Intuition and precision, harmonies and monstrosities
For twenty years, IvWR has been inventing shows bearing the rigour and high standards of a musician, establishing a singular language that shakes things up and fascinates. She plays with codes and conventions to produce theatre where it is least expected. A resolutely contemporary baroque which, based on its intensity and extraordinary nature, seeks to thrill and defies the customs of classical performance. Formally, Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski explores an aesthetic of contrast and counterpoint, the dynamic tension of a constantly moving body, to achieve an ambiguous polyphony that sees human relationships stripped of their psychological conventions. Suddenly the veneer of civilisation cracks, a gap appears and the banal becomes strangely threatening. For Ingrid, the essence of theatre can be found precisely in this tension between the sublime and the grotesque, the tragic and the comic, horror and humour, the horrifying and the funny, affective impulses and collective unconscious, references and discrepancies.
Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski / The pathway of emotion
Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski’s art form is an “art of the in-between, of the tangent and of the unconventional, while also being ethereal, like the music from which it is always derived, and fully inscribed on the body. It is mystical and comical, full of sophisticated references while being accessible, complex and direct, baroque and pared down. Is it theatre? Is it oratorio? Is it painting? A little of all of these, certainly, but there is much more to it. There have been tableaux vivants too, yet none of the categorised, classical forms can give a true account of the substance of her art, which is nevertheless immediately recognisable. To mention just some of Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski’s works – Luciano Berio’s A-Ronne II, reflecting the Elizabethan style, In H-moll “freely inspired” by Bach, Cena Furiosa, a faithful (musical) interpretation of Monteverdi’s Combattimento di Tancredi, Life on a String, an authentic Chinese opera, and La Vierge des douleurs devised with the Italian conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini – these are all creations, objects and shows, whose radicalism, energy and unusual character have made this artist a familiar name in leading concert halls, theatres and opera houses. There has been resistance, sometimes even booing, but the mysterious and entertaining forces employed by the artist and her company will always find their way through and take the audience with them.
“When I work on a production, I always want to give substance to the music through a specific type of theatre. A pictorial theatre insofar as painting helps make the tensions of the body clear, and a musical theatre since music is always part of it, including in its ultimate form: silence…”
From the outset, Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski has constantly flushed out, revealed and sometimes even created specific material, moving between music and theatre, with a predilection for the symbolic form of the madrigal and its many variations: “It is dramatic power par excellence: five voices (sometimes more, but never very many) which become of value when they are combined and discover their power together. I work with bodies as I do with voices, in unison or in counterpoint, so that each body’s acting gives and finds meaning in relation to the whole”. Unison or counterpoint, a desire for harmony or a burst of individualism, loving fusion or rebellion: Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski has set out her stall and brought to the stage the joyful chaos of the in-between. There is always something tragicomic about it. It is the ultimate signature of this artist’s shows: despite the seriousness of the subjects, the nobility of the form and the loftiness of the texts, there is a lot of laughter and it is a known fact that laughter is the path to emotion.
Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski, creator of unidentified stage objects
Her polymorphous and polyphonic theatre centred on the body and the voice, removed from the text’s dramaturgy and narration and venturing into opera, performance or video, seeks to reveal “another scene” at work behind human appearances, between the lines of a score, beneath the surface of an image and at the heart of myths and stories. Based on these references, which are a source of imagination and an artistic challenge in equal measure – because they reveal in principle the unrepresentable or because masterpieces are involved that in principle are untouchable – her shows play with transposition, shifts and metamorphosis. They use improvisations to create a tragicomic theatre that is both visual and musical, elaborate in their aesthetics and meanings but economical in their stage means, and with a passionate and demanding concern as regards the actor, since everything rests primarily on the performers, the chorus of soloists whose bodies are shaped by human passions, with urges stripped of all psychological convention.
Archetypes, tableaux vivants and metamorphoses
Transposition lies at the heart of Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski’s work. From the very first production with her company Lucilia Caesar, she has established a singular, composite language suffused with the logics of stage, music and literature. In her work we witness the birth of a new theatre in which the text no longer consists of words, situations and characters, but of harmonies, images and structures, with the performers’ bodies merging into a collective, monstrous being animated by emotional impulses and the furies of the collective unconscious.
In terms of their form, at first sight pictorial references may appear to dominate, but the spectacular dynamics take their logic from musical forms – fugues, variations, concertante or solo forms – leading to an ambiguous polyphony where human passions are stripped of their psychological conventions. Her work puts an end to reassuring images and generally accepted ideas and artistic conventions. Invention supplants the quotation, imagination supplants erudition and humour supplants representation. Iconography takes on a new meaning, polluted by the incongruity of the contemporary world in which the performer’s experience corrupts the cold purity of the symbolic.
Whether it is with a loyal group of actors or with opera singers and musicians, Ingrid von Wantoch Rekowski invents non-specific scores, ever changing, uncertain and unclassifiable, a work in progress whose very frailty conveys fascination and emotional tension. It is the process rather than the plan, the work rather than the outcome, the dream rather than the fixation that determine the audience’s reading of it and gets them to explore their own dreams by awakening their emotions and contradictions.