Baltic Circle: Sauna Lecture 3

The students of International Performance Research (MA) write about their experiences during Baltic Circle International Theatre Festival for Feel free to comment, question and give some feedback on Armanc Yildiz’s review of choreographer Mårten Spångberg’s Sauna Lecture: Amphiboly.

Let the Rhizome Fail

Amphiboly can be explained as the grammatical ambiguity which makes a sentence – or two sentences – understood differently. This Sauna Lecture by Mårten Spångberg was titled Amphiboly, which references the way Spångberg organized his argumentation during the lecture, enjoying this ambiguity and allowing the audience come to their own conclusions. This was the case to some extent, yet his “lecturer” persona got in the way often as he was presenting his case.

Sauna lecture is already an interesting concept for me, given that I have never been to a sauna till as recently as last month, let alone staying there approximately for two hours and listening to a lecture. There were breaks in between, of course, and the breaks were also incorporated in the lecture. Before going further about the lecture, I would like to talk about the issue of intimacy in a sauna.

“Sauna lecture” comes from the tradition of talking about politics in the saunas in Finland. Therefore, sauna becomes a public sphere; which is supposed to be different from private sphere, where intimacy belongs. The hospital like feeling in the sauna and the rules of conduct in the sauna, in addition to health related reasons, work to elide the potential feeling of intimacy; one would not necessarily try to make small talk or make eye contact – which kills the political potential of the sauna as public sphere. Being naked becomes desexualized, and desires should go underground. That is why, listening to a sauna lecture with naked or half naked people was already an inspiration and a special experience for me.

Going back to Spångberg’s lecture, he divided his lecture to several episodes all of which took place sequentially in and out of the sauna. The essay-like structure of the lecture made it into an experience of flipping pages, which was also the case because there were almost no chances to interrupt him and ask a question.

He started out by telling some anecdotes from his personal life, which seemed somewhat disconnected at the beginning; yet later on made more sense. He continued by a small introduction to post structuralism, Deleuze and Lacan; talking about monsters which fits into the language – such as half eagle-half lion – and other monsters which escapes expression, which lives in virtual space, or a part of the Real. Considering the different epistemologies Deleuze and Lacan come from, this kind of juxtaposition did not really made sense, but Spångberg continued his argument clearly favoring Deleuze. Cross referencing the affects literature with Kant and aesthetics philosophy, he concluded the lecture encouraging an art of affects than that of expression.

The uncanny thing about the lecture was the vast gap between the level of language he used at the beginning and at the end. As he went more into philosophy, his use of abstractions and theoretical jargon became inaccessible; which clearly sets out the target audience. Moreover, during his anecdotes, some of the words he used and the generalizations he made were judgmental and sometimes very eurocentric. This kind of an attitude masked behind a scholarly-philosophical language becomes even more sinister and at some point I could not help but feel that I was a part of a failing intellectual foreplay, sitting in a sauna.

Armanc Yildiz
Writer studied Cultural Studies in Istanbul and currently studying International Performance Research (MA) in Helsinki University.