23 December 2022
The play by Dimitrije Kokanov, a Serbian playwright and dramaturg of a younger generation, called Motion and subtitled Technology and Choreography of Fear, deals with the state of fear of the modern individual in late capitalism, a time of constant crises. The author defines this state as the inability to move. In the first part of his highly evocative two-part play, the subjects speak. The first one speaks of a love break-up, of the fear of old age and of the impossibility of getting over a break-up. It floats in the sea, moving by stasis. The second one speaks of being locked in the memory of his father’s moment of death, of the movement of a river that never stops, and of the stereotypical idea of a man he is supposed to become following his father’s example. The third one speaks of the fear of deviation from social norms and of isolation. He swims in an aquarium, the body is still, hiding like an animal. Despite his anthropocentric preoccupation, man is unable to resolve the conundrums of existence; on the contrary, civilisation seems to be increasingly entangled in its own snares. At this point, the play shifts its utterances from the traditional subject to objects or spaces that may be able to redefine human existence.
In the second part, it is the spaces of motion, which in posthumanism have become subjects, who speak. The first one is a factory, a kind of reminder of the collapse of a community, especially of its workers, due to its current decomposed form. The second space of motion is a garden, a monument to a destroyed nature, still remembering that there is no hierarchy in nature and that man is only one of its parts. Finally, the body speaks, providing a quilting point of this subtle play, using its capacity to move, to feel, to express, etc. In doing so, the playwright also writes out smouldering hope for humanity.
Motion won the Sterija Prize for best new play in Serbia in 2020.
Motion is written in the spirit of the free form of contemporary playwriting. It is a confession, written with extreme intimacy and to the painful point of honesty and self-questioning, allowing a glimpse into the depths of the impoverished human soul, crammed into the moulds of contemporary bourgeois – Christian – capitalist Western social convention.
It is a confession that is stronger than the desire to please, stronger than the desire to create theatre as we know it and feel safe in and nonchalantly addressed, has emerged as a kind of unique poetic record. The author has found an unconventional form of writing for a subject that is extremely intimate, his aim being to fully embrace the problem of social anxiety, which is becoming increasingly omnipresent and can no longer be ignored.
Motion tackles issues of gender identity through the intimate perspective of an individual and their entrenchment in the social norms, expectations and demands of their immediate and wider social environment; it interrogates the field of freedom and autonomy within a seemingly free-thinking democratic society. It addresses social pressures, a conventional role of gender and family and educational ideological patterns as a source of anxiety and feelings of inadequacy, lack of belonging, otherness and alienation from society and one’s own body. The field of freedom, however, remains the field of thinking, which is the only one that is still in motion. Articulation – words and utterance – is the final field of autonomy as an alternative to self-destruction. Likewise, performance is the site of this motion which is liberating and as autonomous as possible. The body produces words, but everything else, including our bodies, is the property of a disembodied and all-encompassing capitalism that has penetrated every pore of our lives.
Only the act of language, which will escape the technical automatisms of finance capitalism, in which the place of universal grammar has been taken over by economics, can make new life possible. – Nataša Velikonja
To conclude, the play calls for invention at the formal level of production, while its relentless questioning of current cultural conventions, demands that the creative team also question the established performance conventions, i.e. theatre that is part of that same culture – bourgeois, Western European hypercorrect culture of the patriarchal white male order. Keeping in line with the radical sincerity of the textual template, the staging must transcend the benign framework of the impersonal stage representation of the problem and offer or create space, time and sensibility to collectively and with utmost sincerity shake up our – bourgeois – field of empathy and its scope.