THE CHEMICAL WEDDING
OF CHRISTIAN ROSENKREUTZ
[Amanda's note: this dance theatre performance is quite similar, thematically, to Mobile Homes]
TROIKA RANCH, 2000
- 65 minutes
Created by: Mark Coniglio and Dawn Stoppiello. First Version Performed at: HERE, New York City - June 2000. Performed By: Dawn Stoppiello, Mark Coniglio, Danielle Goldman, Anthony Gongora, Michou Szabo, Sandra Tillett, Diane Vivona and Pam Wagner.
The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz is an evening-length dance, theater, and media work that examines what is lost and gained in the moment of transformation. Most of us have experienced a painful loss of innocence that leads to a deepening of wisdom. And even though we appreciate the ultimate richness that such experiences bring to our lives, we also mourn for what was lost as a result. The Chemical Wedding examines this human process by looking at the transformations of two characters, one set five hundred years in the past and the other fifty years in the future.
The work takes its title from an anonymous, 17th Century alchemical manifesto written in the form of a spiritual allegory. The surrealistic imagery in the tale shows how the title character, Christian Rosenkreutz, uses alchemy a technology of transformation to destroy and then reconstitute a human soul via the "chemical wedding" of the title. His view is one of hope: through a deeply spiritual relationship to the world and technology, he will be able to cure our ills and make us stronger, healthier, and lovelier in every way more vital.
We also worked from a more troubling perspective on transformation found in "The Age of Spiritual Machines" by author Ray Kurzweill. This book compellingly predicts that the continued exponential growth of technology will allow us to download a human mind into a working silicon replacement by the year 2050. Such an operation represents a moment of frightening transformation that will likely be accompanied by great doubt for the first person to do so. This uncertainty may center at first on the question "will I survive the transformation?" but ultimately will become "who will I be afterwards?" What will be lost that cannot be regained?
The Chemical Wedding explores these two notions of transformation by presenting the audience with two parallel protagonists: a Christian Rosenkreutz of the past and a Christian Rosenkreutz of the future.
The character of the past is set in 1459, the year given in the alchemical manifesto. His side of the story is told primarily through choreography, music and surrealistic video imagery. We want to recreate what we felt when reading the book: the sense of strange beauty found in the imagery, the sense of mystery created by the coded symbolic references and a sense a wonder at the outcome of the alchemical process. Over the course of the evening these dance/theater/media sections will show a transformation of a the ancient Rosenkreutz's soul, from broken and decrepit to vital and transcendent. From this perspective, there is no sense of loss, only one of gain.
We see the use of media and sensory technology in the piece as key because these tools are the "magic" of our time. They allow us to bring to the stage experiences whose making is just beyond the viewers understanding. To them, this aspect of the performance should seem to be magic, much as alchemy was for the uninitiated in the 15th Century.
The second Christian Rosenkreutz finds himself in the year 2050 at the moment when he is about to press the button that will begin the download of his mind into a silicon replacement. His trepidation towards his imminent transformation mirrors that which many of us would have when facing such a risky moment in our lives. This character is portrayed by an actor accompanied by his "shadow," a dancer that embodies his emotions through movement. He addresses the audience through a multimedia "voice" that combines his live speaking voice, a manipulated recording of his voice, and projected text. Interspersed with the movement-based sections described above, this character tries to move past his fear of simply dying to address the larger question: will he still have a soul once his transformation is complete?