Isolde Loock / Wolfgang Stephan Kissel, Die Beichte eines komischen Heiligen, 2004 (still)
Exhibition | 6.11.2005 - 27.11.2005

The Confession of a Comical Saint

A Video Installation by Isolde Loock and Wolfgang Stephan Kissel
To this very day, Chekhovian theater has not forfeited any of his worldwide fascination. For decades, many Soviet intellectuals lived with the characters of the seagull or the cherry orchard, even identified themselves with them. After the collapse of the communist system, more and more doubt was placed on familiar visual habits and interpretations, the complexity of dramas was rediscovered. The extent to which the undecidable ambivalence and the symbolic and/or absurd elements suspend a drama’s realism remains controversial both in the West as well as the East.

This is the point at which the collaboration between the video artist Isolde Loock and the literary scientist Wolfgang Stephan Kissel sets in, which applies to the SCENIC MONOLOGUE IN ONE ACT with the title ON THE HARMFULNESS OF TOBACCO: can a video installation disclose something about Chekhov that remains hidden or inaccessible in theater productions? The fear of the failed intellect Njuchin of his wife and his daughters, his inability to control his addiction to tobacco, on which he holds a pseudo-scientific lecture, and his abrupt, overflowing confession become the starting point for an intermedia reflection on how one perceives oneself and is perceived by others.

According to one possible interpretation, the triumph of the failed man (at the same time the triumph of Chekhov’s art) consists in his cathartic-therapeutic talking about his failure. The last passage in the monologue reads “Dixi et animam levavi” (I have spoken and relieved my soul). In view of the conclusion, however, it is also conceivable that after the lecture, Njuchin continues to live his life as before and accepts his fate. His outburst would have then been a regular—fruitless—occurrence. The overall concept would then be based on seriality, as the avant-garde would explore it in the areas of literature and music in the twentieth century.

The artist translates this undecidable ambivalence in the original into the medium of the video installation. She divests the one-act play of its theatrical aura and reduces it to an unmercifully probing gaze. This infringement of a taboo exposes a further characteristic of the monologue: it becomes the predecessor of monomaniacal speech without an echo and thus joins the ranks of modernity’s obsessive self-exposures—all the way to the mostly unfruitful public avowals of our time. “I have spoken and relieved my soul” written in deliquescent graffiti on the walls (sprayer: Michael Klauss) underscores the proximity to the serial confessions of our time on talk shows and in therapy sessions.

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