,Till the last syllable of recorded time – Interview with José Roberto Jardim

Per Marcio Tito.

Photo courtesy of the interviewee
Photo courtesy of the interviewee

I look at the keyboard and I feel that something is being announced. It’s that thing that we feel after the jump and before the water. A kind of path of no return and full of butterflies in the limelight of the stomach.

José Roberto Jardim said yes.

I felt an urgency in the elaboration of these few questions. There was an opportunity to define an important angle for the portrait of his time.

I shed light on the technological melancholy of his so hot and cold performances and drew up a prospectus, whose program intends to gain duration over time and permanence in the evolutionary, consequential, subjective and anachronistic process of the Brazilian Theater.

It’s essential to formally deliriate about the varied passionate nuances that make up this artist’s work. So, here is the elaboration of a key, whose lock will always be a mystery.

This interview inaugurates a special moment for the deusateu.com.br website, which is born here and now.

Throughout a total not previously determined, we will investigate the creators’ intuition to extract some very inaccurate and very, very alive science, capable of being transformed into a free process to be read and experienced.

The search for narrating the formal absences of an artist’s creative process, which manifests his subjective universe through a mix between intuition and cognition, seems to be at the top of the issues that affect our immediate interest.

The unexplainable will be the investigative direction of this symmetrical space.

Enjoying the privilege of having access to one of the most dense and clear voices in our theater, José Roberto Jardim was what made the interview inevitable.

Photo courtesy of the interviewee
Photo courtesy of the interviewee

MT – Zé (JRJ), when I say “your work”, I will be quoting: Não Contém Glúten, Adeus, Palhaços Mortos, A Cor Que Caiu Do Espaço, O Poço E O Pêndulo, Desumanização e Há Dias Que Não Morro. Therefore, here detained in his most recent works with direction, whose use seems quite satisfactory when we think of the different influences that “his work” exercises in each of the styles he visited, I would like to start going back a little bit in time.

*José Robert Jardim artworks roughly translated: Does not contain gluten, Goodbye, Dead clowns, The color that fell from space, The well and the pendulum, Dehumanization and Days that I have not died.

Rereading “Não Contém Glúten”, an excellent text by our friend Sérgio Roveri , responsible for our friendship, the degree of precision between the proposed atmospheres and the details of the scene seems to collaborate so that the text rises from its printed dimension.

*Sérgio Roveri is a Brazilian journalist and playwright

This quality can extract the sensations that the author intends to reveal with his dramaturgy.

Often, this is how it happens when reading the material and even in the staging. In this case, perhaps because of his intimacy with the roverian materials, I hope he agrees with me, what we saw on the scene was a set of parallels that sensibly tell the same story as the dramaturgy, however, through different energetic mobilizations, as if there were there a unit of voices that “sampled” addressed to the same aesthetic destination.

Formally and subjectively, in your concrete creative process (with the actors and other areas) how do you work? Is it your practice to equalize everything according to a pattern defined by your intuition as a director, or the quest is to be able to create a harmony between your desire and what appears “almost by chance” when the areas make the scene thesis around the text? Some directors launch guerrilla fronts and, from the confrontation with the areas, extract their materials. Others, few, stage dangerous fissures that betray the order marked by dramaturgy and direction and give prominence to the danger of improvisations or scenes that arise from the imponderable (always present in the collaborative process). There is no standard and each work “tells us the way”, but, on a general level, with a focus on Sérgio Roveri’s text, how does it happen for you?

JRJ – Tito, you make me not only shut up, but I am touched by your kindness when proposing this conversation, exchange and, perhaps, the discovery of many more shadows than clarities that I judged in my sight. And you can’t put a price on this dive that proposes me to think, because without the return, the counterpoint, without the presence / participation of the critic, here, this word assumes what is most solid, we would live in an eternal “dialogue between the deaf”, as Chekhov called it (and that contemporaneity has reshaped that idea to despair). We would be like the Cyclops blindly hunting Odysseus (the OUdysseus, his ‘Nobody’), we would be an errant echo in search of the first sound that hasn’t even been emitted yet.

For that, I thank you immensely for your invitation, Tito, as well as the website Deus Ateu, not only for the friendship you give me, but also for the admiration I have for your tireless enthusiasm for the Theater. This deference flatters me a lot, but even more for seeing what is beyond that: your willingness to expand and explode that “something” that humanity will spend its existence trying to define with the colors of its time and tensions in this systemic search.

I’ve known Sérgio Roveri since 2003, when at a party we stopped for a quick chat. He was, as he still is, also a cultural journalist. A month after that, we were sitting side by side, coincidentally, in the audience of Sesc Consolação , watching Psycho 4:48, by Sarah Kane, directed by Claude Régy and the volcanic Isabelle Huppert, on the scene for more than 3 hours. Her immobility with her vocal avalanche of multiple dwellings made us talk for hours after the performance, consolidating, on that day, a friendship and partnership that already has six shows together: five of her texts, which I directed, and one more where I was as an actor, “O Encontro das Águas” , our debut.

*The Social Service of Commerce (SESC) is a private Brazilian institution, maintained by entrepreneurs in the trade in goods, services and tourism, with operations nationwide, focused primarily on the social well-being of its employees and family, but open to the community in general.

*Isabelle Huppert play roughly translated to “The Meeting of Waters”

When Roveri introduced me to “Não Contém Glúten”, my head exploded. He, with his dialogistic genius, his surgical perception to complex what is most routine in “sui generis” instances, gave me a text / show that is still pragmatic for me and my vision of scenic search. Having a text with that couple and their crises, of expressionist fabrics, in a dystopian space-time, with labyrinthine cravings and desires, was the perfect gear for me to reaffirm and deepen what was dear and essential to me as a director and scene generator.

Immediately, I started working on the text as I still do today, with an equal streak of respect for the playwright’s engineering and writing. Because I knew him well, I started to read and study “Glúten”, trying to contaminate myself from the original drive of Roveri for that text, not without trying to understand, and this I do until today, where I would fit in the gaps of his narrative with my idiosyncrasies, understandings and limitations. I always look for the epicenter, the common divider between the Text and what I can offer it with my guidance. For in a dramaturgical text, there are innumerable doors of passage presented; it takes serenity to know that it will not cover most of them, much less go through them all in a show. And therein lies the beauty of a great work: its unreachable polysemy. So, I let the incessant and obsessive study of the words in the text show me, naturally, where and what will be the “doors” that I will be able to pass through, as well as which ones I will open and which ones I will look at without walking through them.

Where will I put my magnifying glass and transpose it aesthetically to the scene?

I am fully aware that this process is shaped and varies by different factors, from immediate or personal desires, states and moods, to my disability or limitations. The final result of the staged work will always be, I believe, the frank dialogue between what was seen and what was not seen there, resulting in a portrait of that encounter, of that context in which it came to light. There is a phrase by Fernando Pessoa that I always use for myself and in the editing processes about this companion anguish: “A work to be born must belong to someone, but for it to never die it must be strange to those who created it”. I seek it strongly.

*Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa was a poet, philosopher, playwright, essayist, translator, publicist, astrologer, inventor, entrepreneur, commercial correspondent, literary critic and Portuguese political commentator.

Being more punctual to your question, and apologizing for this tour, I started to work on the beautiful text of Roveri as I still do today: I read it countless times and let images start to populate me from it. No filter. No rules. Only marked by what Antonioni and Welles said: “First I make a film that I like, that I want to watch”. Thus, from the images, I define the ones that most enchanted and displaced me. Thus, I begin to rework the text on top of that discovery and modify it, I rewrite rubrics, I clean out excerpts that I consider the doors that I will not open or achieve for the sake of driving that may be the most potent by my hands and cast; I remove the specific / baptismal names of the characters to accentuate the aspect of living drives, more than closed personalities; polish and dehydrate phrases to win in rhythmic poetics of speech etc.

This has already cost me a lot of crises with myself and with some authors, but today I accepted myself that way, as this is a characteristic of mine, and the way I manage to be present, to be alive when making a montage. Perhaps the only one where I can see me. So much so that I only start a project nowadays, after we are, (me and the author, or participants) aware of this way of working that helps me to be and flow in the creation of the scene. I remember here, Tito, that I do not come to disrespect and destruction of the text, as it may seem. Never. But I also remember a Taoist saying that “the best disciple is the one who betrays his master”, or Quintana when he says that “The greatest proof of love is disrespect”. With that, and after all that, which lasts a few months of self-imposed isolation for ideas to settle in me, I previously created a basic text with notes and new indications ranging from rubrics to rhythms and coloraturas. Everything I started to glimpse and paint for the show, a priori, in my imagination.

*Mário de Miranda Quintana was a Brazilian poet, translator and journalist.

And I did it at “Glúten” too: I adapted it to understand the initial pre-rehearsal pathways and generate the images that would populate everyone: I’ve transformed the rubrics into projections, which would appear uninterruptedly above the stage on a screen, as a caption of actions and gestures, since in this apartment the couple would barely move or leave the small radius of their chairs, positioned on a circular carpet with four meters in diameter, a space that would accentuate the “no place”, the “affective limbo” in which they would be immersed and which I wanted to locate the show. This spatial search is another characteristic that I always have with me in my shows, which I always use as a starting point: the formulation of “where” the action is and takes place, as well as its abstraction. With this, I think in gaining in fabled and amorphous power the apprehension of the audience that can, in this way, project there, on that stage, their imagined place, their own prison and Dantesque labyrinth, not ending the scenario in a single, immutable idea.

Another starting point that I always use, and it was no different at “Glúten”, as I mentioned above, is my desire for the non-movement of actors and actresses on the scene. It is a search for the “photogrammy” of the actions. As if, in a single brush, they already show, or suggest, what from there the audience can see the part and take it as a whole, so they can mentally continue painting this purposefully incomplete picture. Like a Schiele who, in contrast to the current practice of his time, did not use exuberant paints and much less covered the entire canvas with his drawing: his work was the non- “finalization of the entire painting”, allowing our imagination to fly in its absence, mending colors and continuing their non-existent features. I believe that, in this way, I can put the audience in a more active state and in another apprehension with what happens on stage.

From these pedals and the dehydration of the text, from the body to an essentiality on the scene, I begin the process in the rehearsal room with the utterance / speech of the text with the actors. I seek more polysemy (than is being said) than arithmetic cause-effect of didacticization of text-history. The word as an iconic mantra between sound and meaning. The “pause” takes on a unique importance in the sound panorama that the actors will use with their text and speeches. Not an ode to silence, but a search for suspension, a hiatus that will echo in the meantime an unexpected reflection. A breach of expectation for the public to be constantly in an apprehensive, active state and looking forward to what will materialize in front of them, both imagery and sound. It is the understanding being problematized, but without ever losing sight of the pleasure and charm of the universe that we are proposing there on the stage.

And with all this, the search for excellence and rigor are the necessary finishing touches to the show, both technically and aesthetically. For as Heiner Müller said: “Theater must be beautiful, even when it presents horror and atrocity. He needs to be beautiful, otherwise he cannot be strange and weird”. And here to understand, and you for being a Hellenist know, that I use “beautiful” in a greater and not reductionist sense.

And I have been trying to walk, show by show, incessantly through this Mullerian bias, just as I also tried in my paradigmatic “Não Contém Glúten”.

MT – In the face of the absurd, and how many absurdities we have not seen, there is no artist who does not want to promote “his truth” through the vehicle that fits him, that is, his artwork. In his work, (almost) never appears a clearly partisan voice on the scene, or a voice that launches an opinion that crosses the universe of the work, perhaps with the exception of a speech, which I suppose was a “collective shard” in the show “Desumanização”. So, how is the political party process in relation to your work? Almost giving a light opinion, because the variables are infinite, but, in general, the works that overlap anachronistic contradictions seem more or less interesting to you than the works that give up the metaphor and attack the politics of the day in a direct way?

JRJ – There are aesthetics; that lead to ethics, and ethics to aesthetics, as we well know. And I like to see plurality, diversities being performed and expanded from group to group, shows to shows.

I am equally pleased to watch something that immediately dialogs with what I seek and accomplish, I put myself in comparison and encouragement, just as it brings me a great pleasure to watch what radically differs from me. For that, it nourishes me too, even if I do not go and do not intend to embark on that path. Seeing different research constructs a panorama of approaches and reflections that only enriches the symbolic fabric that art and theater should wear. We are very devoid of references to affirmation and, especially, to negation. Watching what distinguishes me frees me up so that I can go, even deeper into what I want and conceive, as I see that there are paths and paths, if one is already being mastered and forceful by some, should I, as part of this polyphonic gear of the world, to follow even more diligently, mine, in an even more profound and radical way. A little like the Japanese, who are grateful, after public and even theatrical activities, saying with applause “thanks for sweating for me”. We are pieces of different shades and with different needs that, in the end, must add up. So I think. An idea of collectivity and awareness of the whole, and not the restricted valuation of yours. Let us be legitimate and committed to ourselves, this will already be very much in the midst of the emotional dryness in which we are imprisoned.

For this reason, I believe that an artistic work will always be political if it is a true search, regardless of its literalness or abstraction. It will be potent, if it comes as a roar from within you, from your most excruciating convictions. If it’s something like an ax that hurts the ice. If it is only comparable to the excruciating pain you feel at the death of a loved one.

To put issues on the scene between characters, between drives, is to generate friction and friction between ideas, is to create an emulation of polis, where the discussion becomes a constituent and the first rule for making drama, for making, therefore, Politics.

Again, I think of Heiner Müller, that artist of unique commitment and lyricism, who claimed “dissatisfaction with the world is the source of all inspiration, whether in theater, visual arts or literature. If you are satisfied or like the world as it is, then you don’t need to create anything, you can recline your body and rest”.

It is not for nothing that I seek to deepen my studies and sensitivities, as well as the use of my scene and staging devices, tirelessly, because I believe that this can create cracks and confusion in concepts, ideas and expectations of the sterilizing “status quo”. This is the main function of art: to split what is established and to erect, under risk and danger, what is not yet present, what is not being seen. As Bertold Brecht in his Little Organon said: “we must look at strange with normality: and the normal, with strangeness”. So, I do the exercise of constant self-reflection, knowing that I am what I need to be, what I can be, legitimately and existentially. Again, I’m going to use another big one that always accompanies me, Jean Cocteau, that energizes me when he says “what they say so much about you, cultivate, because that’s you”.

And this is what I can be when I do what I have to do and stay on that journey towards my inner abyss, a strange and subjective polis.

When work doesn’t come out of orders, if they did at some point, have you been guiding creation by its “place of speech”? What has it been like to create aesthetics and revisions of life at this time when the artist will inevitably appear alongside his work? Has your aesthetics been the result of the subjective dialogue between the hypothetical public, the citizen José Roberto, the artist José Roberto and the guidelines that “surround” (in a good sense) expression? Does it seem possible to develop a dialectical mechanism that responds only to you and to what can be achieved through beauty? Or perhaps it is impossible, minor, and uninteresting to make a Theater whose borders are not blurred by the forces of the social? Does the theater always have to be against something or someone? Or can the opposition that constitutes it, as a science, be limited only to a narrative that contains oppositions, excluding the everyday and “real” world from this process?

JRJ – I think, and here I will allow myself to digress into a paroxysmal idea, how would an art made by beings not yet known? For beings from another galaxy, another atmosphere, or lives of a different order than human? We do not know. “What we can imagine can be created”, as Bourdieu said. So, we start from a freedom as much as from a primordial limitation. Perhaps the sound of the piano would have its performance reinvented if there were pianists with more fingers in each hand. Until then, he will still have his musicality limited to ten fingers, two hands, in the solo case, and his same number of white and black keys invariably. But… and here’s what I am ecstatic to think about: the combinations of these “limitations” (fingers, notes, tones, semitones, etc.), combined with the subjectivity of each interpreter, that is, with what is most interior of the human beings, with their unconscious, as well as with their fury, their love, their resentment, speed, strength, delicacy, fears, senses and errors, make this interchangeable exchange something that will generate infinite universes as well as unique and non-transferable. And it has never ceased to be “piano music”, recognizable and visually attainable. A piano song. Song. But now it’s not just a song anymore. No. Now an entire universe in a small grain of sand, William Blake would say.

As soon as I think about the artistic search, about our journey through the Theater. We insanely use and refuse signs, characteristics and limitations belonging to the world we are and create, apparently of unlimited reach, but still unsuspected. Like René Magritte, who made notions and references tremble in the pictorial world by simply and genially rearranging in his works elements of the most trivial and recognizable, just transmuting them from place, assigning them countless other meanings, by just arranging them where we would not think. “realistically” that they would be their proper places. Breaking the order. The sum of what exists, The World, with which there is no equal, His Soul screaming in agony. “A stone bird; a bowling ball on the beach; a gigantic ring around a piano; a glass of water supported by an umbrella; an egg stuck in a cage”. Do you want something more revealing and theatrical than rereading the world “symbolically and lyrically” through itself and its most obviously ordinary elements? Through everything that already exists and exists between us and that we barely pay more attention to?

And that’s where we come in too, Tito, us, you and me and those who dig their sensibilities towards the painful path of not wanting to be where we are, of knowing that all that the “status quo” offers us is the flattening of perception and reflection, because this painful and terrible path is the only chance for us to continue on this journey as absurd as it is enchanting, which started in a womb and will end in a tomb. And there is nothing more desperate and pleasurable than this pathetic as well as meaningless journey. Therefore, our insistence on that there is no explanation.

I want my Theater to always be my attempt at existence, a way of, at least there, in that moment, in that fraction of an hour, hour and a half, that I and those who put themselves in process, can experience something that makes this worth. Something that is, in addition to the immediate, that resonates my little worldview where I have worked so hard, not without trembling, and enjoying my fears, anxieties, pains, blood and death.

To experience something, something truly unique, to be traversed by an experience … is the share we have and that is perhaps what makes us able to be closer to the immortality of the Goddesses and Gods beyond the dread of the final silence.

So, I believe, so I think, so I hope “till the last syllable of recorded time”. *

The reader does not need me to penetrate these extraordinary answers-questions.

I consider these and many other intuitions sufficiently answered, in the passion that these lines offer the theater priesthood and the spirit of those who read them with an open heart. And if it is even possible to portray the glare that artists produce when their works shake the normality of the days, I do not feel capable of doubting that José Roberto Jardim’s words fail to accomplish this process. In the initial project of this interview, when exchanging audios with the interviewee, I imagined asking some other questions that would arise from these answers that are still unknown; but who can ever accuse me of having presented an incomplete portrait here?

This artist is this and it is so. It is, above all, a breath between radical authorship and the quote from the world as an explanation of oneself. A tumult between the constant awareness and the deepest reverence for the things and for the subjects who have gone through and go through their doing.

I consider the site deusateu.com.br very well born now. Definitely happened because of what has been said so far. Zé, thank you very much for your theater and for the conversation.

Photo courtesy of the interviewee
Photo courtesy of the interviewee

To the reader, thank you for reading our interview.

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