Wojtek Blecharz / Notes on Transcryptum

The opera Transcryptum was commissioned by the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera in Warsaw and had its pre-premiere there in May 2013. The opera has also became the main subject of my doctoral dissertation which I defended in March 2015 at the University of California in San Diego. The libretto of Transcryptum is the structure and mechanisms of psychological trauma.

„…what happens is not fully experienced or assimilated at once, but after some time, in recurring nightmares, retrospections, arts of possession. It is not about identifying all experience as trauma – but about accepting something unpredictable, an ending, non-continuity in experience.”
Cathy Caruth/K. Bojarska

„Transcryptum is an object, an event, or an artistic operation, a procedure that includes the transcripts of trauma with all the traces leading to it.”Bracha Ettinger

Transcrytpum is an opera-installation the parts of which should be „installed” in several places at the same time, in a random space. Transcryptum is an opera about memory and associations; it is an introduction to the structure of trauma, where history is always alinear.
Everything is fragmented.

„History disintegrates into images, not tales.” Walter Benjamin

„Architecture is a visual expression of memory, or memory as type of architecture.” Louise Bourgeois

„There is nothing inside. You can see nothing.
And it is quiet, as if the audience has subjected itself to the unwritten rule of silence. The space pulls you in. It is difficult to determine its boundaries.
The steps of the spectators are uncertain.”
Katarzyna Bojarska about How Is It by Mirosław Bałka (Tate Modern, London)

Anish Kapoor, Memory
Guggenheim Museum (Berlin, New York)
„a diagram that can be never completed”
Memory is the apotheosis of cognitive process. Set within non-chronological time and fractured space, we are left to negotiate the sculpture’s ensuing incomprehensibility and fragmentation by attempting to piece together the images retained in our memories. We not only have more to see, but have to exert more effort in the act of seeing. Kapoor describes this process as creating „mental sculpture.”

Sound is the main „hero” of Transcryptum, the carrier of memory, the material binding images into the shreds of memories. Some of the fragments of the opera were created to be performed in specific acoustic spaces of Teatr Wielki: the great paint shop, the tiled and the green corridors. Architecture becomes a resonating body.

„Creating prosody and polyphony with symbols centered in the ‘black spot’ or the ‘black sun’ of melancholia thus provided a antidote to depression, a temporary salvation”
Julia Kristeva “Black Sun”

You need to fall really low to be here, to the very bottom. She is here with Him.

Here is where the object of mourning, the grain of trauma hid itself. Everything here is physically tangible, sensual, almost erotic. It is easy to deny everything that has happened. But only for a moment. A futile attempt at defence.

She and her thousands of blocks of memory. An attempt to write, to reconstruct what happened. But when one hand notes down, the other erases what has been written. Thousands of challenges and opportunities. Persistent repetition of actions that have become the rituals of everyday life that we cannot go back to. Loneliness. At the highest point of the structure of memory: depression. You look at it closely, observe it through binoculars.

A space with two exits, two ends, provides a new opportunity, allows us

to believe that maybe the end was different? The clocks go backwards, but can you turn back the time, or do we have to, once again, painstakingly reconstruct the course of events in reverse.

And again we haggle that perhaps it wasn’t like that?

You can look at everything from a distance, but the distance does not guarantee safety. Images are too strong, even if they were thrown somewhere outside.

They push and give rise to anger. Questions that make it impossible to accept: why me?! I – the defence strategy of an exception. It pushes its own Child into the water. It severs ties with Him.

Here is where the documentation of trauma is gathered. The file is growing, like a record of a trial where all the notes are collected. There’s even an ordered, linear course of events.

What has been written down is accepted. Acceptance is crucial to recovery. Something disappears wile it materializes. This tangible, material footprint takes the place of something that is unnameable.

A house burned down with a man inside. The man who rescued the child, who later drowned. The woman survived. Little is known about the events, if they are perceived in a wrong way they tend to have the features of a pornography of death, of morbid sensationalism. Perhaps the only way to reach them is to descent into the depths of the survivor’s trauma. In the aleatoric order of the impossibly fragmented images that cannot be put into a complete narrative lies the possibility to work through the trauma, to go through the work of mourning together.

There are five stops and many passages on the way.

„Wiele tysięcy klocków – zamiast streszczenia” [„Many thousands of blocks – instead of a summary”], Piotr Gruszczyński, the programme of Transcryptum, Teatr Wielki, The National Opera, May 2013.