Let’s Be Dragonflies

The Austrian playwright Anna Gschnitzer and the actor Nikolaos Eleftheriadis question the central position of authorship by inventing a way to stop acting – and starting to embrace the infinite opportunities instead.

If the author Anna Gschnitzer and the actor and director Niko Eleftheriadis developed a performance about the concept of authorship, yes, if they strove for an artistic collaboration that not only questions the central position of authorship, but even goes beyond this central position, a work in which, in favor of a joint artistic process, they would not only have to leave play writing behind, but also well-known territories, they would have to leave their own comfort zones behind, they would have to mess with each other, yes, they would mess with each other, they would move together thoroughly unprotected, and they would abandon all so-called artistic skills and virtuosity.

Anna would not write and Niko would not act anymore or, even better, Anna would act and Niko would write. Either way, they would develop a common, truly honest, and pure form or language. They would lay bare all their weaknesses. They would devote themselves to insecurities. They would break away from the leaden institution »theater.« They would refuse any kind of arrangement and all that in a foreign language. They would speak broken English, and it would be unbelievably charming and authentic. Yes! They would never act again! They would be totally free. They would create infinite opportunities. They would be mutually responsible for their actions, and there would not be even the most minor hierarchy. No! There would be no director, no actor, and of course no author. There would only be artists with different positions one would work for and with and there would be conflicts, artistically prolific conflicts, and everything, everything would emerge from the very moment and an unconditional urgency!

Niko would bring a bottle of Crémant to the first meeting, and after the second glass Anna would laugh much too loud at his idea, the idea of using their first common but failed project as a basis for their current – that is prospective – project. Yes, she would almost choke on Crémant while imagining staging the unrealized plan, to stage one of her texts at a theater in Vienna. Indeed, Niko would suggest not only to present this text to an audience, a text that Anna would have never finished writing – something that Niko would by the way never have insisted on – but also to show them (the audience) in a very meticulous way what would have happened on stage if they had received funds from the city of Vienna.

This rehashed artistic coitus interruptus would open future doors for their current actions. Finally, they would not be forced to drop it again. No, with glitzy colors they would show them (still the audience) what they would have missed.

And from the potential of non-redemption, not just one opportunity would arise. They could walk around freely in this room, a room which has emerged from their commonly developed language, from the subjunctive. This commonly developed language (as Niko would say) is a virtual room, a room of a never realized past, in which the most beautiful gardens and most beautiful parallel universes would proliferate. Their non-realized work would appear as a kaleidoscope, a sparkling but missed opportunity that could be realized in an exponential form. This would be the ultimate opportunity to finally complete this »issue,« that somehow would still stand zombie-like between them. They would run through this »issue« in all imaginable states of being. They would finally sort it out, they would finally kill it, once and for all!

Yes! The subjunctive would not only offer an opportunity to eliminate real working conditions and to grow artistically, no, they would be – and that is what Niko was about for the entire time – the greatest predators on earth. They would be dragonflies, whose skills have been developed 70 million years ago, namely the skill to foresee the future in tactile interaction with their environment, killer instinct-like, drawing upon a lake of opportunities, with one significant difference: they would not have to use this skill. They would continue to shimmer and vibrate on this lake of opportunities!

Special thanks to Alexander Kluge for his dragonfly metaphor.