HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH
“You shouldn’t let poets lie to you” – Bjork
Propaganda is a dangerous device. Greater the danger yet as we deal in the propaganda of ourselves woven into social devices. The separation of identity and politic is near impossible to discern. No more is the time of lines drawn across a map. In Western culture, where border is fixed (a dangerous privileged confidence), the definition of wall is new. Now it is an invisible line drawn by programmable algorithms so like-minded groups can form and begin a new ideological war. As we teeter, I have to ask; how do we drum up community out of the separated camps when government is formed by bombastic populism? How do we meet again when politic is so entwined in identity?
We witness internal geographical divisions such as the Green Line in Israel. Artists’ Without Walls (and Liminal Spaces afterward) in 2004 stated they would make the wall vanish as a potential hoax on April 1st. They set up projectors with mounted cameras on either side. The wall for a time became transparent and families in communities broken apart could see each other digitally as if the wall were no longer there. Pixelized and distorted, technology began to erode the symbol of wall. Technology is unbiased until a mind tunes it. Tuning. How the West listened over the Berlin Wall became a jumping point for the Hedwig you are about to meet. Field Station Teufelsberg is a radio tower erected on a man-made hill west of Berlin proper. The hill was constructed out of the husks of war rubble atop a never completed Nazi Military Technical College. The tower erected atop was meant to listen over the Berlin wall operated by Americans. In the city square, a Ferris wheel part of the American German Volkfest, grabbed the signals of East Berlin and magnified them to ears back at the tower. (It is of comedic note that this tower appears like a giant phallus on the hill, you should search its name when you have a moment.) The building was abandoned as it became obsolete. Presently for a few euros to the city’s parks department, you can access the public park and hike to the top. Today you will find a commune of artists who have reclaimed the decommissioned building – the works scrawled on the walls are unnamed. They have covered it in a shifting kaleidoscope of graffiti and the modern visual scripture of Berliners on the fringe. I recently walked the remainder of the East Gallery (the last vestiges of the Berlin Wall), and I was struck by the permanence of its graffiti in contrast to the field station’s fluid project. What was the stronger symbol, and why had I only heard about it reading a director note in Barrie? The world watched while Berliners were left to understand what dual identity was. As news moved on, the artists picked up the rubble, and some sold it back to American tourists.
Recognize how performance is a form of propaganda, Hedwig is a radio wave caught on the speakers the allies and axis are listening in on. A collection of different media, a kaleidoscope of graffiti. In all this music, under all that hair, there is a truth of the here and now. And that is the noise between radio stations we skip past, voices without the power to broadcast their signal. We have yet to learn to listen – to empower and make space for those voices. Hedwig is a collision of broken ideologies not existing on either side of the spectrum but the whole spectrum at a flash; over-powering our receivers and blowing our amps. Discord is resonance – music, truth is there in it. We need to engage to not fall deeper into silo. Enjoy Hedwig, celebrate with her, fight with her, and when the time comes, lower your armaments and lift up your hands. You are whole. Love is the fusion of our two selves; our wholeness comes from within, and is celebrated by the other. This is the day of the strange rock and rollers. And the wall will come down. Question authority, question if I should even be directing Hedwig and the implication of that. Until we can step aside and let the tide come, we just widen the divide. It is my hope this version gives heat to that debate.
I want to thank my dedicated creative team for believing in this project and bringing their whole selves. I want to thank the audience for coming and rising to the challenge this piece provides us. My family for keeping me as best put together as they could as I fell to the floor many times figuring out who and what I am. My mentor who hurdled my first wall and told me to always leave a mark on any I face with whatever is in my pocket. And to the kid I visit sometimes that snuck into Blockbuster Video without his parents consent, grabbed this movie on VHS, and watched it in secret in his basement. I hope I have done justice for you. I think they’re proud.
Love above all.
Director Notes, Joe Pagnan