From internationally renowned Chicago-based performance company Every house has a door, Knockdown Center is pleased to present the New York premiere of Testimonium, featuring the band Joan of Arc (Tim Kinsella, Tyson Thurston, and Theo Katsaounis), Stephen Fiehn, and Bryan Saner.
Testimonium, previously titled Testimony 2.2, presents recitation, movement, and music, composed in response to Testimony: The United States 1885 – 1915, the unfinished masterwork by the American Objectivist poet Charles Reznikoff. Bryan Saner recites a reimagined text, unfolding the original with biographical and philosophical material. Stephen Fiehn performs a series of near-silent movement sequences, activating objects on the installation-like stage. Joan of Arc perform live an original 6-song cycle. Three alternating modes of performance form a complex weave at three radically different volume levels.
In 1933, Reznikoff, who had a background in law, began composing Testimony, a compilation of rewritten courtroom transcripts. For the next forty years, he meticulously crafted a found poem of testimonies that ran to some 500 pages over two volumes. We believe there is a need now for a rediscovery of Reznikoff. We are drawn to his merciless voice and resolutely American imagery. His aesthetic is an ethic of uncompromised pragmatism. Beyond those formalities, Testimony devotes itself to a powerful subject. It exemplifies the modernist faith in the moral beauty of precision and law; conversely, its vast, diverse, and at times violent, horizontal approach to the past is postmodern and prophetic, capturing voices left out of history books. This material approaches, as the poet Fanny Howe wrote, the purpose of any artwork: “to ‘make manifest the contradictions of Being,’ if only temporarily.”
With direct support from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs (DCASE), Every house has a door debuted Testimonium in Chicago at The Storefront Theater (October 18-October 27, 2013). In November 2013, the company toured the performance to three venues in the U.K, including Arnoflini in Bristol, LICA at the Nuffield Theatre in Lancaster, and Tramway in Glasgow.
“With the presentation of the work-in-progress of [Testimonium], Every house has a door, have managed to reveal the porous borders between performance and thought. Through their use of an extremely loud live post-rock band with hints of Sonic Youth, text, live actions, and in an attempt to respond to the unfinished poem Testimony by the American Objectivist poet Charles Reznikoff, Goulish and Hixson have shown how thought can unfold in the familiar space that is the black box of the theatre; how, in the end, Plato’s fears were unfounded as the work of the poet does, indeed, touch that of the philosopher.”
—João Florêncio, from “How Performance Thinks: An international, two-day conference co-organized by the PSi Performance and Philosophy Working Group and Kingston University’s practice.research.unit London Studio Centre,” Society for Dance Research Newsletter, July 2012