TQW Magazin
Miriam Stoney on Knight-Night by Bryana Fritz & Thibault Lac

Extremely Idealistic; Unrealistic and Impractical[1]


Extremely Idealistic; Unrealistic and Impractical[1]

I suppose it’s inevitable that we ask if we’ve read Don Quixote. From what we gather, none of us has and yet all of us are. Reading Don Quixote; Don Quixote. Sancho Panza too. We read the Wikipedia entry on the tram to the venue and think: “This all sounds familiar”, and maybe we’ve seen, heard, or even used the word “quixotic” in passing, with a vague sense of what it means but no clear idea of what makes this Don eligible for an adjective. Perhaps I assume too much. If Don Quixote were really the first novel, then maybe it’s the last too. “Or was that Ulysses?” we ask, as though firsts and lasts meant anything, as though we’d learned nothing from Don Quixote, who is borne of literature and accordingly dies of a hereditary condition called disillusion with fiction.

Some things have a certain appeal for us in spite, or even because, of their apparent untimeliness. And whose time matters to us now? For 75 minutes on a Saturday night in late February, we are given to disordering the epochs: Jacques Brel, reinterpreted; Prince, reinterpreted; Kathy Acker, reinterpreted; armour, now; love, always; death; and then. The syncopation of languages, French and English, the cycles of repetition turning vanitas, and here we are, still living. In the Middle Ages, in the end times, at the afterparty, now.

As we take our seats in Halle G, a continuous drum of hooves resounds through the room. Standing at the edges of a space marked by its relative emptiness as the stage are Bryana Fritz and Thibault Lac, we presume, with smiles fixed on their faces and a rhythmic pulse juddering their bodies – the absent steed, present only as sound, providing the beat that moves us. We have learned to internalise the horse, once ubiquitous in art; we need little to conjure it. If Knight-Night transposes the “fragmented embodiments of Don Quixotes, not forgetting the infamous sidekick Sancho Panza, sometimes friend, sometimes accomplice, sometimes horse” into the present of these two performers, our task now is to put their performance back into words and see what shapes become intelligible.

For those of us to whom dance is a gleefully illegible medium, and who have not read Don Quixote anyway, this desire for figurative or narrative representation dissipates in the first focused, abstract choreography – the majority of which is performed solo by Fritz. The eerily hollow rendering of Prince’s classic I Would Die 4 U expresses a question posed again in a later soliloquy, which we paraphrase now as: “Do we need another to love?” Dying for U, dancing solo, there’s a self-circularity or rather a repeated about-turn, which is perhaps what keeps us alive and loving as we repeat the fatal self-sacrifice to an (imaginary) other. But now we are losing ourselves; I know.

And we did lose ourselves and were glad of it. In the finer details: the tapered trainers like little medieval booties and the microphone nipples into which the mouth gives sounds without taking and the curtain falling slowly like a guillotine and rising again like an encore. In the resurgence of memory: watching the two performers shield their eyes from a blazing sun, somewhere offstage, we winced with them, recalling the psychedelic night when we too were knights, and only the bright lights, somewhere offstage, could stop us. We thought about our adventures on the stage and asked ourselves, almost earnestly: “Should we also be dancing?” And it’s at this point that we lose ourselves gladly, turn towards a fiction and gallop at full pelt forward, away: the chain of associations that such a meticulously crafted performance can generate is what connects us to each other and takes us further in our considerations of what art might offer us, to make art ourselves.

This is the beauty of Don Quixote and the demonstrative reappropriation of Don Quixote via these other “fragmented embodiments” – it displaces the authority of a literary canon and returns to us the possibility of authorship, ever a possibility and never a given. Such that we might leave the venue and wait fifteen minutes at Burgring for the no. 2 tram to arrive, and while we wait, type a note into our phone: “I have been writing Don Quixote 4 U all this time.


[1] Definition of quixotic according to the online dictionary bab.la (en.bab.la/dictionary/english/quixotic), whose English definitions are powered by Oxford Languages. Given example: a vast and perhaps quixotic project


Miriam Stoney is a writer, translator and artist based in Vienna. Performance and installation works have been presented at: Austrian Cultural Forum, London; Salzburger Kunstverein; Kunstverein München; Kyiv Biennial, Vienna; Belvedere 21, Vienna; Klosterruine Berlin. Her writing has been featured in various literary journals, artist books and exhibition catalogues.