philosophie dans le boudoir

The philosophy in the boudoir is a music theatre show, premiered in Stuttgart on the 5th of february 2016, and performed by the incredible Neue Vocal Solisten, in the context of the Eclat music festival.

I (FS) conceived the show, directed it, composed the music, compiled the texts, organised the stage design, and i did the video.

The main theme of the show is the pressure (or oppression) put on an individual by a group, more specifically on a woman, by a group of men. This general theme is developed in three different contexts which are displayed simultaneously from three perspectives in the room. Each third of the audience attends one of the three.

To achieve this, i used a simple trick: first, the action is set around a table placed in the center of the room, so that each third of the audience sees the same table but from a different angle, and second the singers use an invented language, which is translated into german and projected above the table.

Each of the three translations is visible by each third of the audience. It is possible to seat in a position which shows a bit of 2 stories, but 360° is not possible.

The first question which came was: how is it possible to make only one music, one action for three radically different actions and contexts without facing destructive and counter productive contradictions?

That could be a statement, which is that the signification of the words is indifferent, or at least disconnected to the musical and theatrical action. That is partly true, the words are radically different according to the version, and sometimes leads towards a absurdist or irrealistic behavior from the singers in relation to the plot. However, the simultaneity of these words and the music and the action create a unity, therefore a signification and "builds a reality” so to speak, an overlaying of meanings. And in any case the general course of the play is very strictly focused on the annihilation of this character (namely, the soprano), so that what is not realistic in detail is consistent on a larger scale.

Johanna Zimmer

The stage design was made of a large paper accumulation, suspended above the singers. It is a sort of "association cloud", in other words a set of evocations which help to focus on one story context.

Before going to details for each of the three contexts and stories, i d like to point out that all the words and ideas and notions expressed in them is found material. One of the plot is taken from La Philosophie dans le Boudoir, by D.A.F de Sade, that i have cut drastically. For the two others I collected historical material, interviews, testimonies, and i´ve cut, rearranged them, without adding anything significant (only linking words). That said for those who wouldn´t believe that these words have really been said or heard in our world: here there is (sadly) no invention and no exaggeration. The sources are mainly accessible on the internet.

A job interview in a big company.

The competition and pressure between big coroporations has become such that the head hunting is more and more shameless, and lifes get broken because of impossible situations or pressures put by companies on individuals, sometimes leading to suicide.
Here we attend a job interview which turns to be blackmail, or greenmail. To be hunted by a big company which offers a better salary is ca common situation. That this offer turns to be blackmail or at least a no choice one is (happily) much more unusual.
The situation is real and is taken from an (anonymous) testimony of an employee.
The names of the employer is changed, the context also, but not the mechanism of the blackmail. The topics and arguments are a compilation of differents CEOs quotations, namely Koch (MBM), Alexandre de Juniac (Air France, about legal working age) Patrick le Lay (french national television, about the role of television to sell empty brains to Coca Cola), Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Nestle ´s Chaiman about water as an product, etc. I also used examples from Naomi Klein, in No Logo, to describe the discret but powerful actions of these companies to modify the legislations and manipulate the experts.

la Philosophy in the Boudoir
Text by D.A.F de Sade

The last scene of the play stages the assembly of libertines. They gave to Eugenie, who is an young adolescent, an initiation in the general moral aspect of life (absence of God, sexual freedom, preeminence of the individual will upon the collective needs, equality man/woman in all the domains). At that moment appears Mrs M., Eugenie´s mother, who comes to rescue her daughter from the influence of these dangerous and immoral free thinkers. What was first the condamnation of the society and its values become the trial of a woman, or in other terms the impersonalization of the values of the society into a single person. Here lies the contradictions of de Sade: his call for freedom and free thinking is presented by him as universal but is actually restricted to the few ones who share his views, and who can afford to keep their life standard through slavery. It is yet another proof that the “declaration Universelle des Droits de l´homme” of the french revolution, which is the ideology he defends and pushes to its extremes, was limited to a very small and privileged group of people, thus unconsciously perpetuating the feodal society model they were loudly condemning.

Stammheim, 1975

During the trial of the RAF members Ensslin, Baarder, Raspe and Meinhof, an intense political and mediatic activity tried to reduce the possible sympathy of the population for the accuses, and to avoid the contagion of their actions and ideas. Years after, part of this activity (there is certainly still much more to discover) has been revealed to the public, notably the one of general attorney Buback, who didn´t believe in the legal action against RAF, but merely in military action. (he said for instance “People like Baader doesn´t deserve a fair trial”). A discret episode of this sadly fascinating saga was the inquiry about Meinhof´s brain. She had a minor brain surgery in 1962 that Buback tried to instrumentalize in 1975 in order to prove that she was insane, and therefore insinuating that she could need another brain surgery. This new one, he suggested, could be done by Dr. Loew, a notorious neurosurgeon in Germany, who was experimenting with “adaptive surgery” on prisoners. What does this elegant term "adaptive” mean? For some it´s cretinization, lobotomy...

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