May 2, 2014

Brecht's 5 Difficulties in Writing the Truth | Introducing the Idea of a Possible Podcast Form of Communication

Unhappy the land where heroes are needed.- Galileo, in Brecht's Life of Galileo (1943)

A few weeks ago, I made my usual seasonal trip to the local bookstore John K. King, which happens to have one of the biggest, internationally praised collections of rare and used books. (It is also the best Indie Bookstore in Detroit.) This time I was interested in finding pieces that (somewhat) relate to architectural spatial qualities of ‘security’ and ‘desire’, as well as to satisfy my hobby of hoarding opera librettos and haikus

John K. King Rare and Used Books, Detroit

Anyways, long story short, I stumbled upon a book written in 1962 by David I. Grossvogel and titled “THE BLASPHEMERS: the theater of Brecht, Ionesco, Beckett, Genet.” I admit, when it comes to history and theory of the theater, I am still a student, but since I've been researching spatial qualities of ‘desire’, a quick look at the title and a few of the intro pages, I was hooked. So, I ended up buying the book and a few others on ‘stage’ and ‘storytelling’ (as well as some on ‘security’ and WWII aircrafts, battleships, and other spy goods ☺). Needless to say, I was a happy gal (with a lot of homework).

I've just recently started to (really) read the book, so I'll give you a sneak peek of (the difficulty of) its content:

          I.      Bertolt Brecht: The Difficulty of Witnessing 
          II.    Eugène Ionesco: The Difficulty of Living 
          III.  Samuel Beckett: The Difficulty of Dying 
          IV.   Jean Genet: The Difficulty of Defining 
          V.     Postscript

And of course what captured me right off the bat, the Introduction:
THE four playwrights considered here have in common an aggressiveness: each has come to the theater in his own way, but with anger. Every age expects its theater to be oracular, but age and oracle lapse sooner or later into familiarity. When this occurs, a blasphemer rises to voice his indignation at this meretriciousness, castigating with equal contempt and little logic the stage that allows such familiarity and the public that is content with such meretriciousness.
[...] Part of the evidence of a corrupt world was a corrupt stage. 
[...] These four have been blasphemers.
It is very curious (and fascinating) that a book written over half a century ago still echoes to this day and resonates with the reality of arts and culture as we witness them daily, especially in the small Mediterranean country of Albania. The author uses the playwrights' ‘stage’ but I am sure we could just as easily (lost in) translate it onto other mediums, performances, and publics that witness, define, give birth and kill Albanian arts and culture. 

Maybe in this context ‘The Iron Curtain’ really finds a role within the actual and/or metaphorical ‘stage’ and spectatorship. I can go on to make the case and critique about what's being done to the Albanian arts, culture, and lately history - but they have been already voiced by people more qualified than myself. I wholeheartedly agree with the points they make and I echo their frustrations. 

I will only say that ‘The Iron Curtain’ is bigger than one project and it casts a shadow on all creative fields (if we're even calling them that). ‘The Iron Curtain’ is still relevant because we still haven't dealt with what was beyond it (behind, it was hiding us) and we haven't taken enough peeks to the other side. Blame it on the sturdy ‘iron’ material or the incompetency and laziness of the ‘iron-workers’ but I gotta say, this last project really materialized the (somewhat peripheral?) idea that we are (still) dealing with a series of ‘iron curtains’ (be that political, institutional, or artistic) that we have been building systematically, (even though) on a smaller scale, ‘cookie-cutter’ style molded from the original one. This is a copy, of a copy, of a copy, of a copy... pieces that turn out to be larger than the original whole. In this sense, the success of the recent ‘Iron Curtain’ project exists only in climaxing our realization that this idea hasn't been peripheral at all, it has been hiding in plain sight.

Myself, I would've gone with something awesome like ‘Ideological Bubble’ or ‘In Vain’. Spatially it would've made more sense (but oh well). ‘Curtain’ vs.‘Bubble’ bring out the boxing gloves.(☻) And, to be fair to Brecht, add a few of his contenders in the mix: ‘Servant of Two Masters’, ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’, ‘In the Jungle of Cities’, and so on. Pardon my dry sense of humor, but to quote Metahaven: “Jokes are political weapons and design objects.” Thus, my tone is en pointe!! ☺

NO CAPTIONS needed if you're familiar with the genius of Luis Buñuel's in the surrealist film
Viridiana and specifically the ‪#‎LastSupper‬ scene. (photo is my edit)
“Buñuel isn't interested in social institutions themselves, but in those human beings 
corralled by such institutions into large, unruly groups, and how quickly their conduct 
devolves into spasms of primal behavior.” via

In the spirit of difficulties, the blasphemers (of the above book) and other blasphemies (of a different kind) happening to the Albanian arts and culture, I'd like to mention for those of you who don't know ‘The Five Difficulties in Writing the Truth.’ A manifesto written by Bertolt Brecht even earlier in 1934.
Nowadays, anyone who wishes to combat lies and ignorance and to write the truth must overcome at least five difficulties. He must have the courage to write the truth when truth is everywhere opposed; the keenness to recognize it, although it is everywhere concealed; the skill to manipulate it as a weapon; the judgment to select those in whose hands it will be effective; and the cunning to spread the truth among such persons. These are formidable problems for writers living under Fascism, but they exist also for those writers who have fled or been exiled; they exist even for writers working in countries where civil liberty prevails. (via)
He's got some valid points, considering it was written right before WWII broke out. And I think that we should bring them to the table when talking about the Albanian arts and cultural scene, institution, mentality and complexes. Granted, it might seem like a big muddy mess (fighting in the trenches) considering that truth nowadays has no real definition and it is interpreted, used, and flat out denied, but I am speaking of the common truth, humane truth, civic truth, patriotic truth, artistic truth (although, if you're a runner you might want to chase after that one for awhile); meaning simply: ethics, transparency, original talent, love for a better quality (of anything really), communication, access, help, preservation, participation and basic willingness to do so. 

Here are the Five Difficulties again:

1. The Courage to Write the Truth.
2. The Keenness to Recognize the Truth. 
3. The Skill to Manipulate the Truth as a Weapon.
4. The Judgement to Select Those in Whose Hands the Truth Will Be Effective.
5. The Cunning to Spread the Truth Among the Many.

Technically, all these have been used in Albania to lie (ironically enough) and without difficulty at that either. (Arghh, why are they so difficult to use otherwise?!)

I would like to focus on the fourth difficulty: selecting those who would be effective in handing the truth you're trying writing.
But the truth cannot merely be written; it must be written for someone, someone who can do something with it. The process of recognizing truth is the same for writers and readers. In order to say good things, one's hearing must be good and one must hear good things. The truth must be spoken deliberately and listened to deliberately. (Brecht 4)
So, whoever (and wherever they are) is voicing their frustrations, opinions, lingering thoughts and are pushing these difficulties to write the truth of what's been happening this quarter century in the Albanian arts and culture and what needs to happen next (which is not blaming the previous half century, but feeding off it), you're ALL on the right path. It means the process of getting there (and maybe latter getting better) is underway. 

Though, one thing worries me: all this writing that we do. Who is reading it? What are they doing about it when they agree with what's being written? What are they doing about it when they don't agree with us? Other than screaming of course. Screaming has never solved anything, and (in my book) it is as useless as regret or gloating. Let's call screaming our kick-off moment toward a common truth onto the right path of (hopefully) getting somewhere good.

Another alternative I've been thinking about (that it might bring better communicative results) is PODCASTING. I don't know if anyone is already doing it in Albania, but wouldn't it be the greatest tool for communication and putting some tone and attitude to the words other than just punctuation?! Podcasting happens in different ways and formats and I have considered doing it many times, but I am so far away from this tiny Mediterranean country that I don't want to speculate or spectate (even more) from such distance. 

Wouldn't it be awesome? An interactive podcast that connects local artists with the rest of us (dispersed) all over the planet. I don't usually follow Albanian Television because it is the same thing over and over again: interviews that say nothing, journalists that have no clue, grasp or sensibility toward the arts, and artists that just want the spotlight and a mediocre visibility (if that). 

I am looking for a medium of communication that says something, means something, changes my mind, adds to the discourse. And yes writing does that, but I feel we need to introduce audio/visual elements to our writings, rants and Facebook posts to be taken seriously. A podcast can be short and as frequent as there is momentum in wanting to tell the truth and create a dialog around it. It can follow the Public Radio format and even have a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign. We are missing the independent media in Albania and a podcast (of sorts) might be a good move in that direction. People (in general) and creatives more specifically can be as revolutionary as the (shiny or rainy) cloud they've buried their head in, but if they go to one or all the existing Albanian media entity, they somehow conform or lower their voice or just answer the poorly written questions or promote their work. No say on where they stand, what they deal with, what their work strives to do, and how they're going to change their world. I might be wrong, but from what I've briefly seen, this is definitely the case. Difficulties in telling their truth. What's the alternative then?! Podcast anyone?! Here's an excellent example.☺

**As always thanks for reading!!


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