photo: www.rolandszabo.cz
We don’t know, cannot know for sure if the Israeli duo of Uri Shafir and Omer Uziel has found the title of their performance in the last line of the above mentioned quote, or if this is just a coincidence. If the case is the latter, Fail Better gains a perfect context in the often-quoted lines of Beckett, and it helps in its entirety to show the way in that desperation and beauty which characterises and organizes the performance.
The two dancers arrive into an empty space on stage and slowly start to fill the room with different objects. Table, laptop, two chairs, a carpet, a smaller table with a cassette player on top, two-three cassette tapes – it’s been a long time since I last saw these: my childhood and its worn-out copied cassette tapes... if you get it, you know what I am talking about. Pillows, huge, soft pillows. And a jar of marshmallows on sticks. An idyllic environment; we make ourselves comfortable like this for watching TV on a Sunday evening, when we are older (and/or have children). Memo: the empty space as a metaphor of the human mind, which is being filled up with so many attributes in the moment, preparing it for the processing of the state that currently characterises/preoccupies it. This is a locked room, where past events have to be processed. The two dancers take their seats in the space set up by them: 
“A space is something that has been made room for, something that- namely within a boundary, Greek peras. A boundary is not that at which something stops but, as the Greeks recognized, the boundary is that from which something begins its presencing. That is why the concept is that of horismos, that is, the horizon, the boundary. Space is in essence that for which room has been made, that which is let into its bounds.”  Martin Heidegger: Building Dwelling Thinking
Quoting Heidegger, I could state about the performance that the subject it draws up and visualizes, namely coming of age and the first steps entering adulthood and the fear from it is not introduced by the piling up of attributes and getting comfortable around them, not wanting to let them go, but its contrary: it starts with the clearing of the mind and a self-reflexive reminder – induced by the tape recordings played on stage. The accumulative actions are only the signs of feeling comfortable: the mnemonic act prepares an artificial protective shield, which can hide the self we carry deep within, whilst during a reductive process a state is created which is a cross-section between child- and adulthood, since finding these connections allows a passage from one age to the other. The fear is not in the leap, but in crossing the boundary-peras, where something begins to exist: with the passing of time we face these boundaries-horismos throughout our lives.
Namely in order to be able to seriously deal with an issue preoccupying me, I need a cleared space where the range of objects allow an identification with the childhood self, meanwhile they also lead us hand in hand/held in hand into a world opening up a different use of instruments. Therefore the pillows can be instruments of a fight, or walls and pillows of a hidden bunker/corner in ourselves, to which we only lay our heads from time to time... Such as the marshmallow: there were times when they were roasted for us, or we have been twirling it over the fire, but this can also be done sitting on a chair, watching TV: “You can do the same things but you can make it easier – in this case with a lighter."
Of course the world we are entering is not degraded by that, since during the performance it is the joy we find that everything that we hold/do is: connected – that is to say we can nestle it in our world. Same is the fear from the whole issue; the knowledge of finitude, that we are aware that the game is indeed real – it is the realization of that which is traumatic. Since, until we are not facing it, the game constitutes reality as long as it lasts; whilst later on we are able to dissociate the two. The reason of distress is the consciousness of the mind – this is a knowledge; a generative tautology. Maybe hence the title “Fail Better” – if we are already aware of the distancing, if we are destined to fail(!), let us fail better(!) because we are aware of the inevitable failure – just to repeat myself – the two are not the same without each other. Quoting Uri: "How can we fail the most gracious way?" – this is the question, which may be the prime mover of the performance, completing and defining each of its actions and movements.
Carrying the reminiscences are the various mediums, the manifestations of the body: the adult body appears as a medium of a child, which is already distancing and alienating in its differences from the “old” one, on the other hand it presumes a kind of closeness and unity which merges and indentifies it with its bearer. The application of the tape recordings and the iPad camera presents the bearer on an old-fashioned and a modern way at the same time. The voice of a child becomes a rasping sound of a reversible magnetic tape, the adult body becomes a crystal clearly digitalized mass of pixels – the question arises, why couldn’t the adult be childlike just like that? We hear the chanting of this idea – sounding through movements, the memories of the body.
Kristóf Farkas - KÖM

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