We're Still Waiting. Beckett from the arts

17 December, 2019 - 17:00 to 21 December, 2019 - 20:00

From 17 to 21 December 2019
Fabra i Coats - Contemporary Art Centre and Art Factory of Barcelona

Waiting for Godot is one of Samuel Beckett’s most emblematic plays and one of the most representative of contemporary theatre. So much so, that Godot now forms part of our imagery, without having even read the book or been to the theatre – in fact, without him even existing –. Because everyone knows that Godot never actually arrives. His name is the announcement, the excuse, the character that has no role, around which all the others revolve (we revolve), an absent main character who makes us star in his absence. 

We may not know that it is the story of two vagrants who are waiting for him beneath a tree; that the pattern of the first act is repeated in the second with a few differences; or that one of its most important successes was the performance given in 1957 at the San Quetin California State Penitentiary in front of 1400 prisoners but Godot is the unknown person everyone is waiting for. He is a metaphor for our horizon of expectations and Beckett is the cryptic writer who refused to provide any explanations so as not to close the door on us. 
Since the conclusion last May of the public tender to select the management team, we at Fabra i Coats - Contemporary Art Centre and Art Factory of Barcelona have been working on the new programme for next year. And whilst we wait for this new phase to begin, we decided to create a short series on Beckett. In light of the 30th anniversary of his death, we will look at the influence he had on the contemporary arts and conclude with a critical and ironic reflection, with or without him, on subjects that the future programme of the Art Centre will look at, such as authorship and representation – or their absence. 

“Beckett, read through contemporary art, tends to become curiously Duchampithised: both Beckett and Duchamp teach us to resist the noisy external world of the trivial and of communicative saturation through the progressive silence of the work of art, even of the artist himself”, wrote Marcelo Expósito (Cultura/s, La Vanguardia, 16/3/2011). Beyond theatre, Beckett wrote pieces for radio, television and cinema and in each one of them he heralded a minimalist vagueness, where the marginality and resistance of the story, based on reducing or directly suspending the action, allowed him to expose the limits of the narrative structure – of the image or the discourse –, from the words to the body. A way of observing the messages inherent in each medium, and also a way of involving the audience. Because, with Beckett, the author ceases to be the inventor who gives meaning to the work, opening it up to drifts and readings of each context.

Paradoxically, his omnipresence in artistic theory and practice since the late nineties has ended up enthroning and idealising him, whilst the current shielding of his work in the hands of his heirs who manage his legacy and authorise adaptations has relegated him to almost untouchable fetishism. But if Beckett is contemporary it’s because he still awakens questions among the public and creativity of today. As a good pretext and driver of many contemporary artworks, for the arts, Beckett is like Godot: he is there and he is not there. And what we learnt from him is no heresy – or maybe it is.

Over the week that this series will be held, we will discover how artists from different generations and contexts adopt and adapt Beckett through all the arts and media that he explored, from cinema to television, from book to stage. We will see how artist Dora García makes a revision of Beckett’s Film (1964) in a hotel in Brussels, which will be screened every afternoon at Fabra i Coats. The reinterpretation by artist Lúa Coderch of the mouth that says Not I in the eponymous film by Beckett (1973) will be broadcast on Betevé. Based on the new Catalan translation of Waiting for Godot, author Josep Pedrals will talk with artist and activist Marcelo Expósito about translating Beckett and appropriating him, which will be held in the bookshop La Tribu. And finally, we will return to Fabra i Coats for the close of the series by actress and dancer Alba Sanmartí, who has created a choreographic interpretation for the occasion, where two actors will stage the didaskaliai, never before seen for this mythical theatrical piece. 

In these three works, representation rejects what is typical, the meaning, and the account arises from a series of narrative effects that draw on our imagination, where Beckett and Godot already co-exist. Erasing and replacing the voice and look that the author gave to his characters, as García and Sanmartí do, or expanding the arena but blurring the face, as Coderch does, the leading role falls to a figure as anonymous as it is collective: us. And this is the legacy of Beckett, to understand authorship as an exercise of appropriation and translation, an act of generosity open to variations, like the desire to share without influencing what waiting for Godot actually is. 

Joana Hurtado Matheu

From 17 to 21 December, from 17.00 to 20.00 
Fabra i Coats - Contemporary Art Centre and Art Factory of Barcelona

Film (Hôtel Wolfers) 
Dora García

35 mm film transferred to HD video, b/w,
11ʹ 31ʺ’
Original version with Spanish subtitles
Courtesy of ProjecteSD, Barcelona
Photographs courtesy of the artist and ProjecteSD, Barcelona

Shot in black and white, the film intertwines two narratives. The visual part of the work shows a path through the interior of the famous Maison Wolfers in Brussels, designed by Henry van de Velde. Dora García uses conventions of the subjective camera, which, like a furtive and distracted eye, at a slow and watchful pace, scans the interior of the mansion in decline. Parallel to the image, the audio of the piece develops, transpiring at the same slow pace. It is a description narrated by a male voice that has nothing to do with the images and describes the actions and shots of the only film made by Samuel Beckett, Film (1964), one of the first to use the subjective camera or point-of-view technique. Through this double narrative of audio and video, the artist places us as participating subjects in a scenario that moves between reality and fiction.

"I decided to use this text with an image corresponding to the subjective camera, portraying something full of melancholy, entropy, former glory, an image that could compete with the face of Buster Keaton in Film. I found this at Maison Wolfers", explains the artist. Film (Hôtel Wolfers) is one of eight video pieces, created for the H Box and commissioned by Hermès, and has been exhibited at the Centre Pompidou, Tate Modern, MUSAC, MUDAM in Luxembourg and at the Yokohama Triennale.

Dora García (Valladolid, 1965) is a visual artist who reflects on the parameters and conventions that govern the presentation of art, on the question of time (real and fictitious) and on the limits between representation and reality. She plays the role of film director, explaining stories (or simply selecting them) and involving us in a game where the rules are very similar to reality, thus enabling us to question it. 

Wednesday, 18 December at 19.00
La Tribu bookshop (carrer Pons i Gallarza, 30)

On és el tot?
Josep Pedrals and Marcelo Expósito 


Sala Beckett commissioned Josep Pedrals with a new translation into Catalan of Waiting for Godot, which he did by comparing three versions: the French original (En attendant Godot, 1952), the English translation by Beckett himself (Waiting for Godot, 1955) and the only existing translation into Catalan, by Joan Oliver (Tot esperant Godot, 1960). Pedrals has followed the words of the author but he has also taken a few licenses, recreating the changes of each text to adapt them to the context of each language (cultural, territorial, etc.). The first difference in comparison to the previous Catalan version is the title.

Where is everything that was in the Catalan version? By removing tot, the everything, from a play where very little happens, means playing with this paradox. A small gesture that, at the same time, distracts and exposes a whole world of possibilities, just as Beckett did. Because Godot represents the act of waiting and its effect, that very slight action that turns nothing into everything: whilst we wait time passes, so much so that we call it living. In everyday repetition and waiting there is tedium, frustration, but also the prodigy of variations, small changes that renew the augury of what is to come. Waiting is also desiring and it is precisely this impossibility of exhausting doubt and diluting yearning that allows us to continue desiring.

With Josep Pedrals and Marcelo Expósito we will discuss the complexity of translating Beckett, of everything lost and gained with each translation, and how the authorship is blurred in the shared drift of common desire.

Josep Pedrals (Barcelona, ​​1979) is a poet, translator and rhapsodist. Seasoned in the world of poetic recital in the Catalan-speaking world, he has collaborated with various media outlets, including the newspapers Avui and ARA and also Catalunya Ràdio. In the musical field, in 2007, he performed the hip-hop song Endoll, with Guillamino. He previously performed with Explosión Bikini and is currently working with the band Els Nens Eutròfics. 

Marcelo Expósito (Puertollano, 1966) is an artist, teacher, essayist, activist and politician. Trained in the schools of institutional critique, conceptual art, public art critic, feminist critique of visual representations and modern political documentary, he develops his work as an artist producing a broad videography and extensive work of an interdisciplinary character, mainly combining video, photography and writing.

Wednesday, 18 December at 18.20
The programme Pantalles on Betevé

No Yo 
Lúa Coderch

Digital video, 16:9, monochannel, colour, stereo,
Writing and direction: Lúa Coderch
Videography: Adrià Sunyol Estadella
Editing: Adrià Sunyol Estadella, Lúa Coderch
Mouth: Ikram Bouloum
Voice: Lúa Coderch
Courtesy of the artist and the gallery àngels barcelona

The title and starting point of this work is the play and film piece by Samuel Beckett Not I (1972), a monologue where a mouth explains fragments of a painful story that, he says, is not his. The video also ties in with a series of works that revolve around a character invented by Coderch in 2012, La noia sense porta a la boca, modelled on a text by Canadian poet Anne Carson about the nymph Echo, who, according to Greek mythology, can only repeat things meaninglessly, endlessly. The artist uses these references to explore different issues related to the voice as a physical phenomenon, with speech and discourse.

We say that through talking we understand one another, by repeating this so often we have come to believe it. The imprecision of language reveals its inefficiency, at the same time as underlining its versatility. Speech has occupied a privileged place in Western tradition, claimed as the most direct way of expressing what we think and feel. But talking does not mean having one’s own voice. Isn’t it true that we obediently and obsessively repeat what we have been taught? Beyond this mouth and what it says, however open, frank and profound, within and outside a language, everything is malleable and that means it is also worn out, superficial. 

In the verbal incontinence of this impersonal mouth, it is difficult to discern a sustainable story and to know who is talking through it. Without identity, sincerity falls into the hole of rhetoric, whilst subjectivity dissolves in a community that is both impenetrable as well as welcoming. What is it doing, who is talking? Our in/ability to communicate, to capture this narrative drift, is, paradoxically, the only thing we have.

Lúa Coderch (Maynas, Peru, 1982) is an artist who combines object and narrative practices in videos, performances and installations that are configured as research devices. Her work focuses on the superficial, aesthetic and phenomenological dimension of our common life and its philosophical and latent political implications.

Wednesday, 20 December at 19.00
Fabra i Coats - Contemporary Art Centre and Art Factory of Barcelona

DIDI & GOGO - Vaig fer-ho? Vés, vés 
Alba Sanmartí

Choreographic interpretation of Waiting for Godot 
Playwriting and direction: Alba Sanmartí Masdeu
Dancing/Interpretation: Anna Fontanet and Manel Salas
Music: Ramon Sanmartí Masdeu
Acknowledgement: Sala Beckett

Vladimir and Estragon (Didi and Gogo) are waiting for Godot. What would happen if Pozzo and Lucky didn’t interrupt? If we left them alone, with nothing to say to each other (without a script), what would the characters of Samuel Beckett do? 

Didi & Gogo is a displacement exercise of the play Waiting for Godot. Based on the approach that Beckett proposes in Quad and other pieces for television, we focus not on the thing written to be spoken, but on what has been written to be seen. The didaskaliai become the work’s score, transforming it into a choreographic piece. Gilles Deleuze, in L'esgotat, talks of Quad as a ritornello force, a journey without object, something that does not advance but is repeated in a new way. The object of Didi & Gogo is always postponed and, therefore, they remain forever trapped on the same path. This piece is a test, a game based on premises that are closer to the visual arts than to the theatrical tradition in the process of creation based on the text.

What does the theatrical text that is not spoken on stage say? In spite of the parentheses, each didaskalia is a delimitation of meaning and Beckett used them a lot, often to contradict his own characters. Beckett refused to interpret his works and at the same time said that he would not accept any adaptations. Here, without his consent, we have tried to teach this ambivalence: the part we don’t see but which directs our gaze, the place where the director indicates the meaning of the reading but which on stage is exposed to interpretation. The end of Waiting for Godot is an example: 

VLADIMIR: Shall we go then?
ESTRAGON: Yes, let's go.
(They do not move.)

Alba Sanmartí Masdeu (Arenys de Mar, 1981) develops her artistic practice in the field of the performing arts. She has worked as an actress and dancer and has collaborated on different artistic projects in the field of visual arts. As a teacher at Varium Espai en Moviment, education becomes a space where the relationship between word and movement can be tested and investigated.

Thanks: Teresa Rossell, Anna Gas, Enric Farrés Duran, Justine Marouzé, Diego Sinniger, Sala Beckett, Jaume Pla 'Mazoni'.