Arnis Aleinikovas, a student of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, is working on an interdisciplinary performance piece on the topic of trauma and human touch, with an emphasis on sexual assault and the stigma encompassing it. Today, he sat down in an interview with AGORA talking about developing an idea in today’s tides of discrimination, ignorance and pandemics.
I came up with this idea to create a durational theatre performance in a physical space inviting the audience to stay and not limit where they go or how they participate. The plan was to have different installations with different media. We had this soundscape, a ‘human sound’ where you could listen to an artist or you could watch a video. The audience could travel around and create their own experience. The cohesive element of this performance/installation was a movement performance supposed to be happening in between. It was focused on touch and the audience could have participated if they wanted to. It was intended to last 3-4 hours with repetitive elements because you can’t really predict people’s comings and goings. Then, in the middle of all our planning, Covid happened… and we had to change everything. We thought we could adapt to the situation and perhaps give the audience gloves so as not to have any direct skin on skin contact, have them wear masks etc. and as we went on, it became more and more ridiculous. It was supposed to be about human contact and now you had all these barriers robbing you of the original idea. We tried to work around the Covid restrictions but it was pretty much impossible. We soon realized we wouldn’t even be able to have a physical performance and we needed to decide either to go online or postpone it to 2022.
So, my creative and research process started approximately 2 years before. At first, I started thinking about trust and felt that there was something in me, as a person and in society, as a whole lacking and holding us back from having belief in one another. I became very interested in this phenomena, and then one day, having experienced trauma myself, it became very personal. It was at this moment that the dots sort of started connecting by themselves. I began wondering if a lack of trust can be caused by the trauma itself or only magnified by it and I started digging into the topic, men’s sexual assault in particular. I created an open survey that I posted on social media and asked men to speak to me and share their experience. I talked to five people ages 18-29 and all of them felt uncomfortable revealing their identity. This pointed me to look towards a social setting in which we were fine talking about assault behind closed doors but not speaking publicly. I saw it as a gap in our society causing people not to be able to talk freely with each other. Then I remembered that one of my closest friends was raped 3 years ago and she had a struggle to speak even with me, a best friend. I don’t think it’s just a social thing but as a very personal trauma closely related to the body it’s hard to start speaking about it with anyone! I also remembered a political scandal in Lithuania and people blaming the women for being raped. I saw then that it becomes harder to talk about once the social opinion on the matter becomes accusatory. Along the way, I began digging into psychology and what happens with the body and the mind that experiences this type of trauma. I asked the same question to the people who spoke to me and the psychologists and the most common thing was a ‘shift in reality’. Since no one speaks about it you start living this double life. A public one where nothing happened and the one inside that did. The only way to heal is by speaking about it and dealing with it. Then again, it came back to the lack of trust I already mentioned and the loss of feeling of belonging. Talking to professionals again, I figured the biggest problem was losing the sense of having a place in your own world and disconnecting. You find yourself in between your secret and reality. I also read sociological articles on why some countries are dealing with the problem and others are completely ignoring it and considering it taboo. During our creative process we pushed it a bit further and tapped into why it is so hard to put it on a political/legal scale. Why is it so hard to prove you’ve experienced sexual assault? The he said/she said scenario becomes a sort of loop inhibiting progress. From this personal perspective it becomes this big construct neglecting the victims.
Well, we decided the better option would be moving to the digital world since I had no idea where my artistic team would be by the time we could start again. Of course, with the sudden change, all the concepts we planned went out the window. We needed to create something else completely since we were left with only the screen and the viewer. We had to create an atmosphere emphasizing touch through a computer screen. It was this intense two-week process of constantly going over it with the artistic team and figuring out how to navigate it. It was not just thinking how to create art but how someone would watch it, with all the new adaptations. We decided to keep the movement sequence but integrate it with different media. I wanted to step away from performances simply being filmed and then posted online. It wasn’t just planning the choreography for the dancers but for the camera crew as well. Now, we’ve decided on this three-part performance. The first part will be a streaming performative film around 28 minutes, and then we’ll send a zoom link on YouTube and through our social media so whoever wants can go into a Zoom session consisting of different breakout rooms. We’ll have a soundscape, media, human sound, monologues, a movement sequence and a performer from Japan as an open room. The third part we’re currently working on, is supposed to be a dialogue between a psychologist, sociologist and a dancer. This way it’s not only art but also taps into a social problem.
Idea, directions - Arnis Aleinikovas
Dramaturg - Daniel Albert Victoria
Somatic movement adviser - Viktorija Ambrazaitė
Supervisor - Viktor Černický
Consulting in psychology - Evelina Stepšytė
Performers - Eglė Šimėnaitė, Mara Ingea, En-Ping Yu, Lara Hereu, Sai Sai
Appears in the video: Gytis Jurgevičius, Kathrin Frech, Malin Denkena, Seline Seidler, Joshi Timmer, Paula R. Erb.
Composer - Valtteri Alanen
Set, costumes design - Mara Ingea
Video artist - Ilva Ieva
Camera - Timotej Rajniš, Arnis Aleinikovas
Editing - Timotej Rajniš, Arnis Aleinikovas
Artist of “human sound” installation - Eglė Šimėnaitė
Chef of producers - Martina Watzková
Producers - Vanda Hejnová, Anna Němcová
Translator - Hana Tobiášová
Photographer – Klára Hejnová, Josef Vesely
DISK theatre production
supported by: DAMU DISK, ARTS PROMOTION CENTRE FINLAND
special thanks to: BIOFILMS, Green Decor, Haenke