In 1969, the American psychologist Stanley Milgram designed a study to explore if two randomly selected individuals, strangers to each other coming from different American states, are nevertheless connected by acquaintances in between. Starting the test in Kansas/Nebraska, linking people to one individual in Massachusetts, the experiment suggested that an individual knows of any target person only by six degrees of connecting steps: Mr X from Kansas knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows Mrs Z, living in Massachusetts. Even though this experiment showed some flaws in its methodological design, it seemed to prove a fascinating idea which the Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy had already carried out in his fictional essay ‘Chains’ in 1929. In this text the writer even suggested that the population of the whole planet, not just from a region in the United States, was closer together than it had ever been before: “We should select any person from the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth - anyone, anywhere at all - and, using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, one could contact the selected individual using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances.”
What Karinthy and Milgram were dealing with is now known as „The Small World Problem“, a popular research method, especially in times of immaterial communication or social networks like facebook, trying to merge mathematical parameters of statistics with marketing tools to improve accessibility to one’s consumer behaviour. And yet, the thought is fascinating: that everyone of us is connected with anyone on this planet of now 7.5 billion inhabitants, regardless of race, cultural background, continent, religion, age. Next to the political implication of such a thought this idea provides us with a resourceful generator for stories, narratives, fictions about human beings and their lives.
Six Degrees of Separation is based upon the desire to create contemporary storytelling formats in which we explore fiction in shared narrative practices - narratives without a centre plot, but composed of biographical fragments, travel experiences, random encounters, figments of imagination - and maybe very little resolution. We believe that the world is full of stories, told ones and concealed ones, voiced ones and mute ones. Stories that we fantasize are not less true; digging them out and rendering them audible creates a multiplicity of narratives which form a large tapestry of events, a patchwork of textures, interwoven in such a fashion that they somehow may exist on the verge of being. Using a mixed media apparatus (Google Earth; Skype; Google Docs, Facebook, Twitter, etc), we will go through different storytelling exercises focusing on the construction of evasive, critical, imaginative narratives in order to create a common imaginary in the end. So what is it that holds the world(s) together?
References/Literature: Sophie Calle: Exquisite Pain and other writings; George Perec: “Life – A User’s Manual”; “Species of Spaces and other pieces”, Alfred Hitchcock: “Rear Window”; ‘The Phantom of Liberty’, film by Luis Bunuel, 1974; ‘Street Scene’ by Bertolt Brecht; ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ by Augusto Boal; ‘Phone Booth’ (film) by Joel Schumacher.
Peter Stamer works as director, dramaturg, mentor and curator in the field of contemporary theatre and performance. In his projects he is mainly interested in the potency of bodies and their potential for language. His performance and theatre projects, realized all over Europe, also led him to China, Egypt, USA, or Israel. His recent works include a.o. The Path Of Money, a documentary/theatre/installation on a travelling banknote through China; the performance For Your Eyes Only on story telling and blindness; or The Big Event 1 – 3, a documentary theatre play on the assassination of John F. Kennedy (with toxic dreams). Lately he has been working on the international building-performance-project A Future Archeology within which spatial structures in Berlin, Vienna, and Cairo were to be built during five months in 2013. He just finished the New York phase of the project 26 Letters to Deleuze on the Abcédaire of Gilles Deleuze for EMPAC in Troy/New York.
Luanda Casella is a Brazilian writer and storyteller, living and working in Belgium since 2006. Her research focuses on the ways individuals relate to narratives in order to create a sense of identity, to form their opinion of the world, and ultimately to protect themselves. As a writer she's interested in magic realism and in all forms of prose where fictional elements are incorporated in the narratives with the same relevance as real facts — strongly believing that fantastic attributes given to characters and settings give us the freedom we need to address the often phantasmagoric social realities of our history. In her performance work she's concerned with finding techniques to produce hypertext fiction on stage. In other words, to expose the audience to an experience of co-authorship, where viewers are engaged in making intellectual and emotional associations to the completion of the story. In the context of the storytelling format "live-book" — an interaction of spoken word and live jazz music — she connects the experiences of 'reading' to that of 'watching a jazz concert' and builds (with prose) a space for free interpretation. Extremely influenced by plastic theatre, her stage narratives are enhanced by the use of paratextual material — in the form of video projections of written content, maps, objects, costumes and props — suggesting purely poetic truths.