ENA ENA | texts about the performance
ΕΝΑ ΕΝΑ (Step by Step)
Τhe imaginary name of a Greek rural nightclub that does not exist. The name of this nightclub, literally meaning one by one, reminds us of the phrases step by step, bit by bit, piece by piece. ENA ENA is a wordplay, a duplication of sound like the extravagant 80s echo in the music of such nightclubs, a pun that plays with repetition, succession, a duplicated presence, two wholes. It is a name that speaks about surfaces of memories, with each one sitting on top of each other.
Things happening one by one; corresponding to step by step, without necessarily referring to physical steps. It could be the process of a buildup, building something in time (and space) piece by piece, or the rhythm of an organized procedure of deconstruction.
ENA ENA in Greek refers to something of neutral gender; not male and not female; the intermediate space between a woman and a man, an adult and a child.
Ιt is a duplication of what was first, a repetition. Within a dipole of presence/absence, ENA ENA reflects on two presences that succeed one another one by one; a child that becomes an adult, a man that transforms into a woman, a waiter that replaces a singer, an eye that replaces a camera. It speaks to us about a balance between two parts aligned to a centre; introducing the centre of their distance; supposing the centre of a space; the intermediate space of two parts that move in a circle.
In the title ΕΝΑ ΕΝΑ there is an embedded meaning of partition, of things being kept separate. It places each one of us alone, one by one, resonating with the purely present condition of an inability to co-exist. With the compulsory absence, with the pandemic forcing us to not be part of something in common, to not be coming together. An absence, however, that gets blurred or cancelled out with technology, forming a remote presence. This paradox of experiencing today a diffused and collective presence is what the performance manifests. It brings an audience together once again to a physical space: a nightclub that initiates a fantasy on presence and absence.
ENA ENA is an immersive performance conceived as a concert that incorporates performative and scenographic elements. The audience enters a space that brings memories of a Greek rural nightclub. They can have a seat at one of the tables, order a drink and listen to live music. A band, a singer, a waiter and a security camera give life to the world of the performance, interacting with each other and the audience. The music the musicians play is a microtonal amalgam of the Greek 70-90s culture klarina, improvised elements and field recordings. They reinterpret three iconic songs of that culture, revisited again and again, altered and re-composed, while making use of the heavily amplified aesthetics of that era.
The performers’ presence goes beyond their conventional function. The musicians, besides playing music, reconstruct the performance’s environment, sοnically and spatially; they initiate a storm with sound and water, they play their instruments remotely, they reappropriate scenographic elements. The singer inhabits the centre of the stage, for as long as she sings. The induced storm introduces a reorganization of forces of the performance. It transforms the waiter’s function, which becomes complementary to that of the singer, finding themselves in the centre of the stage, becoming a duet of contrasts in the middle of a storm. The security camera continues scanning the space throughout the performance, even when the waiter stops serving and surveilling the audience.
A series of transformations and replacements takes place; a waiter who transforms into his opposite or into his extreme, someone who replaces the camera with his or her gaze, who replaces the singer with his or her alienated voice, who controls the space and everything it contains within, who crosses borders. The audience is invited to pass through shifting perspectives: from being the spectator, to being a spectacle for each other, to being the ones who are being watched.
starting point: memory
The performance of ENA ENA is built around a memory of its maker; being a child behind a tree, looking at a feast from a distance. The complexity of the event and the distance between the silent tree and the noisy feast was a fascinating experience. The maker departs from this memory, turns back to look at it in order to turn it into something, to re-interpret it.
By realising the bold decision of being absent, of not being part of it, the maker performs the gesture of a traveler, of the one who needs to leave, sometimes by own choice and other times forced. On the contrary, being part of a common space, part of the feast, part of the narrator’s experience becomes a constant desire throughout the performance.
The force behind creating the performance of ENA ENA is the impact of presence; the ways our very bodies become present, our voices being heard, ourselves being part of a community.
The performance brings together the audience in a gathering as familiar as a concert and as uncanny as something we all dream up together.
There is an urge to step on the blurry line of a remote presence; the possibility to act remotely; to explore a diffused and collective presence. A need to put a focus on the responsibility of being the observer or the acting performer of the spectacle.
The creation of ENA ENA is an effort to reformulate questions of the following topics and try to answer them:
dipoles / borders
In this distant memory the child is asked to be part of the feast, but he has withdrawn himself from it. It is a child who departs from the centre, watching adults. The performance is built around a centre and a departure from it. A journey of distance, with the question of how to come back to it. There is a series of dipoles emerging: centre / periphery, presence / absence, child / adult, male / female. They all take form in ENA ENA as imposed borders of space, time and gender, that have to be questioned.
The feast that the child was watching has an exotic nature. It is remote and rural; a traditional late-night gathering called panegyri, part of the Greek culture klarina (clarinets). Klarina was brought in to the Greek cities in the 70s and 80s, transferring the experience of the countryside, transforming it into an urban nightlife culture. Within what contemporary creation can become today, this experience is transferred outside its own space to another country, such as the Netherlands, where the maker lives for the last 12 years. It is a story that has to be retold by an adult – now – maker, looking back at it from a distance. ENA ENA tries to create an experience that reminds us of that feast, made in a period in which we cannot come together.
Between the initial experience of panegyri in a rural environment in a distant past and its recent urban version, context and space alter. However, what remains unchanged is the music and the ones who carry it. Together with the people who join the feast to listen to this music and dance to it, the musicians form the significant elements of what the event consists of. Through their presence they define the stage as a centre, as much as they define the event that takes place in that very stage. As constant factors, they move in and out of this centre calling the audience to interact, redefining the stage in each displacement.
In the party, the feast, the panegyri and the experience of going to the theatre, there is an intermediate person, which is the one who exists in-and-outside the feast, between the audience and the artist; the waiter, the usher. While the waiter interacts with the audience and the world of the performance, the singer belongs to the world of the musicians, and the audience to the world of the spectator.
The borders of action of this in-between person are initially defined, however, throughout the performance they try to change. The waiter initiates and plays the game of being part of or not to be part of. Throughout the performance he experiences a transition, abolishing the borders spatially, time-wise and gender-wise.
The waiter in transition has to project himself on the singer, in order to relate with her. The performance creates conditions that ask the borders of this identification; on what level does he identify himself with the musicians or the singer?
As important space can be, it does not carry the message; it contains it. It allows the message to be transmitted. The stage in ENA ENA has a defined function which the waiter tries to overturn; it is a space that allows this transformation. Its setup engulfs traces of a circular nature; an audience that sits around the centre; a camera that scans the room; sound that comes from the centre or from its periphery. The audience’s presence in ENA ENA’s special setup is a focal part of the performance. It is an audience who watches and is being watched.
dream / fantasy as a method
Building itself around the seed of a memory, the performance of ENA ENA forms into the shape of a dream – of a fantasy. A dream is an effort of a non-conscious body to recall its past, to reconstruct experiences which are timeless, where all borders are abolished. The fantasy is a vision of the future, a manifestation of desire. While the way to recall the experience is the dream itself, the event taking place is the fantasy. Dreams have a clear goal, which is the simultaneous implementation of the fantasy/future and the memory/past. The dream, as a container of the entire experience of the performance, functions as a re-enactment. It is in this way that the maker wants to create a future.
[through technology we achieve a remote presence, a diffused presence, a collective presence]
Technology is a necessary precondition in order to make sound become part of a crowd’s experience. By amplifying and reproducing live sound, it adds a layer of aesthetics. It can decompose and recompose sound in real-time.
Image recording and reproduction captures an experience that becomes the pretext of a memory. Physical presence of people is not anymore necessary. The recollection depends on the spectator of such testimony. It is a process of annihilation of absence and of creating a remote presence.
Using sound and image technology is an effort to manage with today’s increasing distances. With today’s technological omnipresence, physical absence and presence are registered in a way of surveillance that becomes part of the narration itself.
These elements are put together in order to allow a creative process that offers tools and mediums to the creative team. At the same time, while playing with the powershift of being a voyeur audience, or even a surveilled or surveilling audience, technology supplements presence whenever that is possible, and not only when it is necessary to happen due to absence; for example a singer who sings while her voice is recomposed real-time by an AI tools.
my presence / absence
When I was 8 my mother had an aneurysm and collapsed. We were at a traditional feast at a remote mountain village, dancing together with many people. She was moved to a central hospital in Athens to have a surgery. About 6 months later I saw her again; her left side was paralyzed.
An absent mother. A mother that comes back with a different body.
Facebook post January 3 2021. I made the journey to Amsterdam 13 years ago and decided to stay here for my own reasons, whatever they might have been. Not yet exactly sure if I was running away from something in the past or if I was in quest of something in the future – or both. I tried a few times to find my way back to Greece, at least having one foot there, but I didn’t fit in that well. It’s quite a paradox – trying to balance it out; sometimes I feel guilty of having left, instead of staying there to fight back the flood of conservatism. Is it strength or weakness that makes someone start a journey? Is it escaping or is it exploring? Is it the way someone is hardwired to be a traveler – or a fugitive? Is it the need to have the bigger picture, which you can only look at from a distance? Being right at the heart / being at distance; what a dipole. Staying or leaving can end up being equally hard. But being present or absent is a blurry state today. I hope we can ubiquitously unite against the beast, because it is our time to clash.
My father is a Greek traditional clarinet player. My sister is a singer and my mother was a dancer, before her surgery. I grew up as a percussion player, accompanying my father in various traditional feasts in rural Greece. When I was too young still to play a music instrument, I would be brought to these feasts by my parents, together with my sister. Most of the time I would end up sleeping on the laps of my mother or in the car, listening to the party noise from a distance. As a young teenager I would find it difficult to fit in these events, even when playing percussion on the musicians’ podium next to my father. There was a force pushing me to become an adult, while another force was asking me to stay a child. A late night traditional feast is a place for adults, where they meet, they dance and interact, flirt, drink and have fun. It is of no surprise that I found myself one night wandering away as a child, finding a quiet tree to look back at what adults do, trying to understand. However, instead of understanding what it is to be an adult, what fascinated me was what a child would find enchanting: watching all this activity from a distance like a sort of theatre, the noise from far away, the pleasure that I could spy on what I could see, the freedom of being absent.