Chivalry is Dead
performed by Deutinger & Gottfarb
No more heroic deeds: Chivalry is Dead. At least in Deutinger and Gottfarb's piece, in which, sheathed in full silver armour but deprived of damsels in distress, enemies to defeat, swords, horses or holy grails, the pair embark on a quixotic quest. A bare stage —stunningly lit throughout— becomes their bleak battlefield. By kneeling, stretching, leaving and coming back from the stage, resting, falling and recovering, these two knights produce a score - a suite for two armours and obstinacy. A veil of smoke blurs sight of the stage. Burnt out, these tragi-comic knights surrender, stripping off their armour and leaving its parts behind them, shining in the darkness.
Equally poetic and humorous —at times it could plausibly be a Camelot gym facility—this epic journey remains as a metallic mental landscape and resonates in one's bones, even after it is over.
Right out of a Game of Thrones mockery, two knights in full shining armors seem ready for battle. Facing the audience, they carefully engage their iron-cast bodies in a stiff slow-motion choreography, reaching for an indiscernible goal. Rythmic patterns set in to the sound of their clickety-clacking costumes, while they evolve in gym-like moves, criss-crossing the space. Imagination is at work here: one is riding a metallic bin as battle steed while his colleague runs all over the place, on and off stage. It’s not easy to rock the hard-steel apparel gracefully around, so the well-intentioned duet just takes on the ridicule of it all. They look beautifully foolish, at one point emitting falsetto squeaky sounds while taking yoga poses… It is an heroic fantasy indeed, where no act of bravery is achieved whatsoever, apart from fake-dying in a greenish light. We rather go round in a circle of absurd drollery. And it’s actually quite pleasant.
Deutinger and Gottfarb's Chivalry is Dead is all about empowered travesty. They set themselves a physically challenging task of performing while dressed up in full armour. Despite the obvious movement limitations they try their best under their overloaded costumes: they gallop, run, balance on one leg, move mechanically in rectangular shapes on stage. The squeaking of their metal costumes as they execute these various kinetic tasks turns into a rhythmic beat - which could be easily taken for some contemporary industrial composition. While laughter and self-mockery seems unavoidable at the beginning, a really poignant perspective is yet to come. At one point they both fall clumsily, and their two bodies, however robotic they look to us, evoke strong emotions as they lie almost motionless on the floor. They are definitely not lifeless: their sweat-dripping foreheads, their panting, their failed attempts to return to upright feel like a struggle to become human again. Isn't that what humanity does, repeatedly, when recovering from the traumatic incidents of its history?
Have you ever seen knights in full helmet, chain mail and body armour do aerobics? The idea is absurd. But that’s what Alexander Deutinger and Alexander Gottfarb do in Chivalry is Dead: knee-ups and squat thrusts and yoga balances that make their armour plates clank and rattle loudly. It’s laughable and ridiculous – a bit Monty Python and the Holy Grail. A concerted burst of power-training, meanwhile, feels like a kind of medieval Rocky. It’s bludgeoning stuff, but subtler layers begin to emerge. Tentative touching suggests the human presence hidden beneath all that metal. Knights falling over in aerobics class looks like slapstick; but when they stay fallen, it begins to invoke death. Themes of mortality and brutality grow stronger: the men exit upstage, trailing discarded arm-pieces, gloves, visors, until we’re left to contemplate the metallic debris strewing the stage like the aftermath of battle.