Portrait Johannes Schütz

The mobile deployment commando consists of two people. The travelling firm of Jürgen Gosch (director) and Johannes Schütz (stage design) has existed now for more than two decades and is still gaining in dynamics. Berlin, Bochum, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Hanover, Cologne, Zurich are the stations where they have together (and with great success) developed their ideas of theatre. Especially their more recent work has striven towards perfection in a process of self-purification which lies, as it were, in the art of vanishing. Or in venturing the extreme as an apparent provocation. The Gosch / Schütz principle is dis-illusionment. No trickery. At both the formal and substantial levels, this means exposing the tendency of theatre to be scenery. Here obtains Susan Sontag's dictum of "transparency", which the American critic enunciated in her famous essay "Against Interpretation" and meant in the sense of the "experience of the luminosity of the object itself".
Installations in empty space
Schütz's theory of signs for his designs of a never hermetic stage is equally abstract and symbolic. But the symbolic does not dominate the geometrically open performing space that is marked by few lines, but rather shows itself there as an installation. Schütz (with and for Gosch) is constantly drawing boundaries between stage and world. The theatral space is to be recognisable as such. Only no illusions, no false hopes, no illusionary spectacle. The zeitgeist finds no dissemination in this meagreness, this bareness, this emptiness. The story speaks for itself. And performing situation, clarified by means of precisely set external symbols, permits the most extreme energies and impulses on the part of the actors.

In Kleist's Katherine of Heilbronn, nothing but a magical light bulb sheds a small illumination on the black-draped magic box of a stage on whose rear wall clothes racks and chairs were lined up which served as the vehicles to set improvisation in motion. It looked as if Schütz had consulted Peter Brook's The Empty Space for this brilliantly simple stroke.

Symbolic signposts
The way to Hamlet was pointed to, like a pointing finger, by a large spotlight that was directed on a pile of bricks. The rubble was later stacked up into a long wall, with which the new king intends to consolidate the rulership he has established through the murder of his brother and on which he works in vain like one of the damned of the earth. With his axe, the grave-digger hacks a breach in the wall.

In Gorki's Summer Folk, Schütz sets down a gigantic tree-trunk at the rear of the stage which only gradually, over three hours, presents itself to view. And in the radicalised Macbeth, he spanned a white paper sail over the empty surface of the stage that was soon shredded and, like an oriflamme of destruction, underscored the blood, flour and water soiled space.

The framing conditions of theatre
Sometimes Schütz produces reduced formats, offers made in all modesty, gestures of humility, so as to not to cramp the drama. In Jon Fosse's Someone Is Going to Come, Schütz sketched the mathematically exact skeleton of a house on a drawing-board as if its contours had been outlined by a fluorescent marker. A house in a vacuum, without walls. The form was rather an abstract character than a concrete basis for living. The longer one contemplated the house, the less one understood it. There is no security of a covering, nothing lasting, as could also be clearly recognised in Virginia Woolf. The characters Martha and George must cross the void - and end up on the stage apron. Or the characters live, as in Chekov's Three Sisters, in a closed box out of which they can swing freely in a swing only forwards and backwards over the first rows of seats.

Schütz's fundamental emphasis is on the "framing" conditions of theatre itself. Which is why the actors often take seats before the stage in the first row of seats so as to clamber up the apron for their first entry. We remain eye-witnesses: left out of it. And seeing a play. In this simple way, the enigmatic, contemplative void of the stage becomes a function of time - and the reverse. "You see, my son, here space becomes time", Wagner's Gurnemanz instructs Parzifal. Johannes Schütz's technique of reduction lets nothing but essence pass.

Andreas Wilink