Testimonium, previously titled Testimony 2.2, presents recitation, movement, and music, composed in response to Testimony: The United States 1885 – 1915, the unfinished masterwork by the American Objectivist poet Charles Reznikoff. Bryan Saner recites a reimagined text, unfolding the original with biographical and philosophical material. Stephen Fiehn performs a series of near-silent movement sequences, activating objects on the installation-like stage. Joan of Arc (Tim Kinsella, Bobby Burg, and Theo Katsaounis) perform live an original 6-song cycle. Three alternating modes of performance form a complex weave at three radically different volume levels.
In 1933, Reznikoff, who had a background in law, began composing Testimony, a compilation of rewritten courtroom transcripts. For the next forty years, he meticulously crafted a found poem of testimonies that ran to some 500 pages over two volumes. We believe there is a need now for a rediscovery of Reznikoff. We are drawn to his merciless voice and resolutely American imagery. His aesthetic is an ethic of uncompromised pragmatism. Beyond those formalities, Testimony devotes itself to a powerful subject. It exemplifies the modernist faith in the moral beauty of precision and law; conversely, its vast, diverse, and at times violent, horizontal approach to the past is postmodern and prophetic, capturing voices left out of history books. This material approaches, as the poet Fanny Howe wrote, the purpose of any artwork: “to ‘make manifest the contradictions of Being,’ if only temporarily.”
With direct support from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs (DCASE), Every house has a door debuted Testimonium in Chicago at The Storefront Theater (October 18-October 27, 2013). In November 2013, the company will tour the performance to three venues in the U.K, including Arnoflini in Bristol, LICA at the Nuffield Theatre in Lancaster, and Tramway in Glasgow.