– Summer 2014

Inhuman Polyphony in the Theatre of Madness

Peter Pál Pelbart

< ... – histoire(s) du présent – ... > (< ... – histor(ies) of the present – ... >), ... –2007–2011–..., documentation of an experience with Alejandra Riera and the Ueinzz Theatre Company, video still

We are the Ueinzz Theatre Company, established in São Paulo, Brazil eighteen years ago. Lunatics, therapists, performers, maids, philosophers, ‘normopaths’... Once on stage, no one can tell the difference. It’s a sort of Ship of Fools, adrift inside
— and outside — the artistic circuit. We rehearse every week, we have produced five plays, we have given over three hundred performances, we travel through- out Brazil, and also abroad, and this is part of our magnificent repertoire. But
 this concreteness does not guarantee anything. Sometimes we spend months in the stagnation of insipid weekly rehearsals. Sometimes we ask ourselves if we have actually ever performed, or will go back to performing. Some actors disappear, sponsorships dwindle, scripts are forgotten and the very company itself seems like some intangible virtuality. And then,
all of a sudden, a date for a performance appears, some theatre becomes available,
a patron or sponsor shows up, and there
 is just the glimpse of a season, with an invitation to perform in the Cariri or in Finland. The costume designer spruces 
up the dusty rags, actors who disappeared months ago reappear, sometimes even running away from internment... But even when it all ‘happens’, it is on that

  1. See Maurice Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation (1969, trans. Susan Hanson), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

  2. See Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilisation: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (1965, trans. Richard Howard), London: Routledge, 1992; and M. Foucault, ‘Madness, the Absence of Work’ (1964, trans. Peter Stastny and Deniz S ̨ engel), in Critical Enquiry, vol.21, no.2, Winter 1995, pp.290—98.

  3. See M. Foucault, ‘Right of Death and Power over Life’, The History of Sexuality, Vol.1: Introduction (1976, trans. Robert Hurley), New York: Vintage Books, 1990, pp.133—61.

  4. See Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1995, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen), Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998.

  5. Renato Cohen, Performance Como Linguagem, São Paulo: Perspectiva, 2002, p.58. Translation
the author's. My reading of Cohen’s work is deeply inspired by the writings of Ana Goldenstein Carvalhaes, an actor in the company who studied the Ueinzz’s process in light of Cohen’s perspective. See A. Goldenstein Carvalhaes, Persona Performática: Alteridade e Experiência na obra de Renato Cohen (São Paulo: Perspectiva, 2012).

  6. See M. Foucault, ‘Introduction’, in Georges Canguilhem, The Normal and the Pathological
(1966, trans. Carolyn R. Fawcett and Robert S. Cohen), New York: Zone Books, 1989, pp.7—25.
R. Cohen, press release for the play ‘Gotham SP’, performed in 2001 at Teatro Oficina, São Paulo.

  7. R. Cohen, press release for the play ‘Gotham SP’, performed in 2001 at Teatro Oficina, São Paulo.

  8. Ibid.

  9. See A. Goldenstein Carvalhaes, Persona Performática, op. cit.

  10. Flora Sussekind, ‘A Imaginação Monológica’, Revista USP, July 1992; quoted in R. Cohen,
Work in Progress na Cena Contemporânea, São Paulo: Perspectiva, 1998.

  11. Alejandra Riera, Maquetas-sin-cualidad (en la fecha del 19 de diciembre de 2004): fragmentos: un problema no resuelto, , vistas parciales, un trabajo inacabado: producción autónoma (trans. Carlos Manzano), Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 2005. Translation the author’s.

  12. See M. Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation, op. cit.; and M. Foucault, Madness and Civilisation, op. cit.

  13. ‘[Kafka] deterritorialise[s] Oedipus in this world instead of reterritorialising himself on Oedipus and in the family.’ Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (1975, 
trans. Dana Polan), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986, p.10. See also Franz Kafka, 
Letter to His Father (1919, trans. Ernst Kaiser and Eithne Wilkins), New York: Schocken Books, 1976.

  14. Guests included the psychiatrist Jean Oury, philosopher David Lapoujade, sociologist and critic 
Laymert Garcia dos Santos, author and critic Celso Favaretto and psychoanalyst and cinematographer Miriam Chnaiderman. Several films were projected, including interviews with Guattari, Francesc Tosquelles and a short film of a dance by Min Tanaka, filmed by François Pain.

  15. M. Foucault, ‘Lives of Infamous Men’ (1977), Power: Essential Works of Foucault, 1954—1984 (ed. James D. Faubion, trans. R. Hurley et al.), New York: New Press, 2000, p.161.

  16. G. Deleuze, ‘On Nietzsche and the Image of Thought’ (1968), Desert Island and Other Texts: 1953—74 (ed. D. Lapoujade, trans. Michael Taormina), Los Angeles and Cambridge, MA: Semiotext(e) and the MIT Press, 2004.

  17. A different version of this essay was presented at the seminar ‘Histor(ies) of the Present’, co-organised by UNIA arteypensamiento and Afterall at UNIA, Seville on 29 October 2013.