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Jerzy Grotowski. L’eredità vivente

Investigate the memory or investigate oneself through the memory

Notes on the notion of memory in the artistic journey of Jerzy Grotowski1

Tatiana Motta Lima

Texte intégral

  • 1 In the original song in Portuguese, there is a double-meaning relationship between the notes “C” a (...)
  • 2 In the original song in Portuguese, there is a double-meaning relationship between the notes “C” a (...)
  • 3 Part of the song Genipapo Absoluto, by Caetano Veloso.

«How was this once upon a time, this sound that today, yes, generates G’s, that hurts into G’s2. He who considers nostalgia a mere back-light that comes from what was left behind not only undoes the sign but the rose also3».

  • 4 K. Salata, Prossimità con The Twin: appunti critici su An Action in creation, in A. Attisani - M. (...)

«The singer who ‘forgets himself’ in the song […] and the song that ‘reminds’ (….) The song reveals itself through the doer, while the human being does it through the song4».

  • 5 In the sense of collaboration between concept and experience in the work of Grotowski.

1Memory is perhaps one of Grotowski’s practiced words5 that is more difficult to be analyzed because it involves a series of investigations that have gone far beyond a stricter sense of theater, concerning a certain self-perception experienced by the performer. The notion was eminently related to the performer’s work on oneself or, saying more clearly, about what is or may be experienced as self. We can also reverse the sentence and say that memory is, in Grotowski’s journey, an experience that allowed the performer to relax a certain most habitual perception – and supposedly stable – of its own subjectivity.

  • 6 Action is the name given to the works of art as vehicle, the main stream of work in the Workcenter (...)
  • 7 Thomas Richards is the director of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, located (...)
  • 8 The Letter was the name given by the Workcenter in April 2008, to this Action. In 2005, it began t (...)

2The notion of memory in the journey of Grotowski was never fixed, having taken different forms throughout his research. This is one reason that it allows (and requires) the researcher’s hard work and dedication. Within the field of this article, I will work only on some points that I consider most relevant to an approximation of this notion/practice. To raise these points, I will rely – even if in a impressionistic way – upon two experiences: the work of Ryszard Cieślak in The Constant Prince, the Grotowski’s play of 1965 and The Letter, Action6 directed by Thomas Richards7, which was developed by the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards between 2005 e 20088. These are works extremely different and they are relevant to moments not only far apart from each other in time, also far apart in intentions and investigations of the involved artists. On the other hand, these are pieces that allow an approximation to certain ways of considering and experiencing the memory present within the journey of Grotowski and his collaborators.

3I divided, therefore, this approximation in two sections which I called (1) The Constant Prince or the memory of the organicity and (2) The Letter or the memory of “I-nobody”. This division does not necessarily mean that each of the works handled the memory totally differently, but only that each of them allowed me to perceive certain aspects that I consider important to study this question in the work of Grotowski.

1. The Constant Prince or the memory of the organicity

  • 9 This report was made on December 9, 1990 in the hall of Théâtre de l’Odéon, Paris. The lecture was (...)

4The story is known: in 1990, in a meeting dedicated to Ryszard Cieślak who had died that year9, Grotowski revealed what he called a few secrets about the work of this actor in the play The Constant Prince. He said that Cieślak had not in any way worked on the construction of Prince Ferdinand, the central character of the play, but had done his work from a precise memory of a period of his adolescence in which the actor had lived his first great love experience (sensual/sexual).

  • 10 That is how Grotowski called the director – one who prepared the story that would be perceived by (...)
  • 11 It would be denying the truth not to say that Grotowski saw this work regarding the narrative as a (...)

5Grotowski affirmed that the psychophysical memory of this experience – which lasted 40 minutes on average – was updated (through physical actions), especially during the three monologues performed by the actor throughout the play. The character of the prince – and his drama – took place, according to Grotowski, only in the “mind of the spectator”. Grotowski, as a professional spectator10, prepared this possibility of understanding for the spectator both through the actual text of the play, and through the composition between the action of Cieślak and other elements of the play, such as the scenery, the costumes and the work of the other actors. The scene prepared by Grotowski would give the spectator not the memory of Cieślak’s youth, but the story of a Christian prince who refused until the end to disown his faith before the Moors who had kept him captive11.

6I believe that the impact of this story has caused some mis­understandings that have obscured the power – and the dis­covery – of the work of memory accomplished with (and by) Cieślak in The Constant Prince. Artists and researchers should invest more time exploring the report and texts without the rush to create an explanatory or applied methodology of work or formula from each experience reported by Grotowski.

7In an attempt to built a methodology in this experiment conducted by Cieślak, a formula was established that can be described somewhat like this: an important memory is worked out for the actor, this memory is recovered in a work by physical actions (and, in addition, this notion is not fully investigated), and then this memory is placed within another scene that does not refer to, nor reveals the memory itself, but which uses it as a kind of invisible fuel for a certain theatrical intensity.

8But does this formula bring us closer to what was experienced in The Constant Prince? Do we not build with this hurried methodology a notion/practice of memory weaker than that reported by Grotowski in 1990? And I would like to stress the adjective weak in the phrase I used earlier, as this is not to criticize as wrong certain approaches or recall any Grotowskian truth that would be forgotten or perverted. I do not bring any new good (or old, as Grotowski was working in the last century!). My intent (and interest) is that, from a critical examination, we can discuss how, through our theatrical actions, we are conceptualizing/practicing the notions of body, memory and subjectivity in the performer’s work.

9The idea is not, therefore, to bring correct procedures, and criticize those that are being used, but to place into question certain categories – that is, at the same time, certain practices – that we think about acting. In this sense, the dialogue with Grotowski (this Jurassic, as Flaszen would say in a mocking tone, referring to Grotowski and himself) can be extremely constructive.

10What I think is important, fundamentally, is that the work on memory done by Cieślak in the play The Constant Prince was not based on a utilitarian method of scene construction. The memory was not seen as a reachable file to be used by the actor and director for construction of an intense scene. The memory was, instead, the possibility of escape – or extending, or relaxing – from the usual library files (and even this term ‘file’ is incomplete, since it is unaware of the relation of transformation happening in both ways between memory and the performer) allowing the search for the ones that are forgotten, renegade; the “wild” files, not trained.

11The work about that memory of adolescence was for Cieślak the discovery of what Grotowski came to name organicity. It was the discovery, in the Theatre Lab, of a new approach, a new relationship – other than that which operated until then – with the body, with the other and the world.

  • 12 It is important to emphasize that this was the era of paratheatre, a time of vehement criticism of (...)
  • 13 Ivi, p. 321.

12Flaszen in an interview in 197712, affirmed that «the first acceptance of nature-body-physiology appeared [in the Theatre Lab] in The Constant Prince with Cieślak. Until then, all it had to do with nature and the body was deformed […] Likewise, the reasoning of the world was deformed13».

  • 14 The notion of contact is contemporary to the one of organicity, and the notion of carnal prayer, a (...)

13One must now see what this notion of organicity or organic consciousness – strongly linked to memory – brought to the work of Theatre Lab. And perhaps the most important point was exactly that body acceptance, the possibility to experience the body not dissociated of the psyche, the mind, or the spirit; has also been the possibility of escaping from introspection (and the consequent separation between the internal and the external) and to perceive the body through the contact and through the experience of carnal prayer14.

14Consider the quote where the second term appears:

  • 15 J. Grotowski, Le Prince Constant de Ryszard Cieślak, in G. Banu, Ryszard Cieślak, l’acteur-emblème (...)

This referred to that kind of love [Grotowski was talking about the memory worked on by Cieślak in The Constant Prince], that, since this can only happen in adolescence, it carries all its sensuality, all that is carnal, but at the same time carries, behind this, something entirely different, that is not carnal or that it is carnal in another way and which is much more like a prayer. It’s like if, between these two aspects, a bridge is created that is a carnal prayer15.

15What was at stake in that memory so well placed in time – 40 minutes in his youth – and in space, was the memory of an experience of non-disassociation between, according to Grotowski, what we generally perceive as decoupled, in other words, the self and the other, body and mind, inside and out, the prayer and the flesh.

  • 16 J. Grotowski, Le Prince Constant de Ryszard Cieślak cit., p. 17

16The memory was of the first sexual/romantic encounter played by an actor. But what was sought was not exactly to re-store the already lived moment, to retrieve it in order to present it later in a more or less realistic form. What was sought was, through this moment/memory, through what had happened there at a psychophysical level – or, if you will, at an energetic level – «take off in the direction of this impossible prayer16». The final score of the actor served as a concrete base – a runway – for that carnal prayer.

17The memory of lovemaking was written in the body of Cieślak and when performed in his impulses – not truncated, not manipulated -brought, in itself, a space of freedom, of non-dissociation; brought a forgotten body, hidden, but, perhaps already experienced in that actor’s sexual encounter in adolescence. Here we notice that it was not only about leaning on any memory that was important for the actor, but reaching a certain quality of memory capable of remembering/creating another perception of oneself.

18It is not the goal in this text to discuss the course of research conducted at the Theatre Lab, but I shall remember that the term total act was created by Grotowski exactly to name Cieślak’s experience in The Constant Prince. And we can say that one of the characteristics of the notion of the total act was precisely the non dissociation between body and mind. The experience conducted by Cieślak, from and through his memories of adolescence, enabled him (and also Grotowski) to discover a body that was fully accepted in its physicality, sexuality, carnality, and was at the same time, and precisely, a luminous body, in prayer.

19Thus, it seems to me that we are not keeping the strongest aspect of Cieślak’s experience if we intend to transform it into a method that, in some way, objectify memory and works exactly on dissociation.

  • 17 Mario Biagini is the Workcenter’s associate director.

20The fragment of Mario Biagini17 I quote below refers precisely to the dangers of this operation that seeks to transform certain creative processes in productive procedures:

  • 18 M. Biagini, Seminario a ‘La Sapienza’, ovvero della coltivazione delle cipolle, in A. Attisani - M (...)

When you approach what you do with a programmatic platform, you run the risk of forgetting what you were doing along with the real motivation for which you were doing -the hidden root, linked to your needs -and confuses the motivation with the project. The project becomes prioritized: One must defend it at all costs […] the work turns into a machine to produce technical or ethical principles18.

21I would like, still, before moving to the next section, to raise some points that explain a little more a notion of memory that was related both to the play The Constant Prince, and the texts by Grotowski of the second half of the 1960s.

  • 19 J. Grotowski, O Discurso de Skara (jan. 1966), in Id., Em Busca de um Teatro Pobre, Civilização Br (...)

22The number one point concerns the notion of contact. Taking into account this important notion for Grotowski, we are freed from understanding his work on memory as a work of any kind of psychic manipulation. We can say that the work did not rely on introspection, self-observation, self-pity or self-worth, approaches that can appear when working with certain personal memories. For Grotowski, the actor should not be concentrated «in the personal element as a kind of treasure» […], «seeking the wealth of his emotions». That would be «an actor who only artifi-61 cially stimulates the internal process, an actor immersed in a kind of narcissism19». The work with/about the memory in Grotowski was not intended for introspection or the restoration of the past. On the contrary: the contact, in order to take place, required the present time, required the act. In some way, the works based on memory at the same time recalled and turned present that one body of – and to the – contact.

  • 20 Ivi, p. 187.

23Keeping in contact meant, concomitantly, to perceive the other and react intimately according to this perception. Grotowski opposed the contact, which would force the actor to modify the way he acted, to the model that «is always fixed20». Also important about the idea of contact is that the reaction was neither premeditated nor resolved afterwards: contact assumed a listening that was an immediate reaction.

24You can also say – point number two – that, in the writings of Grotowski, recollect is, for the actor, a familiarization of un­tapped resources. The work accomplished with the intimate memories of the actors only mattered if this worked memories presented themselves as challenges: if they kept, for the actor, important secrets in which he could penetrate and know about himself (always through contact).

25In work with remembrances the idea of self-research and risk was, implicit, nuclear ideas to think of the job of the actor in Theatre Lab. Grotowski believed that the work of an actor only happened when it was turned towards the pursuit of the unknown within us. The work on memory was not, therefore, that of reproduction in the already known body, but an active work of discovery of the unknown within the body or of the an unknown body.

  • 21 J. Le Goff, História e memória. Ed. Unicamp, Campinas 2003, p. 426.

26Le Goff said in one of his texts that «memorizing through inventory, through the hierarchical list» was not «solely a new activity related to the organization of knowledge, but the aspect of the organization of a new power21». We can make an analogy and say that Grotowski was not interested in the work with memory through inventory, through the recovery of any list of past events, and finally, he was not interested in this narrative of a private and stable self, a narrative that could take over the actor’s body – exercising on it a power/knowledge – when this actor was seeking to work on memory. The work on memory instead was a challenge of beliefs, of automatisms and conditionings required by these narratives and by these fixed patterns.

  • 22 I believe that these words of Beckett, in his book on Proust, refer to the same

27Grotowski opposed the notion of a domesticated body to that of a released body. In the domesticated body it was the mental that was in charge. The bodily reactions in the domesticated body were seen by Grotowski as fragmented (Grotowski 2007b [1969], p 169), not agreeing with the organic flow, but rather by its premeditation, by its awareness of movement, by the desire of body control, by the mechanistic and the automatic gestures, opposing, and resisting that flow. The memory in Grotowski was worked within the dynamism of time, within the flow of life and not from a control exercised through a mental narrative22.

  • 23 J. Grotowski, O que foi (1970), in L. Flaszen -C. Pollastrelli (org.), O Teatro Laboratório de Jer (...)

28In the notions of body-memory and body-life, Grotowski’s concepts of the late 1960s, the notion of memory was not prior to the notion of the body, it was not about, therefore, to «perform the image of evoked memories previously in the thoughts23».

29Grotowski would say, for example:

when in the theater it is said: try to recall an important moment of his life and the actor strives to rebuild a memory, then the body-life is like in lethargy, dead, even if it moves and talks… It is purely conceptual. One returns to the memories, but the body-life remains in darkness. If you allow your body to look for what is intimate […], there is always an encounter […] and then comes what we call impulses.23

30Likewise, when speaking of associations, Grotowski alerted the listeners against the idea of an interiority more mentally exposed than organically experienced:

  • 24 Ibid.

The associations are actions that bind to our lives, our experiences, our potential. But this is not about games or subtextual thoughts. In general, it is not something that can be spelled out in words […] This subtext, this way of thinking is nonsense. Sterile. A kind of training of the thinking, it is that and only that. There is no need to ‘think’ about this. It is necessary to inquire with the body-memory, with the bodylife. Not call it by name24.

31It is in this sense that Grotowski would say that the body had no memory, as if it were an asset to be accessed or possessed, but it was in itself, memory:

  • 25 Id., Respuesta a Stanislavski (1969), «Máscara – Cuaderno Iberoamericano de Reflexion sobre Esceno (...)

It is thought that memory is something independent from the rest of the body. In fact, at least for the actors, it is a little thing: «The most successful experiment of evocation is incapable of projecting more than the echo of a past sensation, because, as an intellectual act, is conditioned by the prejudices of the intellect, which abstracts from every sensation, as being illogical and insignificant, as a discrepant intruder and frivolous, any gesture, word, scent or sound that you cannot fit into the puzzle of a concept» (S. Beckett, Proust, L&PM Editores, Porto Alegre-São Paulo 1986, pp. 57-58). different. The body has no memory, it is memory. What you must do is unlock the body memory25..

  • 26 Id., Exercícios (1969) in L. Flaszen - C. Pollastrelli (org.), O Teatro Laboratório de Jerzy Groto (...)

32Thus, associations, memories, in the work, were «raised without premeditation», were «sensual if we say so26». Anyway, when we wait a little more on Grotowski’s report on the work of Cieślak in The Constant Prince, we see a criticism towards a mechanical and utilitarian relationship with memory in favor of a dynamic concept, in which a certain individual memory is a bridge to organic consciousness, to another mode of being, to another embodiment.

2. The Letter or the memory of I-nobody

  • 27 I refer the reader who wants to fill this gap to the book Il Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Tho (...)
  • 28 K. Salata, Prossimità con The Twin: appunti critici su An Action in creation cit., p. 233.

33Without having intended to give an exhaustive account of the concept/experience of memory in The Constant Prince, but hoping to have raised some important points, I move now to the second section of the text. In the confrontation between the complexity of the work developed in Workcenter and the needs and limitations of this text, I chose to emphasize only certain ideas connected to the notion of memory, ideas that I could learn from the practices and related texts to art as vehicle.I did not detain myself from, therefore, either in presenting or analyzing the research and the processes performed there27. The Letter is the latest title of an Action that has been worked on in Workcenter between 2005 and 2008. The work uses «as ‘text-memento’ for the doer28», the Hymn of the Pearl of the Acts of Apostle Thomas. Richards said this was a text about «forgetting and remembering» and summed up the story that appears there:

  • 29 Th. Richards, Maestro di nessuna scusa, in A. Attisani - M. Biagini, Opere e sentie-ri cit., p. 14 (...)

The story’s main character is a boy. […] His parents prepare him for a trip and give him a task. It is necessary that he goes to a faraway place, abandoning his home. It is not certain that he will return: the parents send him away and tell him that he can return only if he finds something called the pearl. A pearl. They tell him that he should find this pearl, which is guarded by a man-eating snake. The snake is dangerous, likes to eat, so the protagonist should find a way to steal the pearl from the snake. If he succeeds in the task, he will return home, otherwise not. In the first part of the journey, the boy is aware of what to do. He gets very close to the snake, he lives nearby. Then he meets the inhabitants of this new country and feels attracted to them. He starts to dress like them, to eat their food, and gradually forgets the task given him. The parents realize from far what is happening and seek a way to send him a message, something that makes him remember that he is on a journey and that there is something that he should find29.

34Richards, just ahead, draws an analogy between the story told in the Acts of the apostle and all the work done in the Art as vehicle:

  • 30 Ibid. (my italics).

35Did I forget something? This question is fundamental in our work […] We all had moments in which life becomes like a pearl, it becomes suddenly bright, transparent, something special that you cannot describe with words. The way we perceive life, how it passes through us becomes light. But they are ephemeral moments, brief, they appear for a few seconds and then vanish. How can we return and touch again and again this quality? Our work is about this attempt. The work about the songs, about the actions about the text, is a way of trying to remember. And the story told in the text, as I understand it, speaks of this same struggle – do not forget30.

36The Letter, as we have seen, speaks thus of a kind of forgetting and remembrance. The text in which this Action focuses had already been worked over again by Grotowski in different moments of his journey and with different groups. What would this amnesia and this remembrance be, or this coming back home, for Grotowski? Could there be some ways of thinking about memory that would participate in more of the amnesia, the forgotten, and others that allow the experience involved in the art as vehicle?

37In order to get closer to these issues, we work a little on the fragment quoted in the text just above. First, the memory that appears to interest Richards is linked to a type of event. He speaks of a quality that can be played through experience or, even better, a quality that marks a certain kind of experience. Achieving this quality/experience would then be remembering.

38Secondly, the memory that tempts him is permanently subject to forgetting, for this memory it is necessary to undertake a fight -do a job, experience a process. It is, therefore, not a memory already domesticated by history, by the inventory (social or individual) of the list or archives, it is not that memory of which we have taken ownership and that allows (is) a story more or less structured and structuring of identities that we also own.

  • 31 S. Beckett, Proust cit., pp. 25-26.
  • 32 Ivi, p. 56.
  • 33 Ivi, p. 23.

39Beckett, in his book devoted to Proust, seems to refer to that same tamed memory when he talks about voluntary memory of Proust: «The voluntary memory insists on the more necessary, salutary and monotonous form of plagiarism – plagiarism of oneself». Or: «The memory that is not memory, but simple inquiry of the index of the Old Testament, he [Proust] calls “voluntary memory31”». For Beckett, on the other hand, the involuntary memory, which erupts in various passages of In Search of Lost Time, lets you take the memory of his role as «reference tool», remove it from the «authoritarian vulgarity of effective memory of day-to-day life32», and perceive it as an «instrument of discovery33».

40I also want to talk about the image of the return to home that appears in the apocryphal text used in the Action. And for that I turn to another fragment – now of Mario Biagini – where this same idea appears. The quote below allows us to see that this return to home is far from any nostalgic view back to a lost paradise, an original place – origin being understood there in a static manner.

41The piece begins with a childhood memory of Biagini and refers, similarly, to that self remembrance spoken in the noncanonical text:

  • 34 M. Biagini, Seminario a “La Sapienza”, ovvero della coltivazione delle cipolle cit., pp. 50-51(my (...)

I remember when I as a boy – I lived on a farm: you leave the house and everything is new, you notice that spring is here, the world is light, the world is a miracle and you feel that you belong to it, that you are part of it. And at the same time you’re nobody, and from this to be nobody, as a cage that is ruptured, a joy that is perceived. That Polish gentleman gave us a challenge: Sing, can something happen? Through him and these songs, did we find a possibility? Maybe small: something through the work with these songs can happen. It’s like if suddenly we saw those lights again, those morning colors – I, nobody: a cage which opens for a moment. At that moment, something new works again and again: “Look, it’s a miracle. This world is light and I’m part of it all”. And then, perhaps still a little higher up: “This world is a miracle. I who? “After it is over or sometimes remains in you and with you as a resonance. You’re not better than before, but just tried to return home34.

42As we have seen, the return to home theme appears again which coincides closely with the idea of one’s remembering. But it 67 is interesting to note that this recall, that this return, points to a participation in the world, participation in which the boundaries between I and world almost fall apart, or where the body and world are seen as in deep integration: “I, who?” wonders Biagini. There is not a place to which to return, nor a deeper I or truer I to be discovered, but perhaps the perception – or experience – to participate in, to be a passer-by, to be nobody. Be a participant, not a separate subjectivity and, in some sense, monopolistic of a center in which things – including memory – would transit. It is in the relationship, in the between, in the passages – like the seasons, that transforms itself –, in what is in movement, in dynamism, it is finally in this no-place that one returns to home, that one remembers.

  • 35 Although Biagini is not involved in this Action I believe what is said here can, perhaps, echo the (...)

43But still “who” remembers? The memory does not appear related to an idealized or traumatic place, nor it is for subjectivity an object of contemplation, possession, or a hope of a totality narrative. It revels in a being with. This is not the case of an experience of introspection. On the contrary, here home and resident are mixed up. The notion of memory in this case, is what Grotowski called, at a certain talk, relaxation of the ego, or a broader perception of oneself or, finally, a transparent conscience. To conclude, I present a fragment of Biagini’s interview in which I removed the title of this second section35:

  • 36 M. Biagini, Conversazioni informali, in A. Attisani - M. Biagini, Opere e sentieri cit., pp. 259-2 (...)

Who is the person who carries my name? I can discover that I am no one and feellike shit, or feel suddenly as if a burden was removed from the back-a quiet joy. Do you know Edward Stachura? I read his diary […] in some passages, he speaks of man-nobody, “not living for himself, being almost absent, Could he be like air, like a soothing balm, man-laidon-the-wound36.

44Ultimately…

The notion of memory, when it appears in the texts of Grotowski (or Richards, or Biagini), is never referred to as a regression or a recovery or restoration of the past, be it a past that relates to the history of the doer, be it a extended past, named ancestral or original.

  • 37 Ivi, p. 282 (my italics).

45In Salata’s interview with Biagini this question comes up. Re­sponding to Biagini, Salata says, «You feel like when you were a child. But then this thing is removed from you and when you feel it again, you work to restore it». Biagini, then reacts: «I’m afraid it cannot be restored». Salata: «It cannot?» Biagini: «It would only be a restoration. Or a regression. You cannot go back. You can rediscover again, on another level of experience. Excuse-me, I was just being demanding in relation to the choice of words37». The demand of Biagini reinforces the perception that it is not a restoration, but an event.

  • 38 J. Grotowski, L’art du débutant (The art of the beginner), «International Theatre Information», pr (...)

46Grotowski often used the words origins, beginning, source – words that many times were mixed with (or were related to) the notion of memory. But this origin was for Grotowski always a process and an experience. He used to say that «being in the beginning is an experience38». And even individual memory – like the one that played an important role in the work of the actor Ryszard Cieślak in the play The Constant Prince – was not required in order to reproduce, in great detail, a lived past. It was, instead, used due to its capability to update a certain relationship between the actor and his psychophysical process, with the other (Other) and with the world, these needs being no longer detached, but rather, crossing through each other, being participants of an organic awareness, participants in the anima mundi. The 40-minute memory of Cieślak was the memory of this body-life, free from the domestication suffered by the body and the perception; it was the memory of organicity.

47It was about a personal memory, but at the same time capable of discovering/inventing a body able to receive a lover God, as described by Juan de la Cruz and Santa Teresa d’Avila. We must not understand this reference from a religious point of view, in the sense of linked to certain dogmas or beliefs, but mystical, as described by Bergson in his book Les Deux Sources de la Morale et de la Religion. The prayer was proven, tasted in the body of the experiencer. It was therefore a carnal prayer.

48And the memory of Cieślak’s life episode was therefore the runway for that experience, for that event. He remembered there an organicity that was lived (in reality? virtually?) in his adolescence. And when I put in brackets the possibility for it tobe a virtual memory I am not trying to doubt Grotowski when he affirmed that the one that happened to Cieślak was a real fact. When I speak of the virtually of memory I just want to point to some of the features of this notion in Grotowski.

49First, it is about perceiving the memory not as a static place to be accessed, as a fixed thing and already possessed that should be remembered, but as a relationship that transforms with and in time. The experience (memory) dialogues with the experiencer in a two-way mode. And, in this dialogue, the memory does not present the same to itself, but in a dynamism that is characteristic of being hic et nunc (here and now). We can even ask ourselves where memory begins and imagination ends. Or vice-versa.

50Moreover, Grotowski often drew attention to the possibility of what might be called a memory-desire, or memory temptation, not the memory of what was, but what could have been, should have been, would like to have been: a memory that opens doors, to virtual dimensions of our subjectivity. It is both simultaneously, almost-a-memory and more-than memory, in the sense that it is not the restoration of a past already lived, nor just an update.

  • 39 A. Attisani, Un teatro apocrifo. Il potenziale dell’arte teatrale nel Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowsk (...)

51Perhaps it is worth continuing further, even if rapidly and towards a conclusion, to talk a little about the concept of the origin (and essence) in its relation to memory, since these notions are partners in the writings of Grotowski, mainly from the time of the Theatre of Sources, and they create misunderstandings. In these texts, the memory was, as I said, the memory of a transparent conscience, capable of transforming into an experience the idea of being, at the same time, passer-by and participant in the flow of life. In the same sense, Attisani compared Grotowski with Artaud by saying that just as the French artist, Grotowski put «back properly the theme of return to origins […] without any romantic nostalgia or metaphysical affectation. In this sense the work about what is forgotten by the body and in the body39 …».

52And Biagini’s speech seems to reinforce this perception of Attisani:

  • 40 M. Biagini, Desiderio senza oggetto, in A. Attisani - M. Biagini, Opere e sentieri cit., p. 409.

…Recently I see many theater groups seek ancient chants, ancient texts, ancient dances to use in their work; seeking a source in these elements. They look for something authentic, and in this investigationthey turn to archaic forms as if they would contain an answer. But where are the ancient sources? We agree that what we need is not archeology but a living water […] the ancient sources are us40.

53The origin, the source, the principle or the essence of what Grotowski speaks is -often – in this process of remembering (or of rediscovering oneself through remembering), or in this something (I?) which remembers. In this singer who forgets himself in the song […] and [in the] song that remembers (….) In the question in which past, present and future are intertwined: «How was this once upon a time, this sound that today, yes, generates G’s, that hurts into C’s»?

Notes

1 In the original song in Portuguese, there is a double-meaning relationship between the notes “C” and “G” and the words “Pain” and “Sun” that it is impossible to translate and to be fully understood in English.

2 In the original song in Portuguese, there is a double-meaning relationship between the notes “C” and “G” and the words “Pain” and “Sun” that it is impossible to translate and to be fully understood in English.

3 Part of the song Genipapo Absoluto, by Caetano Veloso.

4 K. Salata, Prossimità con The Twin: appunti critici su An Action in creation, in A. Attisani - M. Biagini, Opere e sentieri – Il Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, Bulzoni, Roma 2007, p. 241.

5 In the sense of collaboration between concept and experience in the work of Grotowski.

6 Action is the name given to the works of art as vehicle, the main stream of work in the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards.

7 Thomas Richards is the director of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, located in Pontedera, Italy.

8 The Letter was the name given by the Workcenter in April 2008, to this Action. In 2005, it began to be structured and was called, at that time, The Twin: an Action in Creation.

9 This report was made on December 9, 1990 in the hall of Théâtre de l’Odéon, Paris. The lecture was published under the title Le Prince Constant de Ryszard Cieślak in the book Ryszard Cieślak, acteur-emblème des années soixante, 1992.

10 That is how Grotowski called the director – one who prepared the story that would be perceived by the spectator – in the article The director as a professional spectator. This article, based on an intervention Grotowski made in Volterra in 1984, was both published in the journal «Skin» in January 1993, and in the book Il Teatro Laboratorium of Jerzy Grotowski 1959-1969 cit., pp. 241-257.

11 It would be denying the truth not to say that Grotowski saw this work regarding the narrative as a way of quieting the mind of the spectator (so he would not be wondering what the show meant) allowing other channels of reception/perception to open to receive and to confront the research that was happening in the actor.

12 It is important to emphasize that this was the era of paratheatre, a time of vehement criticism of its own notion of theater considered as another means of avoiding the true encounter between men. According to Flaszen, the paratheatre was also a time of acceptance of the body-nature-physiology, «because it is – it is the – ugly or lovely. It is». L. Flaszen, Conversations with Ludwik Flaszen, «Education Theatre Journal», vol. 30, 3, 1978, University of Toledo, p. 321.

13 Ivi, p. 321.

14 The notion of contact is contemporary to the one of organicity, and the notion of carnal prayer, although it appeared in the 1990 conference, echoes the influence that the writings of San Juan de la Cruz had in the building process of the show The Constant Prince.

15 J. Grotowski, Le Prince Constant de Ryszard Cieślak, in G. Banu, Ryszard Cieślak, l’acteur-emblème des années soixante, Actes-Sud Papiers, Paris 1992, p. 17. My italics. All the quotes by Grotowski, Richards and Biagini have been previously translated by me for the Portuguese version. For the translations in Italian, I was supported by the editing of Ricardo Gomes, actor, director and professor of UFOP.

16 J. Grotowski, Le Prince Constant de Ryszard Cieślak cit., p. 17

17 Mario Biagini is the Workcenter’s associate director.

18 M. Biagini, Seminario a ‘La Sapienza’, ovvero della coltivazione delle cipolle, in A. Attisani - M. Biagini, Opere e sentieri cit., p. 26.

19 J. Grotowski, O Discurso de Skara (jan. 1966), in Id., Em Busca de um Teatro Pobre, Civilização Brasileira, Rio de Janeiro 1987, p. 191.

20 Ivi, p. 187.

21 J. Le Goff, História e memória. Ed. Unicamp, Campinas 2003, p. 426.

22 I believe that these words of Beckett, in his book on Proust, refer to the same

23 J. Grotowski, O que foi (1970), in L. Flaszen -C. Pollastrelli (org.), O Teatro Laboratório de Jerzy Grotowski 1959-1969, Fondazione Pontedera Teatro/Edições SESCSP/Perspectiva, São Paulo 2007, pp. 205-206, my italic.

24 Ibid.

25 Id., Respuesta a Stanislavski (1969), «Máscara – Cuaderno Iberoamericano de Reflexion sobre Escenologia», ano III, n. 11-12, México 1993, p. 25).

26 Id., Exercícios (1969) in L. Flaszen - C. Pollastrelli (org.), O Teatro Laboratório de Jerzy Grotowski 1959-1969 cit., p. 173.

27 I refer the reader who wants to fill this gap to the book Il Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, organized by Antonio Attisani and Mario Biagini and edited by Bulzoni Publisher in 2007. From this book, I removed almost all the quotes used in this section of text. Also, one can read Grotowski’s text From a theater company to art as vehicle. I, too, in an article published in the «Revista do Lume» number one, made a short introduction to art as vehicle.

28 K. Salata, Prossimità con The Twin: appunti critici su An Action in creation cit., p. 233.

29 Th. Richards, Maestro di nessuna scusa, in A. Attisani - M. Biagini, Opere e sentie-ri cit., p. 14 (my italics).

30 Ibid. (my italics).

31 S. Beckett, Proust cit., pp. 25-26.

32 Ivi, p. 56.

33 Ivi, p. 23.

34 M. Biagini, Seminario a “La Sapienza”, ovvero della coltivazione delle cipolle cit., pp. 50-51(my italics).

35 Although Biagini is not involved in this Action I believe what is said here can, perhaps, echo the experiences of Cécile Berthe, Thomas Richards, Pei Hwee Tan and Francesc Torrent Gironella, the doers who participated in The Letter.

36 M. Biagini, Conversazioni informali, in A. Attisani - M. Biagini, Opere e sentieri cit., pp. 259-260.

37 Ivi, p. 282 (my italics).

38 J. Grotowski, L’art du débutant (The art of the beginner), «International Theatre Information», printemps-été, Paris 1978, p. 3.

39 A. Attisani, Un teatro apocrifo. Il potenziale dell’arte teatrale nel Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, Edizioni Medusa, Milano 2006, p. 53.

40 M. Biagini, Desiderio senza oggetto, in A. Attisani - M. Biagini, Opere e sentieri cit., p. 409.

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