Prayer – a human function

 

Performance

A woman wakes up under a quilt and gets herself ready to continue her journey. We don’t know when or where her journey started. We don’t know where she is heading for, if the journey is still long or not. She starts walking as if she is ice skating, gliding her feet over the floor. She is joined by a second woman. They both move in perfect synchrony over the stage, slowly but determined. With the force and conviction of the pilgrim who knows that the journey itself is the end. The first woman starts singing. The second one joins in….

While we are following these two women on their journey, we are shown faces of people who talk about what praying is to them. In the long preparation for this performance Heike Schmidt interviewed people from different religious backgrounds in Belgium (Genk, Leuven), Germany (Dresden, Berlin) and China  (Peking) on what it means to pray. Some fragments of these many hours of interviews are part of the performance: they are the small traces of so many lives that still find a meaning in praying. These images are projected on the back wall, on the ground and on the naked backs of the two women.  

Praying is not an easy subject to talk about. An impossible one to talk about with non believers. And maybe even more impossible to talk about with other believers! Even among people of the same belief praying is a delicate subject to discuss: because it is the most intimate, the most personal and the less formalised aspect of one’s faith.

What we see in this performance are not prayers nor traditional praying movements. The physical aspect of praying did however inspire the performance. Discipline, concentration, repetition in movement and in singing. What we call these days ‘the return of the religion’ might be the deeply felt need for these physical techniques that have an individual and a collective dimension. Millions of moslims pray five times a day in the direction of Mecca using a clearly defined set of movements. Hundreds of thousands perform yoga-exercices in order to relax and find spiritual stability.

Praying is not only a vertical relationship, it is also a horizontal relationship. The journey of the two women is not only and maybe not in the first place towards the transcendental Other, but a discovery of the human other, not without conflict, misunderstanding and pain. The spiritual is not found in isolation and inner reflection only, but in confrontation with the fellow pilgrim, i.e. the other human being.