To Name Herstory

My conversation with Florian Fischer was expansive, fast and complex and ranged from a shared love for Kathy Acker to de-centralizing theatre, combining performative and visual arts practices, ‘language on the edge’ to BDSM and (power) relationships in love and work. Talking about sensitive and urgent matters I will try to reflect the conversation as nuanced and veracious as possible. The content of the conversation resulted in a deviant interview.

Words and photos by Stine Sampers

F/M/X – She ought to have a name (identity). She had to name herself? that’s a working title. i have been reading Acker’s work for over 10 years and discovered a fragment of hers at an exhibition on body-building, not exactly the place where you’d expect to find some intellectual text because it was so body-centered. Kathy was all about re-writing, not only linguistically but also her own body. she wanted to re-write her body to look less *female*, in order to gain power. she raised the question about what the studio is, a place where counting and moaning counts as language. which raises the question about the locations of theater (the city theater, different playhouses, rehearsal space), and the language used in there? there is something patriarchic about the city theater, as it tries to centralise theater and be a reflection of the city in which it is located, which is near to impossible and it’s not the task of one house to be all things to all people. there’s a Gertrude Stein quote that sticks: ‘Act as if there is no center’, which implies that i sort of have to get rid of myself in order to make this kind of work. because it is not about me. it is a chance to save a valuable piece of literature from oblivion, or even grant it a chance for canonisation. one of the perks of being asked to direct a piece in the city theater. yes, and i am aware of the power handed to me. on the story of don quichote, which was a dream? it opens with a pretty intense scene in which Kathy (who blurs the boundaries of fiction and autobiography in her work) goes to the hospital in order to have an abortion. there she finds herself surrounded by men and needles and being the only woman there, the woman who wants to abort her baby son. this experience is of such conflicted horror that, when she leaves the hospital and finds herself on the pavement in NYC, she decides to become don quichote. here Kathy Acker, who read lots of foucault and lacan, uses madness as a trope and applies to her own/the protagonist’s own life, this theory of madness. she’s twisting cervantes, de sade and autobiography, making things her own, copying things and throwing her own out there. she found a way to push herself out of the center in order to be able to look at the center and discover the way it works, she needed to step away from the center and become an ‘outsider’ to untangle her language. it is the ‘I’ making space. it reminds me of a passage in Agua Viva by Clarice Lispector that says: “And if I say ‘I’ it’s because I dare not say ‘you’ or ‘we’ or ‘one’. I’m forced to the humility of personalizing myself belittling myself, but I am the are-you.” this singular ‘I’ asking the reader to question themselves. to empathize and yet to think critically. Acker used re-writing to build a home, she was reading all this male text that could never be hers and in which her reality did not exist. there is something very existential to her work. it speaks of this desperate need for fiction as a means to survive. to which i connect the value of theater. there is something so theatrical about the figure of don quichote, there’s dress-up and play involved, it is not a figure that represents so-called reality but one that plays like a child and imagines the world differently. we will try and put the experience evoked by the performance with the audience in a singular communication between different ‘I’s, susceptible for individual interpretation.

27 January until 24 February – Arca (NTGent), Ghent.
The event on 23 February is free for members. Join here.