Exit Trapped Performance 

Close Up / Salzburger Festspiele 2012

"Is being free a hunt, a safari, or a mountain tour with a peak as a reward? Is being free the feeling that you have deserved this? Or does satisfaction come from knowing that you have reached it?" Author Lydia Mischkulnig looks at the captive nature of our society – and thinks about how we can regain our freedom.


Translation by David Tushingham / Stefanie Rauchegger

Trapped. I have got to choose, I cannot choose any more. One fact: no go. One word: go. I’ve just discovered that we have no chance. We’ve got to change something or else the planet will explode. I don’t just mean that politically. I am the spark. I am the decisive power, planning humanity’s exit in all contingent circumstances. My situation is not unpromising. The noose of supranational powers may be tightening, not just around me but around everyone if I don’t go and do something. What do I save, myself or my position, that’s the question. The planet supplies everything required for human life in the universe for all time to come. There is this constant struggle for freedom, and as sooner as there has been a spring awakening in the direction of enlightenment and autonomy, the planet is once again caught in the net of capital influences flowing around us. This means that even the Flood is man-made, to clean dirty hands and make them innocent. Humanity’s decline to the status of a creature should not happen again. The influence of capital is therefore regulated. We will overcome that too, but what comes afterwards? A Flood? What would you be liberating yourselves to do, if democracy prevails and its subjective rights are made valid all over the world? Do you think of freedom as a relationship, a region or a condition? Does freedom mean the same thing as a never-ending holiday from any kind of responsibility? Total lack of force? What happens when the vacation lasts too long and depression arouses? What does that feel like compared to being free? Can it be compared with a paid-for stay in the Maldives, in the tropics? Is being free a hunt, a safari, or a mountain tour with a peak as a reward?

Is being free a feeling that you’ve deserved this? Or does satisfaction come from knowing that you have achieved it? The feeling comes from within and from you. Do you actually know how free I am? I turn to an audience that is listening to me with my ears and I can see the audience with my eyes in the theatre under my control. If I have a crisis the play is over, or vice versa. Often this moment is linked to the costs of heating and thus with all energy questions which link us to universal events, to the pinnacle of human cognitive powers, which flows and outlasts many resources. How many cubic metres do you heat? Do you have an extravagant or modest lifestyle? How does this express itself in the height of your ceilings? Have you ever wondered how free you could be if you took up fewer cubic metres? How much space does one person need? Aside from homeliness per square metre.

If we think this through to its conclusion we will end up in a cell. Nine square metres is enough for prisoners in Austria. How much does a grave take up? On a beach holiday two square metres on a sun lounger is enough for people who regard their freedom as recuperation and have no time for laziness. ?Close your eyes and listen to yourself, spend time on the inner ocean of your soul. Release comes from within and takes place inside you. You cannot book relaxation, you create it yourself. The unfaked nature of green meadows doesn’t lie in the north of Thailand, in the foothills of the Himalayas, where they make those brightly coloured umbrellas which we find again in vast numbers on the edge of the dry savannah, only because a functioning economy has melded them with the originality of a colourful continent and naturalized the simple but friendly inhabitants into a harmonious world of animals and plants.

Relax yourself. Your work will be much more expensive. You pay for the stuff your dreams are made of and for being able to experience an explosion of taste above cloud level. A bio-ontological paradise becomes a place of recuperation, at home just like on the Persian Gulf. The difference lies in your experience. Whether this is by plane or through a belief in heaven matters little. You can take off and participate in every position:married, divorced, widowed or single. Paradises have a monopoly on power and are not so much exclusive as they are totalitarian. ?Being free as the result and felt state of freedom is not paradise. Because being free is a demand for fulfillment, specifically: Free yourself from abuse. ?This isn’t advice, it is the drive which has seized hold of mankind. The dictum “respect” is moralistic and everything that is moralistic is exaggerated. The sentence "Free yourself from abuse" is a task for oneself and others. It even applies to the Maldives, because, as long as these islands have not sunk, the day will come when the beautiful Maldivian women are no longer concealed from tourists’ eyes for religious reasons, banished to their desolate native beach. The gentleness ascribed to those from the Far East and the stressed bodies of Europeans are then at least thoroughly "gendered". The equal rights established will lead to equality, so that citizens of the Maldives will also get a taste of rain and snow holidays in the Alps as well as salt from the mountains in Hallstatt.

So, I ask, what will we do when we finally live in Egalité? What will happen to freedom then? Freedom in an endlessly free landscape, free from plundering the Earth’s resources, borders and disputes, what will come after that? A fear of space and time? Is the idea of freedom simply bait to tempt us into the trap of building cages? Bacon to attract the mice. Is freedom fat? Wasn’t there neoliberal advertising saying the recipe for success is to get rid of the fat? And what do the various levels of being free look like? How free is a person who is stuck? How much solidarity is needed to bring about an equal measure of freedom for disabled people? And who is disabled? What changes necessity? Basic financial concerns. Freedom means desire. I therefore demand your contribution. Don’t confuse your contribution with words because I mean coins. Your clinking ones. For that I will spare you the need to exercise a poet’s role in life. You won’t have to sacrifice your flesh, just part of your performance. Here’s the hat. It’s on my head and contains me, as the text is not accidental, as the freedom within. Which you can experiment with it and exchange your culture and your history which is guaranteed by me if you think about it.

So, you ask: Freedom for what? and you relate this question entirely personally just to yourself. This exercise sharpens the tool to lay your pain thresholds bare, to experience your empathy, which will help you break through into the open and disclose the possibility of freeing you from abuse.

How are we going to manage, however, to free ourselves from dependence on one another without destroying our chances of having a holiday? Someone has to do the cleaning and protect the flora and fauna, with simple friendly people remaining in nature. Nature is slavery. I don’t want to preserve it, I would chuck it all in. It would be a waste and of course we’re all threatened by death. That’s something not even the Gods will escape, because they are created by men. And yet, there is a way, being free is nothing fixed, it is a condition which grows. Let us start with the smallest, the pettiest, with those who are dispossessed, who have no rights, because they have been sold to their fellow men.

Let us start with ourselves, in the hour of our death, we have been heading in this direction for ever. Start with your voice, don’t make it too deep, don’t try to be an adult, feel for the child that’s inside you and needs your help on the days when you’re too old to guide it through life any further. You’re leaving it behind now, whatever you’ve done, this child will stay behind in the world you’ve given it. I hope you enjoy the performance!

Salzburg 2012