Uncertainty is the fuel of the shadows – Carlos Laredo

Aclaración de por qué canto

(F. G. Lorca: Fragment taken from the speech on lullabies, speaking about the poetic capabilities of newborn infants )

In this particular type of song, the child recognises the character and according to her visual process, which is always bigger than we think, imagines what he looks like. She’s forced to be both spectator and creator simultaneously and indeed – what a marvellous creator she is. A creator with a first-class sense of poetry. We need only look at their very first games, before intelligence gets in the way, to see what planetary beauty inspires them. To see both the perfect simplicity but at the same time, the mysterious relationships they discover between things that not even Minerva could decipher. With a button, a spool, a pen and the five fingers of one hand the child constructs a difficult world, criss-crossed with invented resonances which hum and collide in an alarming fashion, but all happy in the knowledge that they will never have to be analysed. A child understands far more than we think. She’s inside an inaccessible poetic universe where there is no room for either the go-between of imagination or the world of fantasy; a flat plain where the nervous system is fully exposed, both terrible and yet painfully beautiful. Where a gleaming white horse, half-nickel and half-smoke, falls to the ground without warning, a swarm of angry bees attacking its eyes. Far away from our world, a child has complete faith in her creative powers and does not yet harbour the destructive seed of reason. She is innocent and because of that, wise. She understands, far better than us, the elusive codes of the world of poetry.

Federico García Lorca. 1928

Uncertainty is the fuel of the shadows

The model of a newborn baby’s social existence is framed between the narrow margins of its movements. An existence that agonises among the integers of the measurements given before birth. We look at babies as if they were small, as if they were younger, as if they were inferior, as if they had just arrived…and knew nothing. Like someone who isn’t yet but one day will be: a promise. We tack them to a drawing-board full of truths. And we’re not afraid of not knowing them. We wash their old memories clean with bleach and brush. We know what they don’t know because they don’t know anything that we don’t know already. And their navels are a sealed wall. We don’t want them to look through the keyhole or to stand on their toes to see the far banks that disorient us. Better that they sleep so as not to bother us. That’s where we can put marble ditches in the way of their dreams. We can preach all of our reason without roots. One after another, preparing them for the mould. And we don’t trouble to lower our voices when we don’t wish them to hear our “adult-speak”. We shout when we should whisper, when the cock crows and it’s time to land gently on the earth. In that serene moment when we go from breast to pureé, when the baby can no longer breastfeed and sing at the same time, when the angel wishes to flutter his wings one last time, when he’s still not ready to breathe the rocky air, we throw him to the ground, choking him, pinching his bottom to go forward with the hands of time. And we push him to hurry him along to his funeral mass. And they cry and we say “he wants to be picked up” as if they were trying to blackmail us with their affection, with their defects. And we want roots to grow from their feet before before they can walk or talk. And we fill them with our fears and our worries before they they can remember the infinite cry of the heroe. And we believe that they don’t understand anything, that our dramas are more dramatic than theirs, that our problems are more important than theirs and that their spiral scrawls are just that: indecipherable, primitive, animalistic and meaningless – an uncivilised babble. And we give them an “unwelcome” to a civilisation that domesticates its pupils in moulds of tar and sweets, to bring them quickly over the tasteless threshold of the gateway to “The education of the future”. And we don’t tell them that Education is a fake and misleading imitation of life. And we tear them away from their mothers to stop their mouths with pacifiers of soap. And their mothers, torn away by their jobs, abandon them, leaving them feeling desperate, alone with their surrogate mothers where the only ritual is one of resignation.

We seal our rules with commands that begin with “no” or we hijack the “no” to transfer to our kids the same authoritarianism characteristic of the 30s.All the while, the real simulations are waiting outside the school grounds, trying to break through the wall of insensibility. Theatre was exiled from our school systems a long time ago. Some have allowed it a residual extra-curricular presence or kept it as an end-of-course activity, almost out of charity. Never to be used again as as a tool for learning anything, for dramatizing everything. Like its sisters – music, painting, song etc…and in fact all the daughters of art, it has been discarded outside the school walls or left punished out in the playground. Drama is too dangerous for the powers-that-be, the same ones that had it excluded from the universities to rein in the student demonstrations but who still have recourse to it every four years in the form of “political hustings” to win votes and bend wills. Once Drama had been exiled from the schools as we know it, it disappeared too as a tool for experimentation and learning within the other subjects and, it goes without saying, as a rite of mimicry and catharsis within a pedagogical framework for conflict resolution in the classroom. And so we are slowly reaching the state proposed by Euripides and Sophocles almost 2,400 years ago who, as Nietzsche points out in “The Origin of Tragedy” were the ones who turned the chorus into the public, the ritual into a spectacle, giving way to the first victories of reason over faith in creativity. And so the public started to live the dramas of the tragic hero not as if they were their own but as if they were foreign to them and so, feeling no reponsibility for the hero’s fate, stopped feeling responsible for their own. Sophocles defeated Aeschylus, giving way to fiction and so to the slow death of ritualization.

The unavoidable search for scientific truth is not the object of my observations. To watch and observe nowadays how adults behave in the Theatre with babies and and children is to see an example of Theatre’s tragedy, of the critical situation of Theatre as a social ritual. The seeds sown by by the guardians of the patriarchal model have borne fruit. The contrast between the fragility of the baby and the sternness of the accompanying adult is glaring. One walks on tiptoe, with eyes ready to devour everything, open to all emotions. As fragile as a naked morning. He doesn’t need to make an effort to concentrate because he’s absorbed in the event, is inside the drama. His body is smaller but it vibrates with greater intensity, at higher and lower frequencies than those acheived by the adult, full of nuances. He participates with his whole body and soul in that precise moment in time. And the actor feels the support. When the baby contemplates a work of art, he’s creating it, his vision is time – not the story of time – but time itself. If a baby watches someone painting, his neuronal activity is the same as if he were actually painting with brushes himself. If a baby sees someone dance, his neuronal activity is the same as when he dances himself. It is precisely in this sense that Theatre for babies has to provide something crucial to the development of Culture and Humanity. If Medea sacrificed her two sons to try to rescue humankind from being born warriors, and didn’t manage to change the model of hereditary violence, then perhaps we can believe that a possibility still exists to weave new invisible threads that will protect people’s poetic capacity, changing the aesthetic responsibility of the spectator who will cease to be expectant and instead will throw his hands into the circle which embraces and protects the poet, the artist. Lorca said as much in his masterpiece “El Público” (The audience), which will without doubt be a work that’s understood and and applauded in the future, when the fortune-tellers of reason who read the hands of babies stop robbing our houses and schools of our ability to create poetry. Babies are the audience’s opportunity to be the chorus once more, to be deeply and actively responsible for the outcome of the Tragedy or Comedy of society. And to free Humankind from its bonds by showing the ephemeral nature of the chains of what is known, in order to advance decisively towards the fertile and uncertain terrain of the unknown.

 Carlos Laredo

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