About Frie Leysen
by Thomas Oberender
Addiction is the key word solicited by the editors that comes to my mind when I think about Frie’s life and work for the theatre, although theatre seems to be too limited a term – music, installation, actions – her work is dedicated to the stage, a place where society reaches the height of its own currentness, as Sloterdijk said, and Frie has a unique instinct for the quality and vitality of the pieces that belong onto this place. She has an eminent sense of beauty and dignity. The word addiction is a metaphor for a way of life and a very special perspective that informs Frie’s creativity. Why? Addiction is an engine that never idles. Art is her drug.
The addict is always in motion, searching (the German double meaning of »Sucht = addiction” and »suchen = to search for” is illuminating here) for his fulfilment. Addiction is a search. The fundamentally unquenchable desire of the addict keeps alert his sense of a state of lacking, of incompleteness, of the precious thing that we don’t have. Desire is the addiction for desiring exactly this, although the object of desire is more or less undetermined and can be transferred onto anything. Thus, addiction produces a disruption. For the addict, the world turns into the material that could potentially lead to the desired fulfilment. The addict knows of a reality beside the accepted one, with its own networks, rules and awards. Addiction is a lonely state. Addiction disillusions. Addiction brings order to the world – the addict knows his enemies: the authorities, the powerful, the rulers, the complacent, the exploiters, the people with bad taste, the hypocrites. He toys with them, enticing, tempting, testing the limits. The addict relishes the moment when the masks come off, because he felt them most distinctly. The addict knows: There’s more honesty on the fringes. He risks himself in this stroll across the borders. Addiction is obsession, moving between greed and disgust, happiness and intoxication. The art business is not loved by those who run it. Frie Leysen loves artists. If there is an ‘innocent’ element of addiction, this is it. Addiction is a key and a kind of navigation system – the addict sees signs that others don’t recognize. Thus Frie can show us treasures we never dreamed of. The addict is an expert and knows his stuff, its origins, the networks, the codes, the dealers. The addict struggles with his addiction, he rails against it. Frie Leysen’s stuff is art. She searches for the stuff that will open our eyes, sweep through our brains, delight us, make us smile – not stupidly, but enlightened, touched – that will let us feel connected to the world, grant us a look in the mirror that shows us how it really is. Cruelty, beauty and history mixed into one. Scoring this stuff, even better stuff, and making sure that no one in this game gets too fat, too comfortable, is her life. »Our role is not to please – it is to disturb!” Frie’s work is incorruptible; she is loyal to her cause to the point of self-abandonment, far from any naiveté. And in the end, it comes down to this: Each one of her programmes needs the mixture that she feels is right, it has to transform the location, confront us with strange forces. Festivals are trips. She has tried them all and is still hooked.