Fixing the "not... but"
Curated by Marina Caron
14 July – 1 September
"When he appears on the stage, besides what he actually is doing he will at all essential points discover, specify, imply what he is not doing; that is to say he will act in such a way that the alternative emerges as clearly as possible... In this way every sentence and every gesture signifies a decision; the character remains under observation and is tested. The technical term for this procedure is "fixing the "not... but"."
- Bertolt Brecht, "Short Description of a New Technique of Acting"
Bertolt Brecht built the Epic Theatre as an alternative to the mainstream empathic theatre he saw being used as political propaganda to manipulate and control audiences. In the empathic theatre the audience identifies with the characters, becoming them, feeling with them, thinking with them. Identification with a character can leave one blind to the conditions that produce their speech and actions. Instead of seeing their behaviors as decisions made from a constellation of possibilities, they are assumed as a "natural" development. Brecht’s Epic Theatre was devoted to disrupting this identification, to alienating the audience from the performers and narrative in order that they might ask questions of the play and themselves that stimulate a critical social consciousness.
This alienation allows for social and cultural conditions to become material, able to be manipulated, squeezed, and rearranged. That which typically operates unconsciously, seeming to repeat automatically within an invisible set of parameters, is able to be handled, walked around, made visible, critiqued.
This exhibition brings together six artists working with condition as material. Some works fix the "not... but" through repetition, variation, and a highlighting of formal decision making. Others use socially held expectation within their form to create a drama of fulfillment, disappointment and disruption. Others set a scene in which something unexpected occurs in a way which seems uncannily normal. Other works point to conditions and expectation of production within their media. All the works set up a situation wherein expectation, decision, and parameter are made visible and worked with directly as a way to access structural limitation and expand possibility through critical awareness.