Letting the body speak as a political weapon is a skill that only few in dance master in such a subtle way as the bodytalk-ers from Münster do – here again in an international co-production and for the first time with the Polish Teatr Rozbark in Bytom. Their new piece, which comes across so seemingly light, playful, and chaotic, is, in actual fact, tremendously multilayered and peppered with cunning references of current events, culture, and art. The author and art critic Steffen Georgi was for us at LOFFT THEATER in Leipzig:
Visually stunning production in surreal images
by Steffen Georgi
translated by Karoline Strys
In the case of the art form of dance things vary: the moment, when the body turns into the transmitter and becomes an articulation tool, is always an atavistic one. This moment holds the immediacy that neither the domestication of dance in the form of the highly stylized art of ballet nor the present day could belie, where each immediacy immediately is in danger of shattering into the artificiality of digital pixels. It seems that nowadays, the former (atavistic) instinct of the prohibition of images has been ultimately replaced by the unconditionality of a requirement for images. A “You definitely have to take a visual picture“ that, as a mantra of a highly technologized Zeitgeist, serves as an answer to all those questions no one really asked.
“BILDERZERSTÖRER is the second part of bodytalk’s “Performensch“-series “NetzHaut“, questioning the relation / behavior of bodies to the mass media and within the mass media context.“, it reads on the website of the bodytalk company about what they intended to bring on stage thematically.
In general, there is a lot of “questioning“ of this and that in contemporary theater, it seems almost fashionable – which in return does not mean that this kind of “questioning“ actually gets through to any interesting questions. Yet, in the case of bodytalk one must mention the discrepancy between intention (what you had in mind, the previously textually postulated and content-related aim) and the result of this intention (the art on stage) seems to be a systematically forced one. A discrepancy deliberately brought into play which is being pursued as “Bildzerstörer“ under the artistic aegis of Yoshiko Waki and Rolf Baumgart. As if both of them knew that the game of art always is a “miracle“ as well. A crucial question that consistently appears is the one to ask whereto this game is heading – and so you take the plunge. Or, in the words of the company: it is about “the miracle that this text means to do with the piece and vice versa…“
If you wish to describe an image of “Bildzerstörer“, you first must acknowledge that this production became quite heavily loaded with visually stunning images. These often surreal images – drifting by, driven towards you or even into you – described: A broad white wall emerges from the depth of the stage into the light. And back again and forth and back. A dancer soon appears to paint a spread-winged bird of prey on the wall. Sharp knives will shred this surface soon. In general, knife blades are flashing dangerously in the stage light ever so often. A female and a male dancer share a wonderfully long and deep kiss while sliding on honey as if they were attached to one another by this honey. A pelican speaks into the microphone. A rose bush starts blooming between male buttocks. Protheses for arms and hands vibrate as insect-like, grotesque, and artificial body outgrowths. A classical phallus cult procession with a profane dildo (including a remarkable deep-throat-performance) is followed by a castration frenzy. On the sinister stage, hypnotic totem spirits are illuminated. In the end, chickens in diapers boogie to the waltz of the flowers while a butcher delivers Bolshoi-worthy dance on pointe.
In between and supporting those images, there is sporadic text: a female dancer explains the correct use of a diabetes injection; Hamlet, Ophelia, and “fucking flowers“ are conjured up; Shakespeare sonnet as a tragicomedy and touching chanteuse-travesty; and before the baby chicken dance to Tschaikowsky, the old Opus party hit “live is life“ emerges as “meat is meat“.
Meat is meat; meat eats meat, and images eat images. And for all that and more, it takes only about an hour.
Held together and driven by the live music, which oscillates trancelike in between pop and folk, just like this production does in between anarchic celebration and concisely choreographed chaos. “Bildzerstörer“ becomes a delirium of ideas that incessantly produces and then again destroys those images. What remains, equal to a postulate, are the dancing bodies. Powerful and individual, rebellious against domestication, in an entirely direct manner. Why Bodytalk exchanges the notion of “Performance“ with “Performensch“ becomes here now more than apparent.
Creating images in order to destroy them and by these means opening up perspectives, moving towards the questions that hardly anyone asks. At its core, that is what Waki and Baumgart pursue once again. The “political“ of this, namely as self-understood political bodytalk-art, lies within not narrowing down already the intention to the result nor the starting to the ending point. The previous thought might not be what will be danced.
Thinking requires fix points, dance needs horizon and spatial depth. The line of sight that opens up depicts (in images!) how in all our image-lusty modernity, the very same old energies are still working.
“Bilderzerstörer“ is dancing the “myth of the civilization process“ and thus is also a good deal of coven and shamanic journey, and celebrates the self-empowerment of the body explicitly as an atavistic moment. The atavistic moment is an anarchic one – and here at times very funny in its sardonic manner. That is to say: among many other things, “Bilderzerstörer“ is, above all, extremely entertaining.