Synopsis and Team


François Sarhan (Composer, Director Staging, Design, France)
Production: Kunst aus der Zeit, Bregenzer Festspiele (Austria)

The piece shows the maniacal activities of three men in three locations in a house : the garage (Do-it-Yourself), kitchen (cooking), living room (dating). The garage is performed by the body percussion player, the kitchen, by the guitar player, and the dating scene by the sax player. Videos are projected on large painted fabric, curtains which are slightly transparent and seperate the three rooms from one another. 
These activities are presented separately first, and the audience is can view each room in the installation. Little by little the three stages converge sonically, and after a while the activity is simultaneous and the musicians play as an ensemble. 
It's possible to watch the show either moving around, or staying in one position, in front of one room. The subject of the piece is : how suppressed erotic feelings underly the most banal situations.



Video Trailer


[…] the basic idea of Homework is the assumption that we all perform superficial, obvious activities in our lives – drinking coffee, hammering nails – as well as activities linked with our subconscious, and therefore not quite so obvious. And theories exist which suggest that these subconscious activities have much to do with sexual urges. Whether this is true or not is not really the point here. In Homework I wanted to try to find a way to show that the transitions between these two kinds of activities are often flowing.

I show people doing things which at first seem simple and obvious, and which then become very unusual, so that the viewers can see how what plays on the surface does not correspond with the figures’ true wishes. In Homework there are three characters, completely independent of each other: the first constructs a toy, the second prepares for a rendezvous, and the third cooks. Three fundamental, human pastimes – building, loving, eating.   

The first of the three characters reads the instruction manual for a mechanical toy, but what he actually does is somehow unrelated to this activity. And precisely this discrepancy shows us what he really wants. As viewers, we see that this concerns the mechanical and the building of something, yet everything we see fails to really fit together somehow. In precisely these gaps a great many things can be read into the moment: subconscious, ritualistic and musical concerns. Since “music” means more than plucking a string: music is everything that lies between gestures.              


My idea was to utilize the elements of music and video to show that something else is also present. And so the viewers experience much more about the people on the stage than they are aware of. Of course this is also amusing, since precisely this form of discrepancy makes people laugh. Homework has many different levels of this kind, which basically address the same thing – but in such different ways that the viewers either have to laugh or else suddenly recognize what they find alarming.


In this work the activities in themselves are unimportant. I merely chose simple things, which we all know, which we all have done at some point, and which could then be transformed into a kind of ritual. Which in turn shows that people do these things to obtain gratification.”

(François Sarhan from an interview with BABETTE KARNER, December 2010)




Background / Biographies

Homework was initially a concert piece commissioned by the Witten Musik Tagen festivities. In 2011, it was then reworked for the stage and commissioned by ‘Kunst aus der Zeit’ on the occasion of the Bregenzer Festspiele. The original idea comes from studying the relationship between musical activity and maniacal activity, and asking what kind of gestures and sounds they produce.  

[…] as a child I was used to doing all sorts of thing. I wrote, I painted and I made music. Later I studied literature.   


There were two turning points in my life: I met two artists who showed me how simply and comfortably you can work, when you stop worrying about technique. The first was the Czech artist Jan Svankmajer, who had once belonged to the old school of Surrealists in the former Czechoslovakia. He spoke bluntly about being totally indifferent to technique and just making what he liked. The other, who I’ve meanwhile collaborated with, is the South African artist and director William Kentridge. We created a piece together, and I spent a lot of time with him in his house in South Africa. It was like an enlightenment for me: in a single morning, with great ease, he moved back and forth in his studio between making charcoal drawings and computer animations, writing and photographing. This method was completely normal and natural for him. He just did it, and it meant nothing to him if someone said: “Yes, but you aren’t a professional writer!” That’s why he’s in the position to create so many things. So I thought: “If something like this is possible, why do I actually think so much about what I make? From now on I’m going to allow myself the freedom to experiment with things I’m not an expert in!” That’s a more interesting and more relaxed way to work. I always felt a lot of inner-pressure when I composed: that my works never fit in the scheme of things, that they weren’t good enough – things like that. […] On the other hand, though, to make a film is a lot more exciting, because it speaks directly to a childlike way of working: you can play with different elements. And when you play, you come closer to yourself and you discover many things that would otherwise remain hidden in your subconscious.”     

(François Sarhan from an interview with BABETTE KARNER, December 2010)



Sound / Music

The music does allude to the ritualist aspects and gives all the dramatical direction. It also shows the destruction of the individual via the paroxysm of physical activity.
I must say, however, that the narrative is quite allusive and doesn't establish a clear plot. My difficult task was to be both precise and allusive…
The idea of body percussion and its short, percussive sounds is linked to the idea of building a mechanical / electronic device, both through the type of sounds and the "DIY" concept (the person in his garage building something produces all the sounds himself). This opposition between the mechanics and the absence of instrument is the central point of the piece, because it questions the existence and the nature of the thing, of the tool, the object. Each of the three characters then has a different perspective : the guitar player integrates the instrument in his action, and the date guy is more of an actor. The music is the hidden link between the three characters, it is what will provoke the main change and catastrophy in their behavior.


© François Sarhan© François Sarhan© François Sarhan
© François Sarhan
© François Sarhan
© François Sarhan