Art as vehicle
Art as vehicle

At work on an alternative potentiality of performing arts
This research has always articulated itself in the creation of precise performative opuses that are repeatable down to the minutest detail. These opuses in the domain of “art as vehicle” have come to be known as "Actions". Many different Actions have been created throughout the years. For example: Downstairs Action (filmed by Mercedes Gregory in 1989), Action – an opus in the domain of “art as vehicle” presently done at the Workcenter (filmed in 2000, production Atelier Cinéma de Normandie – A.C.C.A.A.N. and Centre Dramatique National de Normandie) and the presently emerging opus, The Twin: an Action in creation.

From 1994, Thomas Richards directs Action, an opus that he created and on which he carries on a continuous work. Action structures, in a material linked to performing arts, the work on oneself of the doers. The opus is composed of lines of actions elaborated in detail, constructed with and around ancient vibratory songs. Most of these songs are African and Afro-Caribbean in origin, and therefore are in the languages practiced by those cultures. In Action, there also appear, often under the form of incantations, fragments of a text in English translated word by word from Coptic. This text comes from a very remote source of the Judeo-Christian tradition; one cannot say anything with certitude about its arising.
In theatrical performances strictly speaking, that is, in art as presentation, normally one of the indispensable elements is the story, the narration. A story is told, even if the essential may be something else. For the observer of Action, however, it would be more pertinent not to look for a story - the analogy would be rather poetry than narrative prose.
The fact is that in Action we do not look to tell a story. It’s not an opus in the domain of art as presentation, but in the domain of “art as vehicle”. Since we can see the performing arts as a chain with numerous links, where at one extremity one finds art as presentation (theatre in the strict sense), and at the other extremity, “art as vehicle”.
It’s something very ancient, rather forgotten. In art as vehicle there are opuses, but they do not necessarily demand the presence of exterior observers, since this work does not orient itself towards the spectator as an objective. Because of that, witnesses may be present or not.
For the persons doing, the doers, the opus is a kind of vehicle for the work on oneself, in the sense that, as in certain old traditions, the attention for art goes together with the approach of the interiority of the human being.

If we speak in terms of qualities of energy, in Action the work on the ancient vibratory songs becomes a sort of itinerary starting from the vital, the biological even, to go towards the subtle: the ascent towards the subtle and the descent of this subtle towards the level of more ordinary reality.

From the point of view of technical elements everything in this research is almost as in a normal theatre work of long duration. We essentially work on the songs, but we also work on the impulses, the score of reactions, the logic of the minutest actions, archaic models of movement, the word, so ancient that it’s almost always anonymous. Everything depends on the artisanal competence with which we are able to work, on the quality of the details, the quality of the actions and rhythm, on the order of elements. So, we look to be impeccable from the point of view of craft. In Action as much as in a performance of art theatre, the structure is repeatable; it has a beginning, a development and an end, where each element should have its technically necessary logical place.

Fairly often exterior observers are invited to see Action. In the beginning, this involved a very small number of people, but now after all these years there have been in total thousands of witnesses - but always in little groups. And when someone witnesses, even though the work of art is not existing for them, they do have the opportunity to perceive the underlying aspects which give life to the creative opus.

The Workcenter team doing Action is: Thomas Richards, Mario Biagini, Marie De Clerck, Souphiène Amiar, Jørn Riegels Wimpel, Francesc Torrent Gironella.

The Twin: an Action in creation
In the field of “art as vehicle”, Thomas Richards is developing a new opus with the Workcenter team, The Twin: an Action in creation. This new structure, based on ancient vibratory songs and on an anonymous ancient text of the Western tradition, is being developed in the form of a “Work-in-creation”. For the first time in the history of the Workcenter, an opus is being elaborated not uniquely in isolation and far from exterior observers, but, periodically, in close proximity with small groups of witnesses. In the initial editing phases, the creative material of The Twin: an Action in creation is organized in “modular segments”: fundamental units of structured explorations in action, repeatable and rigorous, always with a clear beginning, development and end. The reciprocal order and the final montage of these “modular segments” will be elaborated during the working years to come.

The text, which together with ancient vibratory songs is an integral part of this new opus, has a narrative nature. The gist of the story - a story of a journey, of a task forgotten and then remembered and fulfilled - can be found in several versions throughout the whole Eastern Mediterranean area. The dramaturgical approach to the story in the ongoing “Work-in-creation” is not one of narration: as in certain old traditions, the story is rather re-enacted than re-presented.

The Workcenter team involved in The Twin: an Action in creation is: Souphiène Amiar, Cécile Berthe, Mario Biagini, Marie De Clerck, Elisa Poggelli, Johanna Porkola, Thomas Richards, Pei Hwee Tan, Francesc Torrent Gironella, Jørn Riegels Wimpel.