A liar and storyteller
This article by Einar Øvrenget was originally published in the catalogue for the 1999 exhibition of the installation The Leap at Kunstnernes hus.
Peer Gynt is a liar and storyteller and Henrik Ibsens story about Peer is an anti-romantic drama that carries out a merciless critique of the conceited Norwegian. Peer Gynt is a romantic story about creativity and possibility where the lie maintains the presence of possibilities. The Leap is an actionride through the Norwegian cultural history, influenced by the modern amusement park’s flirtation with paying visitors. It is a merciless experience of a real leap, a genuine bodily experience. It is a story about the untruth that appears with the realization of possibilities. About the guilt that is taken over and carried by Peer. About Peer the savior.
It is not the drama Peer Gynt that is the main focus in The Leap, but rather the buckriding which is described at the beginning of this drama. This buckriding over Besseggen ends, as well known, in a leap, and this leap, as well as the riding, is generally accepted as a lie. However, in The Leap both the riding and the leap will be carried out – it will be experienced – and thereby we will also experience that Peer is not a liar in the traditional meaning of this term. Through an active participation in the virtual world of The Leap the users will take Peers identity – and thereby become a “liar”. But the lie is now about to change its character, it exposes a deeper untruth. While Peer’s leap is the story about how he tries to master reality through lying, The Leap’s simulation is an expression of how we master reality through realization – and unrealization.
In The Leap we will experience that Peer in fact does not lie in the sense that there is no correspondence between his claim and what is real. Peer is truthful, and the truth is to be found in the realization. But even though the leap is real, it takes place within that which is unreal, within that which is untrue; within that which is always not allowed to be. It is this surrounding unreal sphere The Leap tries to bring into focus; the untruth of the real leap. In The Leap the expedition over Besseggen appears as a happening that manifests itself in text and music. The rider will constantly be choosing new routes which generates new compounds of text and music. This re-composition through the riding is at the same time an unrealization of the possibility of text and music. Peer does not lie, he is telling the truth. But by being truthful he is also at the same time held captive by untruth. Peer is thereby guilty, and he cannot rid himself of this guilt by any route.
The Leap is one happening, not many. The users takes the identity of Peer, but shows by carrying out the leap that Peer’s lie is not first and foremost a story about the unreal, but rather about the real unrealization of possibilities. However, in The Leap Peer accepts more guilt than it would be fair to demand from a human being. He accepts the guilt of every rider, every untruth is attributed to Peer – and although the ride and the leap is always carried out, it is never ended once and for all. In The Leap Peer appears as responsible for the users unrealization – again and again. It is in truth something superhuman about Peer.
A real leap is a beginning. In our daily life this leap is already carried out and it is an expression for the total absorption in the world, for the most concentrated fall away from our self; but a fall that nevertheless discloses a world – and a self. The beginning keeps a lead where everything is always already leaped over – including the self – although in a hidden manner. The rider in The Leap concentrates on the route and the leap and sits literally with his or her back to the story about this self. It is not the introspection of the rider that generates the story about this self, it is the handling of the buck.
While Ibsen’s description reduces Peer’s leap to an un-happening, The Leap takes Peer’s leap back into the world of happenings. But The Leap invites us to a participation in a virtual realization where the leap is never ended once and for all – like it is in Ibsen’s story; the realization is more elastic, it does not rule out other routes over Besseggen. Thereby is The Leap also a philosophical leap back to the realization itself. In this leap we do not master the things around us, we do not throw ourselves out in the world; rather the world as a whole throws itself at us. It appears as realized and as caught up in what is untrue. Through accepting our guilt Peer has made it possible for us to see. Peer the savior. Peer the liar.