Guus Vreeburg: WYSIR-theatre

Toine Horvers does a piece for the theatre. He named it Registrations, and subtitled it a four-part performance. He thus refers to both visual arts and music.

All of this century the theatre has had an almost irresistable appeal to artists. Horvers, too, fell under its spell: where he normally incorporates his performances and sound-sculptures within the physical confines of architecture, he considers the theatre as a sanctuary where there is no physical reality, but only an illusion of space and time. "Just as a drawing doesn't exist as long as nothing is done onto the sheet of paper, in the theatre things come into being only when something is done that attracts attention: a light, a movement or a voice."

Paradoxically, Horvers doesn't exploit that illusory potential towards enchanting figuration. The devices that were developed since the Baroque era to present the audience with a 'theatrical reality' are left aside. In doing so, Horvers once more fits into what has become a tradition within the 20th century: from Bertold Brecht's actors stepping out of their character to directly address the audience, to the physical challenges of Jan Fabre's actors or the dancers of 'La la la human steps'. Horvers doesn't even present a narrative. Everything that happens on stage is 'real' and 'autonomous'; it does not 're-present', it just 'presents'.

Texts - in the traditional theatre the means par excellence towards illusion - in the Horvers' theatre are highly anti-illusory, both in their contents as in the way they are dealt with. All textual material is abstract, and very real at the same time: objective registrations of such irrevocably tangible facts as the geography of the globe, metereological conditions, the changing waterlevels in rivers, and - ultimate parameter of our existance - our own human head.

When Horvers asks his 'performers' - he avoids the word 'actors' - to con-verse, there is no conventional dialogue. It becomes literally 'con-versation': words of individual speakers are interwoven into clouds of undulating sound. Even where the words have been figurative and representational, they become as abstract as the drum-sounds that Horvers uses in his sound-sculptures. 

Horvers doesn't ask for 'acting'; there are only rigidly directed 'actions'. Even light, normally used in a figurative/illusory manner to support the text, here is abstract, 'real' and autonomously-spatial: it appears as a line or a zone, or marks the time-span of a movement on stage.

In Horvers' case there is no illusion of time. There is no illusion: all time-spans are 'real', that is: related to parameters that the audience can experience. Even when all visible actions have a distinct time-span, neither does time exist: this theatre is static, and apart from the concrete physical movements it lacks dramatic development.

Formally Horvers, both in his theatre-work as in his art, relates to Minimal Art with its strictly geometrized compositions as well as to the installational music of composers like Steve Reich.
The world of music is very close indeed: apart from the cuckoo and the thunderstorm in Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony any musical composition is an abstract tissue, as was already stated by Kandinsky and Schönberg at the beginning of the century. However, Horvers is always apt to deny that what he builds with sound is not 'music', but 'sculpture': the articulation of space.

Horversian theatre tries to shed light on the basic elements of all theatre - sound, image, movement and light - in all their bare autonomy: a strategy of classical Modernism. In this respect Heiner Müller proposed a theatre that is not to be comprehended rationally by understanding all words and actions, but a theatre that through its abstract rhythms is to be experienced as music.
Horvers' is a theatre without ethical or moral dynamics: we don't gain any insights.

No illusion in the Horvers theatre. This is WYSIWIT-theatre: 'what you see is what is there', or rather WYSIR-theatre: 'what you see is real'. As such it presents an antipode to the virtuality of contemporary existence.

© Guus Vreeburg / Het OOG, Rotterdam; 960917


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