Sale or repair of the soul


  "With knowledge, doubt increases." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

  The most recent project of Burhan Hadžialjević, his performance "In the direction of still life", with its lyricism and wit, imposes two strong associations at the same time. One of them is the questioning of recent historical moment while the other, being a guideline for directed thinking, imposes the question of personality, personal responsibility, and individual spirituality.
   Modern times are not leaving us indifferent. We are all forced to deal directly or indirectly with the imposed (political) situation. This is reflected in most areas of personal and social life. There's the economy, the ecology, the social status, the living conditions, and etc. It seems that in the past twenty years there has been a targeted limitation of individual rights. It was most commonly done in a dishonest way, initiating or inventing dangers which would then require someone like a big brother to control the good and the less good among us.

   The sense of guilt has risen to the peak of human condition. This is not the guilt imposed by religious dogmas, but a completely new kind of guilt. A constant feeling of guilt is being forced upon us because we haven’t paid the electricity, we cannot take our child skiing, we cannot register the car because we have no money and etc. The blame is being passed down on the individual by an interconnected set of big capital interests. The guilt then becomes a constant state. The doctors claim it is the stress. It is fascinating to see how these forces are trying to influence the inhabitants of the planet to give up even those few rights they still have left, to work for an even smaller wages, to disregard education and etc. The pressure is made by the centres of power, the equity accumulated in banking institutions. They are supported by the so-called democratically elected governments and religious organizations of Western churches with a suspicious phrase: Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. A discomfort is brought with the realization that the big capital is perfidiously manipulating with our lives by controlling political decision, the media, and the repressive apparatus.

  The errors of our civilization on some specificity within the historical time are melting away by the introduction of knowledge, confirmed by the philosophical and physical scientific achievements that tell us of the interwovenness of all things in the universe and their constant change. The late post-modernist time of action takes us to an area where the ​​perception of reality is being deconstructed. We realize that reality is subjectively determined, while the realization is consciously reduced to constant reinterpretation. These both spiritual and intellectual findings question the soul of man which, according to the religious and philosophical traditions, is a component of human life, the inner immaterial principle of the body.

   The question of the soul is set at the very beginning of the existence of humanity. To date, no one has given an answer to what is exactly the soul or if it even exists? The Greek word psyche means soul. The term is used to refer to the entire mental essence of living beings. Carl Gustav Jung’s Anima includes the psychological function of connecting the conscious and the unconscious. Anima is thus the primordial image of the collective unconscious. The issue of the soul sale appears in the traditions, but it always seems to be happening to someone else. But haven’t we all, for some small imaginary values, already sold their souls? Are we not familiar with the phrase: “I don’t earn a lot but at least I have a job” or the pensioners’ consent (in Croatia) to the theft which is happening for a number of years now? By awareness it becomes obvious that we agreed upon a slave relationship. The question is passed down to younger generations as well: Weren’t the last twenty years stolen away from them, because a better future in the nation-state is constantly being promised to them. This better future never came and these once young people have forty years now. We are being robbed and exploited under the guise of national interests, only to see these interests resulting in a vast difference between those in power, the nouveau riche, and others, who have been deprived. We are witnessing the divulgions of such thefts and tendentious manipulation of the arising situation. The Church is not ashamed to be building palaces and supporting a corrupt government. The truth is that our situation has been removed from the context of world trends and relies on the fact that all citizens of the former Yugoslavia had social security. If we take a look at U.S. which is a global power, we will realize that even there not all citizens are of the same order of values ​​in relation to the establishment. This is called democracy. We have to wonder if this can be a model for the future. The implied conclusion focuses on the organization of the former common state, regardless of some of its other shortcomings. Socialism, leading to communism was pushed away, but even some rejected Marx's theories have led the theorists which are biased toward the capitalist system to the verify the more recent claims that once it becomes victorious over socialism, the capital itself becomes its greatest enemy.

   Burhan Hadžialjević speaks about contemporary historical moment. We cannot skip the events which surround us. I am citing a significant disobedience to the ruling elite on the streets of New York, Athens, London, Brussels and Berlin, but also Zagreb and Rijeka. Unfortunately, this is what happens when the glass becomes full. Here, in these modest provincial regions, the situation is a bit more stable and the reactions are moderate, but there is still a growing dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in the rest of the country, on continent, in the world. The runaway capitals as well as the statesmen who are performing managerial roles instead of serving as the democratically elected representatives of the people are all contributing to the collapse of the system. The capital has reached over for the lives of those who have shown respect for it, the people of the so-called Western democracies. We are witnessing the awakening and the reactions to the monetary, basically the rightist and the so-called democratic form but the protests are either obscured or suppressed by the repressive machinery of the media that’s ignoring it. The reaction, the criticism, and the illustration are all offered by the artist who himself problematizes the described situation.

    The performance as a performative action is in its base a form of vivid pictures, plays, and theatre. Apart from the visual, dramatic requirements must be met as well. When the artist moves into the medium of stage movement, new requirements are set in front of him. Hadžialjević entrusts his play to three real and one virtual character. The artist inhabits the space with actors and observers. There are three active characters: The revolutionary, Mephisto, and the hunter. They have given conscience which has been framed by the role. The observers obtain role as well if they agree to monitor the execution of the performance. The experience of the observer is an important factor in the process of system description. The intention is to delete the old notion of the "observer" and put in its place a new term - "participant". Two interacting points thus lose their Newtonian calculable position. Such participant reality is constituted by the basic concepts of movement and cognition, through which we experience space, reality, time and consciousness. Thus, the notion of the artist, the creator, is modelled into the form of the participant, while the observer is placed in another role as well; he becomes the participant as well.

    The protagonists of this event can be found in a hunting room, a space filled with hunting trophies of killed living beings. This situation can be justified in several ways. The idea of ​​hunting for wildlife, metaphorically speaking, means also the human hunt. The situation can be seen as primordial human activity that provided survival. Mephisto, the owner of human souls, the Hunter, the owner of the trophies and the revolutionary, the owner of the idea are all found in the same room. The fourth person is present only virtually, and it's the insinuations of the dictator, the figure of Hitler in the interpretation of Charles Chaplin.

   All actors are dressed according to the roles. The Revolutionary's appearance imitates the controversial Che Guevara, who, although of a troubled biography, remains a model for left forces, the symbol for social change in a revolutionary way. During the stage play, he cleans shoes. Another character in this performance is the Hunter. In this dramatic piece, he is the most passive role, although the role of the Hunter represents a person who decides on the lives of several species of animals. He is servicing his typical tool, his weapon. In addition, a synopsis provides a virtual instructive friend that we all love: Charles Chaplin and his famous final speech from the film The Great Dictator. Chaplin's political sympathies have always leaned to the left. At the time of creation of his film it was still not known which horrors will happen, but Chaplin's artistic vision immortalized the terrible truth. In this performance two characters seriously accept the message of the film excerpt. The fourth character does not give his attention to it. This dramatic being is the Mephisto. The famous character that redeems human souls. Its meaning has a long and rich mythology. Mephistopheles is a demon, a mystical creature from the German folk mythology. In the literature it appears at the end of the sixteenth century in the play Doctor Faustusus by Christopher Marlowe, where he is shown as a person that the aged Faustus sold his soul to in exchange for youth and wealth. Goethe made him famous in his Faustus. Elements of this thinking are found on the pages of the book Portrait of Dorian Gray. In a performance Mephisto has the role of a moralist who publically denounces and lists the names of bad human characteristics such as greed, arrogance, paedophilia, suicidality. Although he is the hunter of human souls which does not mean he is a stranger to what is written there, here he is in the role of the one who brings out the humanity, the human soul, which do not necessarily need to be noble. During the whole duration of the stage game he is actually not interested in specific events and he does not even show any care for the film. His hedonism is presented with the audio insert while the hunter and the revolutionary are courageously deciding for a change. They are releasing the captured animals and changing their clothes in Vendettas, the characters by which people all over the world show civil disobedience to the capitalist system. They are joining the movement that has no political or national characteristics, but only seeks social equality of all inhabitants of the Planet. Thus, Mephisto's behaviour remains a bitter indicator of humanity: There will always be people who want to change the individuality to appearance and power.

   Hadžialjević uses the interaction between the artist and the viewer to express a stance, but also for a debate. The performance elements appear to be regressive. The author gives a physical look to the aforementioned situation. It manifests a discrepancy between with the reality and the personalities. The environment, prone to averageness and clichés, is inhibiting the releasing. The individual perception is mixing with the idea of ​​the general, universal space. Hadžialjević loves people, but he does not forgive them for their inaction. The rigor and the presentation of selected protagonists who deliver the content bring the performance with their atypical dramatic actions to a discomfort. This art scene expresses a strong warning. It makes us question our individual roles in life. If we admit it or not, we are living one of these presented roles that are found in the performance. The question is, which one did we like and where did we stop with our maturation. But conscious people can always awaken their awareness and turn the life axis to honesty and social tolerance of diversity.

   After all; you need to have a soul in order to be able to sell it!

   Eugen Borkovsky, XII. 2011