speak, organ, speak!

Thomas Köck on ORACLE and SACRIFICE 1 oder die evakuierung der gegenwart by Claudia Bosse
Thomas Köck on ORACLE and SACRIFICE 1 oder die evakuierung der gegenwart by Claudia Bosse

So there she’s lying then, buried under the oversized heart, trying to handle it somehow, this organ, that can barely handle itself, with all the metaphors that have become attached to it, almost obscuring what it is to begin with (whatever that means, “to begin with”), a muscle, or, more precisely, a hollow muscular organ, a tissue that seems almost extraterrestrial, actually, and has a very strange life of its own. At least, that’s how it’s being presented to us over the course of the evening while at the same time unfailingly retaining its alienness and autonomy in a wonderful way.

While we’re on the subject of autonomy: Claudia Bosse’s oeuvre has never been about simply making political signs but about making the signs themselves, the act of becoming a sign, political, turning the moment before something becomes a narrative into a political issue, not a simple image, not a simple “signe” to be translated because it denotes its referent, but instead looking repeatedly at the objects, the spaces, the structures and, of course, the bodies in their untranslatable autonomy, placing them in the hands of the audience, but doing so without ascribing meaning and supposition to them in advance to make them decipherable. Instead, poetically condensing them and arranging them in a resistant manner to bestow them with new perspectives, non-sense and, above all, autonomy. Microphones are placed in front of the real bovine heart and – please let it speak – the hieroscopy has to take place, after all, “speak, organ, speak” in these chaotic times, which also appear to produce nothing but clowns and non-sense, but it doesn’t speak, of course, instead this bovine heart itself seems to stare at the strange ritual taking place before it, people’s attempt, desperate and nonsensical in itself, to be in charge of their lives, of the time at their disposal, time, which has been conceptualised as immanent not only by the theory of relativity but across cultures as well, meaning that the present, the future and the past are, in principle, accessible at the same time, just like a stretch of space.

This consultation of the heart, along with the lack of the hollow organ’s reaction, as it looks back rather sceptically and asks what this is all about, is one of many absurdly funny situations in Claudia Bosse’s first solo ORACLE and SACRIFICE.

Even though the term “solo” is a bit misleading. Rather, it seems like an examination of the countless twists and turns her work has taken over recent years, all the questions that have accumulated, all the varied material. And, quite miraculously, she assembles all the ghosts, experiences, accomplices and travels of her long-standing, radical, uncompromising artistic practice, so she’s never actually “solo” on stage but constantly surrounded by times, questions and the material of recent years.

And so the separate spaces overlap in ORACLE and SACRIFICE as well, between texts about Thyestes, ancient ritual sacrifices and the Indonesian concepts of time, linearity and causality, without obliterating each other or taking up each other’s space. Conversely, it seems quite reasonable, especially here and especially now, as the cult of sacrifice is celebrating a downright curious renaissance in the digital space, which in turn causes archaic relapses, increasing polarisation and a desire for collective disinhibition outside the digital space, to look into the origins of theatre, which emerged from the cult of sacrifice. Incidentally, it was autonomous women, healers and clairvoyants who were stigmatised as witches during the early stage of capitalism, persecuted for their “pagan” rituals and killed by the hundreds of thousands across Europe, as Silvia Federici informs us – the main concern being that they provided their services free of charge, which in turn was considered disruptive to the expansion of the newly established markets.

And according to Jason Moore, capitalism ought to be read as part of the “web of life” whose consistent revolutionary mechanics involves forever transforming new parts of this “web of life” into “nature”, i.e. into a cheap commodity left to appropriation. Forests, animals, bodies, sections of the population, cultures, reproductive work, etc. The true power of Claudia Bosse’s aesthetics lies precisely in always thinking in terms of symbioses instead of meanings, i.e. changing back not only the objects, the times, the material and the “natural” organs and elements on stage but also the bodies, acknowledging their dignity and bestowing them with a life of their own that points far beyond our current systems of ascription and meaning, and rejects a simple, easy-to-interpret serviceability of art. Instead, you find yourself in a poetic, intractable landscape that alternates effortlessly between autobiographical traces, sculpture, dance and documentary fiction.

I beg your pardon, I ramble on and move around in circles and could go on rambling a little longer and haven’t yet said much about the actual content of ORACLE and SACRIFICE, haven’t even begun to expatiate on the victim metaphor or to oracle my way through the eviscerated organs on stage, pondering what’s happening, what will happen and what all of this may have been, what I will have read into it, what it will be identified as, this spooky solo that manages to shift so coolly and casually between archaism, readymades and modern art. But I’m not a critic, after all, and certainly not a hieroscopist, and, what’s more, I want to respect the entrails’ space, but yes, of course entrails are being read, yes, certainly a sacrifice is performed, and yes, of course the music by Günther Auer is seriously cool as always, at times gently working its way through polyrhythmic references of ritualistic sounds while still remaining elegantly assistive in its autonomy. Yes, of course Claudia Bosse is an outstanding performer and she’s a joy to watch as she puts you under a spell in no time with her casual, straightforward demeanour, even managing the feat of mastering a head-on situation imposed by hygiene regulations just about effortlessly, and yes, sure, Claudia Bosse takes a lot of time before she starts to speak. She lets the first sounds and sighs escape from the mouth through the windpipe via the tongue with utmost care before they slowly turn into meaningful language and signs, and yes, naturally some ooscopy takes place in an insanely funny and yet strictly archaic ritual, yes, it is performed on a boyish young man who is just about the right age to be sacrificed, and certainly the hieroscopist’s hands are washed as she stares at us with sceptical irritation, yes, the organs are dragged, carried, tossed across the stage, yes, the innards are scattered all over the place, yes, at some point we find ourselves at a historical-poetic crime scene where everything is present simultaneously and at the same time everything is withheld, and yes, a double of Claudia Bosse enters the scene, herself a hieroscopist of criminal law, a public prosecutor from Bielefeld, who in her turn reads organs, bodies and entrails like pieces of evidence and, in the process, very charmingly tells us a lot about the archaeological work done by this other Claudia Bosse, who, for more than a quarter of a century, in collaboration with various accomplices, simply hasn’t left the signs, times and spaces in peace, and yes, the organs are left to being read, and yes, the entrails contain everything, like a code, like an identifiable structure, and, no, of course the hieroscopist doesn’t reveal what they have to say, these entrails, what they prophesy, what is going to happen, what is written, what was written, has always been written in them, at all times, what identifies them. Of course she doesn’t tell us what she ultimately reads, of course she lets them, like all other objects and bodies on stage, as well as all the pasts to come, all the futures still to be forgotten that are already hanging in the air, sharing their space with her, retain their autonomy, their potentialities, their time, and instead she laughs cheerily in our faces after having crawled out from under the heart, having extricated herself, and, with an oracularly mischievous grin, lets the heart continue to circle around her.


Thomas Köck, born in 1986 in Steyr, Upper Austria, works as a playwright, author and musician. He is a co-initiator of nazisundgoldmund.net and creates concertante readymades with Andreas Spechtl under the label ghostdance. He has received several awards for his theatre texts, which are being staged throughout the German-speaking world.