Nocturnal (Com)Passion – A night of “Passion” in the Jesuit Church
A review of a night of "Passion" in the Jesuit Church as part of the VIENNA ART WEEK 2023. By Juliana Furthner.
Following the motto “Inciting Passion”, passions were to be shared and united in this nocturnal performance. Artists from different disciplines and backgrounds were invited to take over a space and, in a collective process, develop an evening focusing on communion, taking up site specific traditional elements and connecting them to the contemporary.
For this special format, an equally special location, likewise charged with “Passion”, was taken over: within the framework of a night opening, the Jesuit Church in the heart of the first district became the setting for VIENNA ART WEEK’S artistic and performative intervention “Nocturnal (Com)Passion”.
The concept of a collective performance by sound artist Rozi Mákó, the Construction Choir Collective, performer Viktor Szeri and organist Roman Hauser opened up a space for new dialogues, for individuality as well as interaction, for experiments and the overlapping of artists and art forms. It additionally opened up the occupied church space, its typical structures and placed it in new contexts. Spanning media and the senses, demarcation, in an artistic or more encompassing sense, was to be contested with openness and sensitivity to the “other”. The aim was to reflect and take decisions on space, dramaturgy, setting and collaboration in such a way that would allow the performance to stand for itself, to be touching, to be a plea for openness, a place for encounters between artists and visitors of all kinds – a place for “Nocturnal Compassion”.
In addition to the adoption and partial recontextualization of the church space, and alongside the concept of a collective performance, the collaboration also followed the idea of openness and collectivity. And the decisions about processes, timings, duration or setup that were discussed and made jointly with the artists during the preparations, as well as the resulting conscious sacrifice of some curatorial control, largely determined the result that could be experienced in the end.
Visitors were welcomed to the church by a light scent of cinnamon, candlelight and a soundscape of moving voices and electronic sounds. The cold, front-facing church benches were juxtaposed with soft cushions placed on the floor. With the areas around the altar, parts of the church that are otherwise kept at a distance were made accessible. Not only the haptic quality, but also the orientation of the various seats was to differ, as, like the performers themselves, the spectators’ gazes did not have to follow a particular direction. The usual frontality was abolished and replaced by a circular arrangement of the visitors, a more communal form.
The performance was structured by phases of individual improvisations by the different artists, divided equally over time. These were linked by shorter phases of interaction and culminated in a final joint improvisation. In addition to the tension between individuality and interaction, a tension and alternation between traditional and experimental elements could be repeatedly discovered within the individual improvisations.
Roman Hauser, main organist at the Jesuit Church, for instance, used the organ to approach synthesizer-like, electronic forms alongside its more familiar sounds. The Construction Choir Collective (CCC), a generally accessible, open and democratic collective of artistic work, carried sounds, harmonies and their own passions through the church, alternating static formations with expansive, performative and almost theatrical moments. Rozi Mákó’s artistic practice stands for structured improvisation, experimental music and the unrepeatable eternity of the present moment. The sounds she produced live, both gently harmonious and embarrassingly loud, were accompanied by the electronically adapted singing of a church hymn and in brief moments were reminiscent of the experimental improvisation of the organ. As a connecting element, a body repeatedly emerged between the improvisations, allowing itself to be carried not only in thought but in fact by the sounds produced. The spontaneous and improvisational creative processes of performer and choreographer Viktor Szeri are usually motivated by a desire to express a mood or a feeling. Moments of dance were thus followed by moments in which the performing body simply became part of the visitors.
In the final part, all art forms eventually came together and engaged in a collective improvisation that temporarily left individual artistic practices almost indistinguishable from one another. Impulses, sounds, moments, movements, encounters and responses no longer had a direction. The result was an interplay that could neither be predicted nor imitated, a moment that was based on a play of visibility and invisibility, of intention and reflection – and ultimately united passions.