Lisa DochertyQuoting the Wordless Performance

by Lisa Docherty






Working Note: Jolanta Krukowska performed at the University of Auckland in March 1999, on her way to Wellington for the Magdalena Festival of Women’s Performance. Overwhelmed by the presence and prescience of her silence I responded paradoxically in words: moved to writing to preserve and present the movement. From those notes I began to write the following piece which appeared in The Pander, 8 (July 1999): 48 - 49.




Quoting the wordless performance

starting from the truth of my deep silence – Jolanta Krukowska (on The Way of Little Red Riding Hood)


There is a whole "theory" of the event there – by theory I understand theatre , of course – sewn from the same filial filaments, and a whole theory of the immemorial as well. But theory – always blind on this point – seduces us less than the event that slips away unraveling [se defile], in the studio, in the text, in the scene, on the stage. – Jacques Derrida (Glas : 80)


From the Flyer –

"in association with the Magadalena (sic) Festival of Women’s Performance
Jolanta Krukowska
from the Academia Ruchu Theatre
of Poland
presents three shows
The Way of Little Red Riding Hood
Lines of Tension

at the Drama Studio, Rm 322, Level Three, / Arts Bldg. Symonds St, University of Auckland / Thursday 18th March, 8.00pm / Tickets : $10 unwaged, $15 waged"


I’m aware of the paradox. The whole web of paradoxes. I’m talking about immediacy, now? I can’t do it without memory and imminence, together. [It’s coming.] The notes I made then do not surprise me now – does that mean I’ve got the moment, held that thought? It wasn’t a thought, if I hold my breath I feel still the tension in my spine.

I have the words on the flyer in any event

The Akademia Ruchu theatre was begun by Wojciech Krukowski in 1973. Jolanta Krukowska is a founding member of this group – literally an academy of movement they practise a ‘theatre of behaviour.’ This theatrical language operates from street level, can be performed on the street in the milieu of the everyday. The group has toured Europe, America, Japan, performed in theatre festivals, and presented their work in galleries.

TRANSCENDING the commonness of life and the commonness of theatre. Transcending the uncommonness of life through making theatre common [natural]. Reciprocity of experience and of exchange: what is new for us should be new [in a different way] for the other partners of the meeting. We aim at renewing the consciousness of art by renewing the consciousness of life. This has no relation, however, with the use of technology. It is going beyond technology, and closer to the nature of contact.

[from a promotional flyer]

So, I am a partner (an element) in this meeting, implied by (and implicated in) the performance? The lines of tension run from the stage to the audience.


There’s no life
that couldn’t be immortal
if only for a moment.

– Wislawa Szymborska "On Death, Without Exaggeration"



And out of the darkness comes light. And woman. A moment of incipience. Krukowska is kneeling before a silver foil oven tray filled with water. A light falls on the water’s surface. The movement of the water is reflected by the light. Krukowska’s wearing black like the stage that surrounds her. She moves, and in moving she moves the light. Slowly and quietly. (inaudible lapping is language for you) I wait because I know it’s coming. I hold my breath because it is too quiet and I’m making too much noise. I sit very still for should I shift in my seat my movement would seem a dramatic gesture in the face of intense stillness. And I might miss something.

Krukowska puts her hands in the water, and she moves the water, she even hits the surface so that drops splash up into the light so that now the drops interrupt the light. (indistinct and marking the moment of its lapping) Oh. She moves out of the light. Slowly and so that it veils her, and leaves, but briefly, space for her eyes.

There are two acts. And doesn’t coming yearn for an arrival? Krukowska leaves the water in its place on the stage. It has exceeded its foil tray. She stands now behind a pane of glass hanging from the ceiling by two loops of string. By a thread. It’s still dark dark stills it. She moves around the glass, is reflected in the glass (it’s a mirror not a window), sees through the glass (it’s a window not a mirror), leans on it, is dissected by it. Slowly. Then, enter a man. (It is always a man but not always the same man, it is the man of the moment).

He stands close to her but they are separated by the glass. Face to face. She moves close to him across the glass. Krukowska then crouches under the glass and in one definable movement pushes it up with her shoulders and stands so that it rests on his shoulders. So that the glass sinks into the flesh of his neck. Both rest their hands at their sides. I hear, and listen to, the man breathe although I don’t dare to myself. They have flicked off the thread and support the glass between them. They move simultaneously but they are not the same form. They kneel with the glass between them. Ah. It is unbearable. The glass smashes – dropped from two feet above the floor. (in the inconceivable hour where everything explodes) The man and the woman have fallen back in a shared impulse.

What has shattered is space between them. I flinch, I gasp, I smile, I sigh, then I resume normal breath. I am trying to remember how. The man goes back to his seat in the audience. (has the one who has left disappeared completely) There is momentary pleasure in release. (a fervour runs through the limbs aching)


the way of little red riding hood

by way of spilling and breaking, in the wake of water and smashed glass Krukowska moves stage left, pausing to drink in the dark. In the light, now, a square of white sheet on the floor (about four metres squared), weighted with a rock centre front. In the centre stands an empty glass goblet. Entering this white space Krukowska walks to the goblet in bare feet over the sheet, takes the glass in both hands and slowly releases from her mouth a stream of red liquid. She fills the glass. (a trickling of warm blood, indistinct and marking the moment of its lapping) She replaces the glass (the sacrament – from the vine / from the body of a woman) in the centre and walks forward to the left front corner of the sheet, and sits, feet apart placed sole down before her. She picks up a thread of white cotton we had not seen, and begins to sew, wide stitches that bind her foot to the sheet. Slow and deliberate and utterly silent. And the other foot. She stands bound, lifts one foot then the other, from the edge she disturbs the centre, testing the limit but bound to (by) the margin. She makes waves but the glass and the rock are steady. (into the setting of the unending stone) Pulling the thread to tension. She breaks the threads, and moves to the front right corner, and sits silent, feet placed sole to the floor before her. (they draw destiny past the point of a line) She takes a thread and begins to stitch herself from the crotch of her leggings to the sheet. She stands. A disturbance, a ripple, her movement is confined / defined by her relation to the ground beneath her. The glass and the rock remain. (the lapping of warm blood flowing through the vessels) She breaks the thread and moves to the rear of her space, and sits at the left corner limit.

This slow silence is excruciating – I do not know where we are going, I do not know the way. I refer to my flyer, steal a glance at her notes : ‘the way of little red riding hood – I pass the way between my inner state and scene, between my silence and communication, between my everyday life and my creation. I celebrate rituals . . . I listen intently and wonder if I do not express something close (the next truth?).’ I listen intently, but I am looking for the predator wolf. [It’s close?] In this torment, this crucial slowness of capture and freedom, binding and breaking, I am wary of a devouring.

And blinding. Krukowska is tying a white blindfold around her head, and between her fingers she holds a thread. (in a silent delineation of a terror this blind convulsion of realities) She stitches herself by the eyes to the sheet. In through her right eye out through her left. And again. What big eyes you have grandmama . . .

But this is more akin to Russian poet and writer Marina Tsvetaeva’s story of the wolf who loves the lamb he does not eat. Helene Cixous in her book Rootprints (roots like threads take hold in the ground in order to exceed it), has related the tale [p 108-109]:

What interest is there in loving a lamb? . . . she loves the wolf who loves the lamb he does not eat. that is to say: who loves the lamb thus he does not eat him. It is a paradoxical figure: the wolf who contains, hides or reveals an unexpected sweetness in his violence. [. . .]

. . . he receives in return the brilliance [whiteness], the irradiation, the

emanation of his greatness, of his abnegation. And he feeds on his spiritual

brilliance, rather than lamb flesh.

We love the other to the extent to which we love to love. We love to love

because it is an activity which, as a rule, let us say half the time, is a generous activity. The other half is just the opposite: it is an activity that is avaricious, capturing . . .

(urgency and a law find a place on earth, where movement is possible in the search for adhesion to restrictive time) Krukowska stands, her eyes (in blindfold) sutured to the sheet beneath her feet, there is movement but the glass and the rock remain. Unspilled. Pulling the thread taut, she plays the line, then breaks. She moves to the final corner and sits, takes a thread in her hand and begins to stitch through her mouth, by the skin of her teeth. Lips closed in silence. (everything is interrupted in the silent delineation of terror) And again she stands, disturbing the white space to which she has confined her movement (As in Our Lady of the Flowers, Jean Genet writes of the cell, of freedom and exile, of place: "I have made myself a soul to fit its dwelling") she breaks the thread. Krukowska goes to the glass and takes it in both hands (ritually), drinks from it in a single swallow, and walks to the rock. She lifts the empty glass, smashes its bulb against the rock and stands the fractured base on the rock. (in the inconceivable hour where everything explodes) What’s the time Mr. Wolf?


lines of tension

The fragments of the past two events remain in their place. In the darkness which has ended the last act Krukowska has moved to the corner, and she is lighting a cluster of candles on the floor. The light reveals a tripod of three poles, meeting at about six feet, tied together – and from their apex is suspended a rubber glove. (along a path of abstractions in a body tried over and over again) The candles lit Krukowska stands over them, using an upturned glass to lever herself up to grasp two poles and hang above the flame. The bare soles of her feet catch the light, a few inches from its heat. There is the sound of melting wax. It’s elemental. She has written that here, between these three poles, in this / these lines of tension, she is ‘one of three living parts of an installation’. The flame (if this is not light evoking a permanence), the body, Her body (breath in these parallel worlds), and now, now that she has dropped lightly feet flat over the flames – the squelch of wax as it melts to a cooler surface – she releases running water in a slow trickle from the rubber glove above her head. (carrying fire and water love defeats exile at times) The water runs over her head, across her face, over shoulder, breast, belly, thigh, along each leg to the foot, and there extinguishes the light.

it will always elude us
in the inconceivable hour
when everything explodes
When I was a child
I kissed the wet stone
close to paralysis
where such a light
could overwhelm us


In italics throughout I have excerpted lines from Anne-Marie Albiach’s poem ‘Such Sweetness’ published in the1992 English translation of her1985 book Vocative Figure. Jolanta Krukowska’s performance reminded me of this poem which begins with the lines: ‘A trickling of warm blood, indistinct and mark / ing the moment of its lapping’, and ends with the lines I quote finally above. That the book is vocative, as Lines of Tension is figurative, is my reason for their conflation here.



Albiach, Anne-Marie. "Such Sweetness" in Vocative Figure. Trans. Anthony

Barnett. Lewes: Moving Letters, 1992.

Cixous, Helene, and Mireille Calle-Gubar. Rootprints: Memory and Life Writing.

Trans. Eric Prenowitz. New York: Routledge, 1997.



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