Ballet School of the Opera House, Sofia
Besides being active as a performer for artists such as Ivo Dimchev or Miet Warlop, Christian Bakalov creates immersive installations in which the public, performers and installations play an equally important part. While pushing and blurring the boundaries between performative actions and installation, he designs different methods that introduce the audience to a poetic universe by personally addressing them via the senses.
This is where the trilogy ETERNIA comes to life. The third part of the trilogy appropriately called ETERNAL is a collective ritual that gauges the essence of human condition through experiencing heightened intimacy and inescapable intensity. ETERNIA originates from Spinoza’s concept of eternity which is also closely linked to life and death. Bakalov thus triggers that special experience by operating sensory collusions between visual and body matters in a common art procedure, in which the audience has equal responsibility and function.
Determining our mark and significance tasks us to step out of our primarily binary thinking habit. It challenges us to put on a different cap: that of our legacy lasting for a long time and how to cope with it.
Back in the 17th century, the famed philosopher Baruch Spinoza already addressed the concept of eternity via a process of three stages of knowledge. The first one is born with mankind’s birth, making one subject to external forces and passive in nature. It’s a knowledge based on the imagination and observation via the emotions and senses, more specifically referring to the touch. Our contact with the outer world can be either positive or negative, depending on our initial experience. The second kind follows the path of reason, a more practical knowledge. Via interaction with our surroundings and by recognizing objects and situations as (dis)similar, we notice the possible connections between the observed things, ourselves and the outer world. Reason helps us act, trust and think more actively. The third stage evolves around the knowledge of the essence, which is an insight into the fundamental core of things. One transcends passive thinking and acting. It’s about immaterialism, having a profound impact on life and actively changing one’s life and those of others.
These stages of knowledge are closely linked to life and death in general. When one dies in the first stage, nothing is left behind and all dies with it. The second stage allows for certain things to linger after one’s departure, as one had a coherent idea of the world. Deterioration of life in the third part is reduced to the absolute minimum. Nearly everything remains. Knowledge of the essence equals eternity.
The trilogy ETERNIA is derived from Spinoza’s concept of eternity and draws upon the immersive, sensory experience crucial in all three stages. At the basis lies mankind’s connection with the surrounding things. Since all stages are interlinked, the third and final part ETERNAL harnesses different elements from its two predecessors, BRIGHT and PURE. While the former focusses on the first knowledge, creates a shared-by-everyone experience in the dark and plays with attraction and rejection, the latter takes the second one into account, researches the relations between the performers and public and urges us to gain mutual trust and to function with each other. ETERNAL approaches a more complex, textual and ceremonial whole. It abandons the notion of freedom and focusses on verbal communication as one of mankind’s essences.
Consequently, it triggers intimacy in a one-on-one interactive performance and gains new meanings and complexities with every added story. The more participants, the more elaborated and multi-layered. Parallel with our evolution from passive to active engagement, appear the struggles within theatre and live art to keep researching multiple ways of stimulating and renewing the relation between the art and body. The trilogy incites us to reject the binary mindset, to make the audience immersed and to include professionals as well as unexperienced performers (e.g. children) on stage. Only through actively triggering the senses and attributing equal responsibilities to the public can live art remain distinct, new and exciting. Only with knowledge of the essence can one leave a mark.
All images including featured image front page © Christian Bakalov