Peter Friedl
Plaster cast

The Dramatist (Anne, Koba, Blind Boy)
Mixed media
Peter Friedl's both pieces allude to their author and in the exhibition are combined into one installation. His "Untitled" object is, in essence, his self-portrait rendered as a "death mask." The title of another piece "The Dramatist" refers to Friedl's biography. Beginning his career as a theater critic, he has always maintained connection with the theater world. One of the three characters of this piece, "Blind Boy," which can be traced back to the play "Drama for Fools" written by Edward Gordon Craig for a puppet theater, represents the "artist as a child." Puppet theater, an obvious allusion in "The Dramatist," itself is connected with the world of puppets and children's entertainment, i.e. with childhood. Therefore, these two works bring together the beginning and the end of both the artist's life and career.

Puppet theater is often used as a metaphor for describing the world where an external force controls people by pulling their strings. This reading is connected with another character of the "The Dramatist" named Koba, i.e. Joseph Stalin. Finally, the third character, Anne Bonny is a legendary female pirate from the eighteenth century. Her life, full of incredible adventures, has become known to us thanks to the book "A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates" written by Daniel Defoe under a pseudonym. It is hardly possible to distinguish what in the extraordinary life story of this outstanding female adventurer was made up by the writer from what really was part of the theatrical play of Anne's life as staged by herself. Friedl's "Untitled" piece also deals with this long-studied theme of the interpenetration of art and life. Indeed, on the one hand, a plaster face cast is a truthful copy of the artist's face, and, on the other hand, it is also a mask i.e. a theatre prop.

The death mask of the artist can be also interpreted as an allegory of the "death of the author." Indeed, what is the meaning of this play? What connects these three so different characters? Is there anyone above them to pull their strings? It seems that the author is absent here for the reason that drama theater has died and post-dramatic theater that has replaced it no longer gives us a reliable imitation of life but renounces it by demonstrating both the death of the author and the death of theater.

It should also be mentioned that as part of the Romantic movement puppet theater, i.e. theater with puppets and not live actors, being notional in essence, was considered pure theater. At the same time, a puppet is not only an actor but also a toy, which in the hands of a child is engaged not in a theater performance but in a spontaneous real-life play. The child's play and the actor's performance share common ancient origins in myth. To be more precise, they originate from ritual that enacts myth and expresses its sacred meaning. Moreover, as stated by Emile Benveniste, while the stage performance, which reenacts a certain dramatic composition, retains its connection with the sacred meanings of ritual, the child's play keeps "only the form of the sacred drama," since in this type of play "each time everything happens anew." Claude Levi-Strauss, in his turn, offers another, virtually identical, definition — "while rites structures time by transforming events into structures, play transforms structures into events." Similarly, funerary masks exhibited among the living as though retain the dead in the present enabling them to have a semblance of being alive. At the same time, the mask can be understood as a toy, something that once was a living person and then has turned into something else, in this case a sign of death. As the philosopher Giorgio Agamben once noted, the coexistence of structure and event, of synchrony and diachrony, of living and dead, is crucial to shaping both society and individuals, as well as their functioning in time and history.

However, usually these basic factors remain outside the attention of both the public and artists as they are entangled into the natural course of time and history. In order to bring these factors into the limelight, it became necessary for Friedl to stage the death of the author and halt both the performance and life, disassembling them into their constituent elements.
artistic director of the project: Viktor Misiano
National Center for Contemporary Arts
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center
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