Søren Kierkegaard

2008. Copenhagen: Mellemrum Festival (Kit Johnson)

Is a performance understood mainly forwards or backwards?

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was an avid walker. Walking was “living forwards”. Sitting and contemplating was “living backwards”, with reference to his dictum that “life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards”.

I my interpretation, I focus on the fact, that the performing arts are characterized by the impossibility of a repetition. While watching a performance, one simply experiences it. Once it is finished, the viewer is able to look back on its entirety and understand the artwork. Differently from a book or a painting, a performance lives most of its life in the memory of those, who saw it:

Kierkegaards text about the importance of walking was plotted onto the entire length of a pedestrian passage in central Copenhagen. Walking forwards, I speak the text forwards. Walking backwards, I speak it backwards. Text, walk and passage are a conceptual unity.

In another work, I investigated the Søren Kierkegaards concept of repetition, which as described here, is closely linked to the concept of living forwards/thinking backwards: Gentagelsen af Gjentagelsen