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TIN GRABNAR
TJAŠA BERTONCELJ

STILL LIFE

NINE ATTEMPTS TO PRESERVE LIFE

A puppet production




Coproduced by the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre,
Flota Institute Murska Sobota, and Flota Ljubljana
 
Ljubljana Puppet Theatre
LGL Stage under the stars
Opening night: 7 October 2020, as part of the 15th International Festival of Contemporary Puppetry Arts LUTKE 2020
Season 2020/21



Directed by TIN GRABNAR 
Dramaturgy TJAŠA BERTONCELJ 
Set Design SARA SLIVNIK 
Costume Design SARA SMRAJC ŽNIDARČIČ 
Music MITJA VRHOVNIK SMREKAR 
Sound Design, Sound and Music Effects EDUARDO RAON 
Language Consultant MAJA CERAR 
Puppet Technology ZORAN SRDIĆ 
Video VESNA KREBS 
Lighting Design GREGOR KUHAR 


Cast 
ASJA KAHRIMANOVIĆ BABNIK 
IZTOK LUŽAR 
ZALA ANA ŠTIGLIC 


Stage Manager and Sound Designer LUKA BERNETIČ 
Producer ALJA CERAR MIHAJLOVIĆ 
Chief Lighting Technician GREGOR KUHAR 
Stage Technician KEMAL VRABAC KORDIŠ 
Puppets and Set ZORAN SRDIĆ, IZTOK BOBIĆ, POLONA ČERNE, SANDRA BIRJUKOV, MARJETA VALJAVEC, ZALA KALAN, DAVID KLEMENČIČ, OLGA MILIĆ, UROŠ MEHLE, 3DIMENSION, ROGLAB

TJAŠA BERTONCELJ

AN ATTEMPT TO PRESERVE LIFE






Taxidermy, the art of preserving animals’ bodies, was popularised in the Victorian era, largely as a curiosity and a symbol of prestige, or as fashionable decor kept by high society under the pretext of natural science. As such, it was informed by the then rise of colonialism, a policy based on the appropriation of goods and riches in the conquered lands. The taxidermy mounts from foreign lands served to illustrate the glory of nature on the one hand, and the human capacity to dominate and subjugate this exotic nature on the other. In short, they were a physical manifestation of possession and power.

Various styles of taxidermy have developed to this day – from ethical, anthropomorphic, or artistic taxidermy, to mounting hunting trophies, etc. – some going beyond the primary purpose of a naturalistic representation of nature. The multitude of practices and approaches employed by taxidermists indicates the complexity of the relationship between man and animal at large. Underlying this variety is the duality or conflict between intention and consequence. The choice indicates how purpose informs the perception of consequences or, taking it to the extreme, to what extent the innocent decor can screen a crime. Love for animals and/or taking lives. Preserving living creatures, spreading love, giving back dignity and/or possessing nature. Taxidermy can serve as a metaphor for the love of nature. Or it can serve as a metaphor for social hypocrisy and anthropocentric exploitation of nature. It points to the fine line between respect and worship on the one hand, and exploitation and objectification on the other, all through the prism of taking possession of death and life.

Such radical topics call for radical performance approaches that immediately put the issues centre stage. For the audience, such approaches can raise profound emotional as well as ethical and philosophical questions. Still Life: Nine Attempts to Preserve Life, a puppet production for adults, manifests and tests taxidermy and the idea of preserving life by amplifying them, creating the illusion of life where none can be found, by using the sheer essence of puppetry: animating the in-animate. Animation in Still Life engages with reality, the animated entity being a creature that used to live before being killed by a human. In terms of both form and content, the production deals with the elusive subject of the phenomenon of life. What is this inner force we call life? What is life like? How should one understand the phenomenon and the way of existence, and how should one understand its opposite—death? And finally, what does it mean to take life away? As these questions are being explored, a sensitive performance language develops, raising the fundamental questions of animals’ existence while striving to leave the audience with a sense of respect for everything we call animate.

Using the theatrical gesture of hyper-realistic images, the production foregrounds the lives of living beings as a good. It aims to show admiration for, and emphasise the love of nature. It aims to preserve beauty. It aims to give back dignity. In bringing to life unspoilt nature, it moves away from the dynamic variegation and cultural characterisation of nature. It evades the creation made in man’s image, bowing to nature by giving it the space to speak for itself with its pristine beauty.

But however pristine it may seem in the five idyllic scenes, nature is dictated by intervention, a theatrical construct. Admiration for nature and seeking ways to focus attention on its rights, too, come with consequences and their share of possession. The hyper-realistic image of nature on the stage is an element of what is natural and what is artful. Nature is re-created. It is man who has made the intervention, creating, orchestrating this world. The sets, lights, and other means of performance come together in the moment of coming to life. The synchronised sound allows for a rhythmical succession of mutually complementing contrasting images. The mechanism of theatre is being concealed and revealed. This way, the production adds to the illusion of life, i.e. the animate still life, while decomposing it. Highlighting life also lays bare its absence, the fact of death. Without the human factor, the creatures would be unable to (re-)exist. At the same time, the conclusiveness of death and the fact of artfulness lie beyond the human power to re-create life.

Faced with the immediate implications of living beings’ death and life, one is inspired to reflect on the relationship between man and nature, and on questions such as: Where do intention and action meet? How far can good intentions stretch? When do animals as an end become animals as a means? How un-seen and un-worthy is the death of animals? To what extent can we be just in our dealings with animals? Where is the limit to human intervention? How to preserve life—and most importantly, in what way can it be preserved?

Theatre often stands for intense examination. It can also stand for progressive affirmation, comprising the duality and the line between exploitation and the struggle against it. It may even admit to that. How does one fight against the appropriation of nature, against using animals as a means to fulfil one’s desires and feed one’s fascinations? There is power in our non-possession, in leaving nature as it is – in its entire fascinating self. In letting it be.

Taxidermy – respect and worship, or exploitation and objectification?
Highlighting life lays bare its absence, the fact of death.
Can admiration for nature be without consequences?
The power lies in leaving nature as it is. In letting it be.
PUBLISHED BY THE LJUBLJANA PUPPET THEATRE
REPRESENTED BY UROŠ KORENČAN, DIRECTOR
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR AJDA ROOSS
SEASON 2020/2021

EDITORS TJAŠA BERTONCELJ, TIN GRABNAR
TEXT TJAŠA BERTONCELJ
PROOFREADING MAJA CERAR
PHOTOGRAPHS JAKA VARMUŽ
DESIGN MAJA REBOV
EXHIBITION DESIGN SARA SLIVNIK
WEB PRESENTATION AV STUDIO

LJUBLJANA, OCTOBER 2020




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