LOVE ME MORE
A CROSSOVER PROJECT FREELY BASED ON OSCAR WILDES »THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY«
In German and English
approx. 1h and 30 mins
World premiere: 15 OCT 2022
»I CREATE NOTHING.
Table of Contents
Stage and costumes: Slavna Martinovic
Choreography: Saar Magal
· in collaboration with the ensemble
Video design: Julian Pache
Rehearsal manager: Julia Kraus
ABOUT THE PIECE
Whether Bob Dylan, Alphaville, Jay-Z, Peter Maffay or Bushido and Karel Gott: they have all dedicated songs to the desire for eternal youth, the »forever young«, in the past decades. This widespread desire simply doesn't get old, neither in music nor in literature. On the contrary, catalyzed by social media, it rather becomes a popular promise, a lure of the advertising industry as well as of healthy lifestyle.
In THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY in 1890, Oscar Wilde also places a protagonist at the center of his novel whose beauty and youthfulness outshine everything else. Dorian Gray is flawless. Everyone who meets him immediately falls for him – including the painter Basil Hallward, who makes a portrait of him. When Dorian sees it, he commits to a pact with the devil. Instead of him, the painting ages. But the halted, external aging process is accompanied by an internal rot: Dorian begins an existence full of unbridled decadence beyond social conventions. He indulges in the boisterous lifestyle of a playboy, indulging in hedonism between brothels, intoxication, sex, lies and murder. In the process, he does not notice how he hurts and scares away people from his close environment. Dorian's thoroughly self-centered attitude, however, has no negative consequences for him. His good looks are equated with good nature and open every door for him. Whenever something devastating happens, such as murders and suicides, Wilde's protagonist looks »too innocent« to be held responsible. People don't trust the handsome youth to commit atrocities. In the mid-19th century, during Oscar Wilde's creative period, the Italian doctor and criminologist Cesare Lombroso believed that criminals could be identified by their physiognomy. In his – partly racist – main work »L'Uomo Delinquente«, (The Criminal Man) from 1876, he illustrates on the basis of numerous illustrations how certain body features and skull shapes supposedly can be associated with certain types of criminals and crimes. A man like Dorian Gray with »rosy youth and boyish innocence« would certainly not have appeared in such a card index. Beautiful people are more likely to be trusted.
But Wilde draws in him above all a type of man, a narcissist. Whether it's the ex, the nasty neighbor, or the former president of the United States, Dorian joins a line of (female as well as male) narcissists. Ovid's Narcissus can be cited as an early predecessor, who ultimately drowns in water after looking at his reflection in the mirror for too long; film characters such as Leonardo DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort in WOLF OF WALLSTREET or Christian Bale's Patrick Bateman in AMERICAN PSYCHO are considered successors. Their egos and self-worth manifest themselves through parties, lightly dressed women in their arms, the necessary pocket change, or the high-end look of their own business cards.
As a possible answer to egomania, the capitalist system then immediately formulates the answer in the form of countless guidebooks on »toxic« relationships: HOW TO GET RID OF PEOPLE WHO DON'T DO YOU ANY GOOD and THE PERFIDENT GAMES OF THE NARCISSIST. Or they appeal for increased self-love with titles like TAKE THE FREEDOM TO BE YOURSELF. In the stream of product placements, social media is also increasingly used to demonstrate against the beauty craze and stand up for body positivity; inform of the filterless #selfacceptance. How quickly this becomes a business concept again, however, can be seen in the latest social media plattform BE REAL. This has taken up the cause of authenticity and only gives users a certain amount of time to take a photo in order to declare war on filters and overly perfect settings. Where there's hype, there's a market.
Dorian and his peers take us on a trip through the hellmouth of capitalist marketing and modern self-indulgence. The individual balancing between excess and abstinence is at the center of the world of sensory overload, the greed for pleasure and the fetishization of bodies - what leads to ultimate happiness?
The Israeli choreographer Saar Magal traces this thematic cosmos at the interface of dance and theater in a crossover project. In a sensual collage of Oscar Wilde's DORIAN and various film and pop quotes, she gets to the bottom of questions of desire, rejection, self-worth and the will to optimize. How much Dorian is in ourselves? The common superstructure seems to be love. The ability to feel it for others – and for ourselves.
»Have you ever felt like
being somebody else?
Feeling like the mirror isn't good for your health?
Every day I'm tryin' not
to hate myself
But lately, it's not hurtin'
like it did before
Maybe I am learning how
to love me more.«
Sam Smith, Love Me More
About the Creation Process
Saar Magal about the original idea of the piece,
the privileged body and the collaborational style of creating
While reading DORIAN GRAY as a basis for a new creation about the age of shameless capitalistic narcissism in which we live, it became clear to me that the most significant difference between the time of Oscar Wilde’s 19th century and our time lies in the society’s perception of the corporality of the privileged body. This difference resides in the contrast between the still, thin, pale, bored privileged male body, idling around in upper class salons and pondering philosophical questions, versus the active, highly trained, fit, multiply gendered, constantly moving privileged body of today, where boredom is uncool and unacceptable. And as if the constant activity itself is not enough, it forces with it another socially obliged action of taking a photo of it and posting it online for the world to see. The 19th-century privilege was recognized through the concept of a leisure class, the rich, who could afford not to work. One’s boredom was a privilege, the depressive was exotic, the melancholic was praised, and being culturally effective and attractive was about collecting beautiful things, being feeble and delicate and contemplating the thought of Proust and the like. Nowadays, the sect of Work, both as in doing Work and doing workout, prevails as a symbol of power versus Work being an action of making a living.
In our fragmented culture of hyper capitalism and neoliberalism we must simulate and project terminal diligence and industriousness. We are never comfortable in our skins. We need to purchase more for obtaining peace. We seek self optimization in the buxom of mindfulness, yoga, health food, toxin cleansing, detox etc., while our body is pushed to the limit in a physical sense by the lack of rest and extreme fitness exercises. Our bodies have become a domain of competition. We need a form of intoxication such as drugs for this competition to seize for a moment, and for some sense of closeness or intimacy to develop. Our brain has become a continuum of commercials for more things that we need. This need creates an action and the action creates a new need which usually requires a metamorphosis of the way we look, appear and behave. Aging and the act of non doing seem to have become cardinal sins. In LOVE ME MORE, we try to rid ourselves of these obsessions, to exorcize them by exposing them. We are not able to live in isolation. LOVE ME MORE is a field of personal associations, a strain of a collective subconsciousness as regards to our need for other people, the society around us and to be loved in order to be.
In my aim to explore a topic, a narrative, an emotional and a visual journey, I strive to engage a convergence of artists, audience, objects, scenic and phenomenological literature, and materials on stage to create new contexts and territories for movement and narrative. Throughout my rehearsal process, I empower a collaborative environment or a feeling of a »playground« in the room, to enable »games«. These »games« incorporate a method of an improvisational system that I have developed, which trains performers of different disciplines, such as actors and dancers, to use their bodies, voices and senses to create meaning and form a group. As part of this system, I set up several points of awareness which a performer can use while working, that provide a vocabulary for thinking about and acting upon visual and narrational contexts and creates an opportunity for spontaneous interactions that discover new moments in theatre. In the rehearsal room, I attempt to create a technique for actor and dancer training that is best experienced and not verbalized. This process, by its nature, is meant to encourage more risk-taking and bolder choices in performing that are not confined by any particular expectations. Through an improvised exploration of preconceived staging concepts and scenic ideas, an artistic discovery is possible on a personal and group level.
THE MEASUREMENT OF BEAUTY
Swedish cartoonist and feminist Liv Strömquist focuses on beauty in her latest book
»IM SPIEGELSAAL« (2021). In an interview with Deutschlandfunk Kultur, she explains why we are so obsessed with youth and our appearance nowadays.
The book is about today’s ideal of beauty of our time. The strongest metaphor or story on the subject of beauty is Snow White and especially the character of the wicked stepmother, because she asks her mirror every day: »Who is the fairest of them all?« The mirror answers that it is her. But one day, someone is more beautiful than her. This describes a kind of identity crisis. The stepmother is always portrayed as an evil person with no positive qualities. But I think that her reaction and her crisis are experiences that many people share. It's not just about beauty but about the feeling, that you've been replaced. We have to come to terms with the fact that time passes and life eventually ends. During the pandemic, there was an increasing focus on the face, especially in the digital space. In a work meeting, you don't usually think about what your face looks like, but in a Zoom meeting, you see yourself all the time. This reinforces a trend that was there anyway. The online community is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our lives. We tell other people about ourselves through social media and through photos. We also date with those pictures – on Tinder, for example. This constant staring at one's own face, that has never existed in this form before in history, it makes a cultural change. When the mirror became more common about 200-300 years ago, there was a big moral debate. The church felt that the mirror led to vanity and sickened the soul. I think we're going through a similar drastic evolution right now with the smartphone. The focus on what your face looks like has increased. It happens to me more often that I hang out on Instagram and at some point I realize that an hour has passed scrolling through celebrities and their ex-boyfriends. You can get lost in this hall of mirrors. Especially on Instagram, a very specific way of showing femininity and female sexuality has developed. There's a specific cultural language about how you portray yourself and what emoji you respond with. Kylie Jenner, of course, is very influential in this context. Her posts have a huge impact on women as well as on men. But first and foremost, Instagram has become a place where women look at pictures of other beautiful women and feel like they can't compete. This can trigger different feelings. Being beautiful is associated with the feeling of »you can be loved«. This insecurity that younger people in particular sometimes feel ugly is related to insecurity. Will someone ever fall in love with me? Am I attractive enough for that? When you are in love, you want to be the most beautiful one for the other person. If you always feel that another woman is more beautiful than you, you wonder, »Why would anyone love me?« That's why it can cause so much insecurity and suffering. The body is a project, a to-do list: I have to do this exercise for my abs. I want my abdominal muscles to look like this and that. My butt is too small. But if you think about it, what is beauty? When do I perceive beauty? It's usually something that comes unexpectedly, that moves you and that triggers a physical sensation. Something that you just can't control and that you only perceive when you listen to the world. When you are connected to yourself and to your body, you are more able to perceive your own beauty and the beauty of others.
»I wish that you would
love me more
Nobody else but me
You're all mine
Fallin' in love when
it all ain't right
Crawlin' in my arms
when you cry.«
Trippie Redd, love me more
ART AND CRIME
By Stefan Koldehoff and Tobias Timm
The international art market between New York and Beijing, London and Moscow, Berlin and Monaco has two sides – a light and a dark one. Both are the result of developments over the past two decades in galleries, auction houses and the Internet, in which prices for paintings and sculptures have literally exploded: $250 million for Paul Cézanne's »The Card Players« from a private collection in Geneva, $300 million for Paul Gauguin's Tahiti painting »Nafea Faa Ipoipo«, $157 million at an auction in New York for a »Reclining Nude« by Amedeo Modigliani, $141 million for Alberto Giacometti's sculpture »L'homme au doigt« – and, of course, the already legendary $450 million, paid by a Muslim state leader in November 2017 at Christie's in the Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue for the painting of »Jesus Christ« Salvator Mundi – although experts still disagree on whether the small wooden panel was actually painted significantly by Leonardo da Vinci. All in all, according to the TEFAF Global Art Market Report, the international art market turns over more than $60 billion a year worldwide. And these are only the prices and sales that have been leaked to the public. That is the other, the dark side of the lucrative business with art: Whenever there is so much money made as in the art market, those who want to participate in the big game in a questionable way are quickly on the spot: Forgery, money laundering, tax evasion. The art market is still one of the most globalized and non-transparent markets in the world. The price of a painting by Rembrandt, Roy Lichtenstein, or Gerhard Richter is not determined by weight, material used, or even size. It is only supply and demand that ultimately lead to a price. The business premises of internationally operating large galleries look like luxury boutiques of exclusive fashion houses – and that’s exactly what they claim: Here, not cultural goods are sold for millions, but lifestyle and social prestige. Anyone who has a brand-new painting by Jeff Koons hanging on the wall at the next party in New York's Meatpacking District is not only rich: He or she belongs not only to a small global class of wealthy people whose wealth has been growing extremely fast for many years, but also to the supposed global cultural elite, which one can buy access to through art.
THE THEFT OF THE MONA LISA
Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa first became really famous after it was stolen from the Louvre in August 1911. The theft was an inside job at that time: Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian house painter who had worked as a glazier at the museum and therefore knew the security procedures, got himself locked up in the Louvre one Sunday afternoon with two cronies. The three hid in a small chamber where copyists normally stored their painting utensils. On Monday morning, when the Louvre was closed to visitors, the three men in white coats entered the Salon Carré, simply took the Mona Lisa from the wall and disappeared with it through a side entrance. In their coats, they did not stand out among the employees who cleaned the museum on Mondays. For two years the painting remained missing. The man who had hired and paid Peruggia and his accomplices Vincenzo and Michele Lancelotti was Argentine-born Eduardo de Valfierno. Valfierno never really cared about the painting he had stolen from the Louvre. What the man behind the biggest art coup before the war wanted was not the most famous painting in the world, but only the headlines that proved worldwide he could theoretically have it. He offered the Mona Lisa to several collectors at once before the theft, most of whom lived in the U.S., and had Chaudron's forgeries shipped to the U.S. individually as amateur copies. When the headlines of the theft of the Mona Lisa came, he there sold to his various customers a total of six copies of the picture, which Yves Chaudron had already begun to paint in the winter of 1910, already before the theft, probably in the Louvre, each as an original and took allegedly 300,000 dollars each – at today's rate around 40 million euros. The real Mona Lisa had never left Paris. It was still in the hands of Vincenzo Peruggia, just less than five kilometers from the Louvre.
THE SELFISHNESS OF OTHERS
An essay by Kristin Dombek
The selfishness is recognizable at first glance. It's in the laughter of the young girl from Atlanta who wants the busiest street in the city closed for her birthday party, even though there's a hospital right across the street. It is shown in the way this girl says to the party planner, pointing out the heavy traffic, »I guess my sixteenth birthday is more important than where they're all going.« The selfishness is demonstrated by the fact that this girl doesn't give a shit about sick people or dying people. It manifests itself not only in the fact that this girl does all this, but in the fact that she does it without being ashamed of it, right in front of the camera, on the reality TV show MY SUPER SWEET 16 on MTV. The selfishness is also revealed in the fact that it's getting harder and harder to remember times when people didn't brag about being manipulative, superficial assholes, and when people didn't treat each other as goods, as if the others were nothing more than accessories to their respective personality brands. (...) And in its most horrifying manifestation, selfishness shows itself in the smile of the murderer. That murderer who set off a car bomb in the government district, killing eight people, then drove on to an island where young people were camping in a summer tent camp, and slaughtered sixty-nine people as they tried to run and swim away. And who, when he was photographed being arrested, grinned with satisfaction. That murderer who, when asked if he felt sympathy for his victims and their families, complained that he had cut his finger. The selfishness is in the pictures and hurting hate speech that all these killers now post on Facebook before running into schools and movie theaters with guns, as if a short moment of fame is worth any human life, even their own.
But what is wrong with the narcissist? In the beginning, the narcissist is extremely charming, even kind and loving. After a while, however, he seems to think the most of only himself. »He« could also be a »she«. If you know someone who is like that, at some point you think: Wow, he takes himself seriously, he is full of self-confidence. But in reality, a narcissist is empty inside. Because there is only emptiness inside him, he had to observe others closely in order to invent something that looks and sounds like his own identity. Narcissists are imitators par excellence. Almost all of Breivik's manifesto is copied together.
Narcissists are always the most popular in class at school. They are rock stars. They are movie stars. Not all of them, but they seem like it. They probably tell you that you are the only person in the world who sees them the way they really are, which is most likely a trick. Let's call this »superhero simulacrum Selfiness«. Because for a narcissist, the only thought behind these appreciative words is that you will help them protect their selfiness. (...) If it gets cracks, the narcissist's harm will be beyond comparison. You will be deleted from the Facebook friends list, you will have a Twitter follower less, and he will no longer answer your emails. Yes, he will completely stop talking to you. And he will smile while doing that. He'll cheat on you while not seeming like he thinks it's a big deal. Whatever you need most, a narcissist will withhold it from you.
»Come back to mine
We'll pretend it ends tomorrow
I need you to love me more
Fill me up, fill me full up
Love enough to drown it out
Drown it out, drown me out«
Mitski, Love Me More
The text ABOUT THE PIECE is an original contribution by Lea Goebel.
The text ABOUT THE CREATION PROCESS is an original contribution by Saar Magal.
The text ART AND CRIME is an abridged excerpt from the book of the same name by Stefan Koldehoff and Tobias Timm, Kiepenheuer und Witsch, 2020.
The text THE SELFISHNESS OF OTHERS is an abridged excerpt from the essay of the same name by Kristin Dombek, Suhrkamp, 2015.
The text THE MEASUREMENT OF BEAUTY is an excerpt from a conversation between Liv Strömquist and Gesa Ufer, published by Deutschlandfunk Kultur on 27.10.2021 in the program »Kompressor«. Transcribed by Sophie Rebentisch.
Kanardi Goldman für die großzügige Drehgenehmigung Im »De Tomaso Panter«.
Verwendete Interpret*innen: Julian Stetter, Haggai Cohen Milo, James Shipp, Mateo Lugo, Black Strobe, William Tyler, Yoshio Ojima, Dmitry Bortniansky, Pjotr Iljitsch Tschaikowski, Georg Friedrich Händel.