Nata and Sam were in the audience when the artists Ant Hampton and Rita Paul’s performed MUND-STÜCK at Theater Rampe. During the conversation afterwards, they spontaneously responded to the artists’ invitation to create their own version of MUNDSTÜCK. And thus, like Rita and Ant before them, to approach the German language. So Nata and Sam travelled through Germany for a week. With a rudimentary knowledge of German and audio recorders in their luggage. With the little German they knew, they asked the people they met a question: »What do you think should be said? « They explained to them that they would record the answers so that they could later learn them by heart and thus become familiar with the language. Nata and Sam will use these texts to develop their performance, with which they will appear on stage for the first time.
Concept: Ant Hampton and Rita Pauls
Performance: Nata and Sam
Wednesday, July 22, 6:00 p.m.
Thursday, July 23, 6:00 p.m.
Friday, July 24, 7:00 p.m.
Performance by Ant Hampton and Rita Pauls in a new version by Nata and Sam.
British performance artist Ant Hampton and Argentinean author and actress Rita Pauls hitchhiked across Germany together. With the little German they had, they asked the people who took them along: “What do you think needs to be said?
In the original performance Mund-Stück these answers are reproduced from the mouths of Ant and Rita – literally, with all pauses for breath and thought, the sound of voices and accents. Right at the beginning of their work, Ant and Rita realized that the performance would primarily address questions of migration and social expectation. They therefore planned to repeat the project of artists with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, whose motivation to engage with a country and learn its language therefore seems even more urgent. The Mund-Stück project questions the understanding of adaptation to a culture primarily as a submissive act.
Nata and Sam attended a performance of Mund-Stück in Stuttgart and were inspired by the idea of realizing their own version of the performance, traveling through Germany following the same protocol and asking all the people they meet along the way the same question: “What do you think should be said? With a rudimentary knowledge of German and an audio recorder in their luggage, they set off and let the people they met show them the country and tell them about it. Then Nata and Sam learned the answers by heart, literally, and now they speak and sing the answers back to us.
Idee & Konzept
Performance & Kreation
Nata und Sam
ANT: I remember early on in the process of putting our version together in Leipzig, we figured that we wanted to keep people’s awareness shifting while watching the performance, specifically between three different things. One was the meaning of the text – this is obvious, and takes care of itself so long as you can understand what’s being said. Second was the job we’re doing and have done – the work that went into both the trip, the listening, the learning, the repeating, the absorption of those words, the speaking of them in the here and now – and of course there’s a lot of complexity there. And third was an awareness of our complicity – the relation between us, the mutual trust and support that allows two people to pull off a project like this. I’m thinking about the last point – the difference between the relationship between Rita and I, and Nata und Sam, and what differences that brings to the two versions.
RITA: And it took us so long to be able to distinguish these three layers! We were completely immersed in a ventriloquist-mediumnic experience. I think that’s important, the time it takes to realise some things while working with certain living materials, in this case a wide range of human voices. Somehow the four of us fell for the spell of sounds. I’m also thinking about how our background influenced our dérive. When standing in the middle of the road somewhere in the german fields, sometimes I had the outside vision of ourselves as an almost cartoonesque version of the ‘ideal hitch-hickers’, as if we were wearing some costumes that were giving us the legitimacy and the protection to do this experiment. We were read by the drivers as a non-threatening symbol, that allowed many things to happen. Did it happen to you that you saw yourselves from the outside, walking in the streets with no clear destination and approaching people? How did that make you feel?
NATA / SAM: To be honest, we were very shy, as children, but one thing we were always very confident and sure about: from a very young age, we always dreamed of becoming an artist, so during this project / trip, we felt completely in control of ourselves, and it didn’t matter at all whether we were just walking alone in a city or approaching people to question them.
ANT: What about your status as ‘immigrant’ – how did that inform the self-image during the trip that Rita speaks of?
NATA / SAM: In general, we’ve never felt like immigrants at all, we’ve always seen ourselves as travellers, and we see this fact of us being immigrants only in the context of one condition. Otherwise we consider ourselves to belong to the planet and it doesn’t matter where we are in the world. And on this trip, we felt completely like artists.
ANT: That’s great to hear! It strikes me that the ‘immigrant’ or ‘refugee’ label brings with it an idea of victimhood. Of course that may well be true – most refugees have been or are still victims – but victimhood can quickly become a trap with regard to how others see you, because from a western perspective it seems the two things we ‘measure’ each other’s humanity with are a sense of curiosity, and a sense of humour. They’re like two vectors which give volume and depth to our concept of someone’s personality, but as soon as someone is seen as a victim those vectors vanish, and our concept of the person becomes flat, like they are just a victim and nothing else. But both during the journey and the performance your sense of humour and curiosity is something that can be felt strongly! If Rita and I were interpreted as ‘a non-threatening symbol’, as she describes it, do you have a sense of how you came over to others?
NATA / SAM: Well actually one lady even asked us if we were actors – and that was before we told her about our work. It was interesting that we could sometimes feel the attention of the people around us, because some of them came to us without us stopping them. In Frankfurt, for example, we wanted to ask a girl the question, but she had no answer, and meanwhile another girl came up to us and asked if she could help us, and we asked her the same question. And there was the homeless man who came and and sat down with us at the Burger King.
And apart from the people we were able to interview, there were many people in town who were very kind to us and were willing to communicate even if they had no idea what to say – for example at the Motel restaurant in Bonn, there they treated us very intimately without any prior knowledge of us .And that people felt safe with us after talking to us. In Mannheim, for example, we asked a woman for help, and she accompanied us to a motel which was one kilometer away, at night when no one was around.And most of the people we interviewed answered our question eagerly… So all of this gave us more courage to keep going!
RITA: i’m curious about the surprises this project brought to you, what would you say are the most striking things that come to mind when you think about how you imagined the project was like before getting involved and now that you’ve done it and are starting to perform your own version?
NATA / SAM: We saw your performance so of course we knew the plan. And we told you early on about our ideas – to include music, singing, dancing and all kinds of other stuff! We were imagining things very differently.
ANT: I hope you weren’t disappointed?
NATA / SAM: Of course not! Like I say, this is a beautiful experience – like it’s not acting, it’s not a show, it’s very real. You’re showing yourself and you’re doing something you wouldn’t normally do. Like opening up to other people, working with a partner, saying the text at the same time as your partner etc… Now i like it much more than the idea to do a big show. That can be another project! We changed our plans also because of the texts. They are not words of young people. They are mostly from old people. They’re serious, they are urgent. They woman who said “Scheisse auf Nazis” was 26 or so – she was the youngest – the others were much older, 60 80 years old.
ANT: It felt like the conversation we had yesterday was really important. I saw that at one point Amir you looked like you weren’t so happy, I asked you why. And you said ‘I don’t feel safe’. I think you meant “I don’t feel supported”, right?
NATA / SAM: – Exactly
ANT: Just then you wanted the lights, flowers, those earlier ideas you were still holding onto because in that moment you felt too exposed, you wanted other things for the audience to look at except just you?
NATA / SAM: – Yes, but after the conversation and the ideas you gave us i felt like yeahhh, this is not like a ‘show’, it’s going to be very natural – we don’t need many flowers or people dancing for us or anything… it’s just going to be something natural.
ANT: We have this word, ‘spectacle’. I think it’s not so much about spectacle. Yesterday at some point we figured that ‘we’re doing politics’. There’s theatre that’s ‘about’ something political. But this is doing it. It simply ‘is’ political, you are doing politics.
NAT/SAM: We also talk about politics, about veganism, about humanity – about many things…
ANT: yes it’s true, you do talk about it. But the way you’re doing it – you’re doing something that is real, that is a real risk. And when you make a little mistake and we see you stop and breathe and try again – this reminds us that it’s real. That it’s not what you normally do, you’re not professional people-copiers or anything. Same with Rita and I. Even if Rita is a professional actor, she doesn’t do this kind of people-copying, and especially not in a language she doesn’t speak! For both of us it’s a new thing and certainly for both of you it’s new. We’re all doing something out of the ordinary, we’re sharing this adventure!
NATA / SAM: We do know this is a new experience for us, and it’s great to do it, but yesterday i realised something about this job that we are doing is also something we did when we were very young.
ANT / RITA : Really!?
NATA / SAM: Yes, not with this language though. With arabic, with the islamic book, the Quran.
We had to read the source, the Quran, all together at the same time, word by word. When we were very young. And now in this project it’s the same but the language is different its not anymore islamic book but the opinion from the people.
ANT / RITA : Did you understand the Arabic from the Quran? That you were learning?
NATA / SAM: No! We had the translation, but word by word we didn’t know what it meant!
Nata und Sam
The two brothers Nata and Sam were born in Iran in 1994 as children of Afghan parents. They have lived in Germany for five years. They have been engaged in music, poetry and history all their lives.
The British artist Ant Hampton was born in 1975. He is the founder of Rotozaza (1998-2009), a project that includes performance, theatre, installation art, intervention and script-based works. Together with Silvia Mercuriali and other artists*, he has realized more than 20 Rotozaza productions in various countries and languages, most of them with amateur performers*, who deliberately acted in unrehearsed performance situations.
In 2007 Ant Hampton began to involve the audience in his plays and since then has been touring internationally with his Autoteatro series. His further work, which he creates together with Greg McLaren under the title “The Other People” (La Otra Gente), includes the exploration of “live portraiture”. These are so-called “structured encounters” with people from an environment far removed from the theatre.
Rita Pauls was born in Buenos Aires in 1993. She studied literature and philosophy at the Universidad de Buenos Aires with a focus on literary theory. As a performer, she has appeared in productions from all over the world: “The Natural State” (director: Paula Salomón, ARG), “Multitude” (director: Federico León, ARG), “Second Time” (director: Dora García, Spain) and “Fantasía soneto después de una lectura de (dance)” (director: Dudú Alcón Quintanilha, Brazil) dealt with language, the creation and invention of intimacy and the coping with uncontrolled performative situations.
Currently, Rita Paul’s collaborator in the research project “The Bardo, Soft Eyes”, led by the Argentinean experimental dramaturgist Paula Salomón. In addition, Rita Pauls gives workshops (poetry, literature, French as a foreign language) in spaces beyond the established art scene of Buenos Aires, including psychiatric clinics, private homes and independent cultural centers. Rita Pauls lives as a performer and author in Buenos Aires.