Gods and Dogs
The individual confronting reality and his or her attempts at mastering or avoiding difficulties is one of the key themes in Jirí Kylián's work. Gods and Dogs (2008) explores this same thought process by reflecting on the way in which we dress and the underlying motives that prompt us to choose one item of clothing over another. We spend our entire lives wearing clothes like masks, swapping and changing them depending on circumstance and the way in which others see us. Here again, the viewer can sense Jirí Kylián's fascination for the behaviour of the individual attempting to find his or her place in a society formed of blurred boundaries.
We are born naked – with no protection to face life – First clothes we experience are diapers (If we are lucky).
Later on, we are dressed in anything, which is given to us, forced upon us, or which we have inherited from older brothers or sisters.
They protect us from sun and cold and they cover our nudity.
Later in life, we try to influence the way our body is covered by begging and screaming, to convince our parents or foster parents, to supply us with clothes, which would help our self esteem, or at least give us a slightly dignified look, providing us with some respect from a highly critical and often merciless circle of children surrounding us.
Later, when we are able to pay for our own clothes, we face more difficulty, as we must start making our own choices, and we begin to understand, that by covering our body in different ways, we can enhance or even change our personality, and by doing that we can also change our standing within the society we live in.
Unfortunately, we are not well enough equipped to face these challenges. It all becomes a very intriguing but often deceitful undertaking.
We are easily seduced by trends and fashion, influenced by friends, lovers and family, or made to abide the rules of religions, beliefs, sexual orientation and other convictions.
Later in our lives, we encounter illness (mental or physical), when we have to dress our wounds of life (mental or physical) when our body (physical or spiritual) cannot support our daily routine, we need clothes which enable us to do this.
The clothes, (all kinds of supports, bandages, old age diapers etc.) which we put on whenever we are ill, injured or disabled , reveal to everybody, that we are vulnerable, so we are actually an easy prey, easy to be taken advantage of, or be targeted and attacked. But this state of vulnerability might also create a more unusual circumstance under which this garment represents a certain kind of “stigma” or some sort of a “symbolic” value, elevating us to higher spiritual grounds (the loin cloth of Jesus, the shroud of Gandhi or the clothes pilgrims would wear on their journey….).
Dancers love to dress in rags. Their daily wear is of great psychological significance and has much to do with their individual superstitions. No matter how casual their outfits look, they are never chosen by chance. They hide or reveal their body as well as their momentary mental, physical or emotional state allows them.
In the community of artists, dancers always appear to be the fittest – physically and mentally – but the contrary is true. They are more prone to injury – mental, physical or emotional – than any of their artistic colleagues, because they are obliged to exhibit their own body as a work of art !
Surely, I don’t reveal any great secrets, when I say, that none of us was born perfect. We inherit physical strength and resilience , but also weaknesses, or our mental capacity with all its loopholes – inevitably our emotional armoury will reveal cracks, but – we all must live with this heritage from the moment we scream for the first time, until silence.
In the course of our life, psychological twists and turns, acquired or inherited and illnesses will become our constant companions. And then – suddenly – after having breathed so much life, after being inspired by so many adventures, after being intoxicated by so much living – suddenly, we are declared sick, ill, deranged or dysfunctional.
It is this border, between “normality and insanity”, between “health and sickness” and all the norms which determine the one or the other, which fascinates me.
It can be diagnosed at any moment of our life. But where is exactly this moment, which will ultimately push us over the invisible border into the dark world of insanity and illness, and who will be the “Determinator….?”
It is more than clear to me that I am not the first or the last person to ask these questions, and I think that every emerging generation should re-examine and redefine the borders and the twilight zones of insanity and illness.
But regardless of the borders, within which these human conditions will be confined, surely no positive developments can ever be accomplished without the help of a healthy portion of madness.
Jirí Kylián – November 2008