Explaining the process of artistic collaboration when there isn’t a shared common language can be as challenging as actually engaging in the work itself. Working with actors already requires finding a way of communicating even when everyone is speaking English; it takes time to find the words that resonate both with the speaker and the listener. So how does it happen when there isn’t a common language (and there isn’t very much time)? On a practical level, it happens with the help of translators who attempt to interpret the already not – so – straight – forward language of theatre from the poetic realm of one tongue to another. It also becomes an ongoing game of old-school telephone (does that translate? You know, on an imaginary landline?) where messages are passed by watching someone who seems to understand the communication and then finding your own interpretation that perceived understanding. It takes striving for clarity and thoughtfulness on the part of the speaker in order to inspire trust and bravery on the part of the listener. Bottom line: What is intended is not going to be what ends up happening, which is always true when it comes to the work of creating something. But without a *perceived* shared common language, you have less control over that process, less control than you could possible imagine.
Communication. What a pain.
But here’s one moment of the millions of little moments that make it necessary work. On the day that it feel to me to complete the write up of the day, the whole company contributed to a discovery that transcends the limitation of language. We are all still vibrating from the discovery and none of us want to put it out there into the larger world just yet. But here is what can be shared:
My interest and my contribution in the preparation weeks leading up to this years World Wide Lab in Taipei revolved around research investigating how traumatic experience effects (alters) DNA, essentially changing your genetic make up. But the shocking part is that, looking at a population of Holocaust survivors, their children, their grandchildren and in some cases, their great grandchildren, the research suggests that the DNA alteration is present in future generation. In other words, trauma itself can be passed down to future generation — so something might trigger a reaction as if you were aware of the intimate details of the event that triggered the trauma, but you are not aware of those detail. In one sense, it is not your trauma. In another sense, it is. The idea is that it (whatever it is) lives in us, but we don’t know to look at it, let alone name it.
Different cultures have different ways of dealing with this and the effect of this, both in healthy and unhealthy ways. But it remains difficult. It is easier to not look back.
What we discovered yesterday is the primordial tendency not look back. Taking on the form of a shared mythology between all of the 10 (!) cultures present in this years World Wide Lab, these ancient stories that are part of the collective unconscious warn us against looking back at Trauma, at looking back, full stop. It is discoveries like these these that both raise the stakes of what we are doing and help reveal the shared common language that was there all along.
– Annie G. Levy, USA