The first evening of Rakete at Tanzquartier Wien takes me on a trip with three stops. I am not sure where I am going or what I will see because, as usual, I have not made specific travel arrangements, aside from arriving on time to get my ticket.
At the beginning of a trip I am often the most aware. My mind is fresh and, because I have been asked to write about this evening, I try to be as mindful of every detail as possible.
Stop 1: Lau Lukkarila – Trouble
Before Trouble starts, my neighbor to the back states to her friend, “This is a dance performance”; already this is in my notebook to demonstrate that I am, in fact, paying close attention.
There is a white dance carpet laid out and the smell of it, of plastic, is quite strong. Perhaps the floor is not used so much.
There is an orange shirt against the wall, an orange towel on the windowsill, and two larger pieces of equipment covered by orange fabric.
Orange is the new black, or orange is “the color of adventure and social communication” (non-verified information I find on the website www.empower-yourself-with-color-psychology.com).
After the audience is settled, the door opens and a hooded figure in black walks in with an orange tent.
I’ve never been camping and I like their legs.
The hooded figure shakes the tent to music I could also shake a tent to, though I’ve never been camping and I don’t have their legs. The sound and the gestures are aggressive and at the same time very inviting.
“I got the poison, I got the remedy” and I get sucked into this beat and form.
Then the language starts; a language that repeats and shifts and it’s language which “one, two, three…” asks: “Who wants to be the grain of the average middle-class culture?”
Average. Middle class. Marginalization. The first questions pop up: What does the average middle class actually look like at the moment? How has the average middle class perhaps shifted? Who decides on marginality? Does marginality at some point shift to being average? Is it all about which perspective one comes from? It seems that the 23-euro orange tent bought on Amazon doesn’t belong in the middle (of the space), as they mention, yet it is far from being marginalized. The shoes from Sports Direct, also a questionable company, are mentioned as well, though they seem to be fine where they are – on the feet.
“Denkmit” liquid gets spilled over the floor after which it is cleaned up with the orange towel. This wet towel is then used by the performer to beat their own body, and I realize that my nerves that register pleasure and pain have also been struck. The memory and the desire to feel these exhilarating sensations on my own body are quite strong. My desire to experience a sensual pain grows when I see the video of Lau with the tattoo artist; I envy the pleasure they seem to have inside their roles of giving and receiving pain, and of presenting it as a form of video art.
I finish this stop with thoughts on how much pain I enjoy, what type of pain turns me on, what pain my body desires, and if these excitations and desires fit into average, white, middle-class culture.
Stop 2: Ulduz Ahmadzadeh/ tanz.labor.labyrinth – Under Cover
I enter the next white space, filled with many objects: a white ramp against the back wall; a clothes rack with clothes and costumes; an overhead projector; an electric water kettle and tea glasses; glass containers filled with various things attached to rope, ready to be lifted from the floor.
In the beginning, Ulduz enters with a tray of tea, serving it to a few people in the audience. I assume that it is Turkish black tea based on the glasses it is in. However, I later read that Ulduz is from Iran, so now I do not know where the tea is from, or, if this is actually relevant.
She is pregnant. She dances to music that I place in a category of “oriental”. She holds two glasses in her hands. She breaks one glass in her hand. She boils water with the lid open, closing the lid when the water is finished.
She removes her long, fake braids.
She projects the tea leaves onto the ramp and wall. She pours boiling water over the leaves. She pours S-Budget cream over the water and the leaves.
The room starts vibrating.
She gets onto the ramp. The walls start vibrating.
She takes off her shirt and holds up two fingers.
She moves her pregnant belly with her hands.
Her gestures simulate a machine gun.
She covers her eyes with her hair;
long hair, transformative hair.
There is desire in her body as she lies on the ramp, legs spread, belly protruding, undulating softly. Or maybe it’s desire in my body that I am projecting onto her.
A flying floating fish enters the space. (A flying floating fish that bumps into things will always get my attention.) It glitters in the light, and the back fin moves back and forth.
The already-created world has become even more mysterious.
Elements of culture (pomegranates, meat-on-the-bone, living flies, amongst other things) have been put into glass containers and hung from the ceiling. They swing like pendulums after being pushed.
She leaves the space.
An installation-type setting with 3 video screens marks the end of the trip.
I leave thinking about love, desire and women warriors.
Stop 3: Hannah De Meyer – new skin
This is the last stop of the evening.
The space is empty but for a white floor and black curtains. A voice enters the space, asking how we are feeling, asking about our emotions, asking if we are feeling anxious or happy and joyful. I always think I am the only person who is constantly feeling anxious so I appreciate the suggestion of this emotion.
The voice – it is a female voice – tells us that we will hear a collective song, and lists mainly women that she dedicates it to, amongst them are Ursula Le Guin and Donna Haraway.
Then she enters the space, walking like a creature and clicking her tongue against the roof of her mouth. At this moment she doesn’t need to communicate with words.
But then, when she uses them, I am carried away into a museum, into the earth, into the womb of her mother, and I understand that I will follow her wherever she suggests that I go. I desire her soothing voice and her storytelling and her softly shifting feet and her delicate bodily gestures that surprise me every now and then with a twist or turn or a louder movement. She is from another time and place and yet she is here, a human creature, looking at the world and sharing her view with me.
I am reminded of the importance of imagination and I am mesmerized to tears while her body speaks in waves. I think about Donna Haraway’s “Story Telling for Earthly Survival” and the potential our imagination can have to change the world.
I see everything that she is telling me about, I am with her in every encounter and memory, though the room is empty besides her body.
Her grandmother tells her to let go.
She tells her grandmother to let go.
She asks, “How does it speak to you, this burning heart?”
She is asked by a lover what she wants.
Her answer sends a chill down my spine: “To be born a woman with a mouth that speaks.”
This is where my trip ends. I leave feeling encouraged and full of desires: to indulge in moments of self-inflicted pain, to read more Donna Haraway and Ursula Le Guin, to be with my own body and thoughts in a studio and explore…to think, to get lost in thoughts, to share my body, to share my thoughts, to speak my mind.
Deborah Hazler is a dancer and choreographer living in Vienna, Austria. She makes her own work and works for others. She is the co-organizer of the platform RAW MATTERS, whose aim is to support performance artists by presenting their works in process. She is currently enrolled as a student for textil·kunst·design at Kunstuniversität Linz. She will see what happens with that.
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