Reptile brain or reptile body, it’s your animal (2012)

Joachim Koester

16mm film, color, sound, 5’36”

In the late 1960s the Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski abandoned theatre to create a system of “motions” and “spatial practices” that makes him one of the main contribu- tors to contemporary performance. Grotowski replaced the conventional structure of drama with improvised activities, games and a psychophysical system of exercises to train and refine the bodily and mental awareness of the actor. Exploring the intersection of performance, anthropology and ritual Grotowski developed works that would last for days and often weeks. They would take place – often without an audience – at remote locations like an old farmhouse in rural Poland, an abandoned castle or (the deserts) or a jungle in Mexico. Grotowski visited Mexico in 1968 and several times after. During one of these trips, in 1985, Grotowski planned and directed a work involving 14 volunteers out- side the city of Tlapalcingo, Morelos. Like the charlatan shaman Carlos Castaneda, or the founder of the “Theatre of Cruelty” Antonin Artaud before him, the “wilderness” of Mexico became a scene to expand the boundaries of self and presence. Grotowski’s “motions” and “spatial practices” make an archive of gestures and ideas and engaging in this tradition is an evocation of its claims and promises. Rep- tile brain or reptile body, it’s your animal is a film of Grotowski’s psycho-physical exercises. Here, the wilderness has been ex- changed by a dark garden situated in the middle of Mexico City.