TQW Magazin
Performatorium (Olivia Jaques / Marlies Surtmann) on Radio-Choreography Episode 4 – For the Time Being by Netta Weiser

When Radio-Choreography is Calling. A Response.


When Radio-Choreography is Calling. A Response.

We are in the library of Tanzquartier Wien (TQW), in a stretched out, low, windowless room. Three people are sitting behind a long table on which there are microphones, computers, and mixing desks, behind them heavy curtains reaching from the ceiling to the ground. Opposite them there are we, the audience, placed in two rows partly on chairs, partly on the carpeted floor. The room is suffused with subdued light freshened up by flashing coloured fairy lights. A cosy yet concentrated mood spreads through the room. We are also listening in other places, at other times, in kitchens or archives, at the writing desk, through the car radio or via website. Our ears are connected through space and time, our attention rivetted on the same event, and yet we experience it differently.[1] On-site we are welcomed by Netta Weiser as well as Lola Tseytlin (production) and Stefan Nussbaumer (Radio Orange). Netta Weiser is a choreographer (Berlin, Cologne, Tel Aviv) and part of the team of choreographers who since 2021 have been developing Radio-Choreography as a transboundary performative radio project.[2]

Part of the performance which we are now witnessing at TQW and/or listening to now or later, is dedicated to memories of the respective “original” locations, which are described narratively. Past spaces get in contact with the space of the present (the space of the performance at TQW as well as the broadcast room and the imaginativespaces of the listeners).

Radio-Choreography chooses the library, a place of contemplation, of knowledge, of history. But every library also means excluding knowledge or certain forms of knowledge. Radio-Choreography brings another kind of historiography into this place of quiet studies. It transforms it into a place of performance, of production, of artistic practice.

Netta Weiser receives us with a wide smile – the performance begins in the room before it expands by the radio-acoustic dimension. Several minutes later Weisers’s voice takes the listeners on a tour through time by way of memories and fragments. Weiser adopts different roles in this episode: she is choreographer, moderator, and interviewer. She performs herself, and at the same time many radio hosts and artists before her. She repeats certain procedures, actions, movements, and sounds. Moreover, she herself is present as an artist, and as such she impersonates – for a moment, a performance within the performance – the artist Elsa Enkel (1890–1933) who was mainly active in Greece, but for a short time in Vienna, too. As a prelude to Elsa Enkel’s Chair Dance, Netta Weiser describes to her listeners first the chair and then herself, as tall with short black hair, and maintains that she is wearing a pink T-shirt. The attendees become accomplices and smile impishly about the discrepancy between the person on location and the description for the listeners. An exercise in the power of imagination on the one hand, and a challenge of historiography on the other hand. An eternally diverging translation from one medium into another: from one artist in the past to another artist in the present, and onwards to the imagination in our bodies; from an object – the TQW chair – to its description. An excursion in art history: Ceci n’est pas une pipe.

In the slightly ascending, illuminated aisle leading to the library Netta Weiser performs her own chair dance with the TQW furniture. She takes one of the stacked chairs and acts acoustically for her listeners, visibly in close vicinity for the on-site audience. The chair gets pulled, toppled, turned, climbed, and sat on.

In our imagination, chair dance mixes with chair dance, a performance at the Tanzquartier in Vienna with a past performance at the Kotopouli theatre in Athens.

Hair Dance by Shahrzad Nazarpour is also evoked. Weiser relates that the performance was first enacted at the University of Tehran and began with discarding the hijab, followed by wild headbanging. The artistic adaptation for Radio-Choreography focuses especially on the shushing noise of the performer’s hair, which makes the artist become tangible in our imagination. Here, too, a leap through the space-time continuum, a bridge between Tehran and Vienna, between then and now and later.

Another artist who follows Netta’s time-invoking invitation is Hanna Berger (1910–1962). The dancer was active in the resistance movement against National Socialism, for which she was imprisoned for some time. Her political practice was closely interwoven with her artistic one. In Radio-Choreography, Hanna’s diaries begin to talk: “First topic: awake all night. The right leg is put on the plank bed, the right arm propped up on the lifted knee, so that the head comes to rest again in the right hand. This burdensome position finds its counterpart in the left side. Over the obliquely tensed supporting leg the left arm is swinging, unvaried, monotonous – symbol of the long counting of hours. This dull-uniform passing of time acquires its quasi metronome-like emphasis through the accompaniment of heavy steps coming nearer and slowly departing again. Guards in the yard.”[3]

In the library of Tanzquartier Wien the audience are sitting close-packed in two rows opposite the temporary “radio studio” – on chairs or on the floor in front of them. Amongst them there is also the guest of the evening, Eva-Maria Schaller, dancer and choreographer in Vienna. She is invited to the table and “radio studio” as researcher, expert, and narrator, and talks about Berger’s refractory artistic practices that cannot be indoctrinated. In her diary entries Berger also presaged the threatening war. At the beginning of the 20th century she witnessed the National Socialists’ coming into power in Austria. Uncertain times, where everything runs in its beaten track, yet the social structure begins to totter, a standstill in momentum, a moment of disorientation. Where will these past thoughts that could be present ones lead us? Two months after the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Again a dangerous play of power in Europe, misery and displacement, again curtailment of the freedom of press and opinion. Choreographies of power which recur, but in different ways.

Our repetitions cause the temporal planes to interweave: the present (being-there in the library, and listening to the live broadcast on the radio) which is past even in the moment of writing about it, becomes connected with the past of the reviews of the artistic repetitions. At the same time, these planes offer a prospect of the future: the artistic repetitions of past practices, as well as documentation for filing in the archive hint at later (body-to-body) transmission and reception. This makes the perception of time porous, holes appear, temporal linearity dissolves, the future, present, and past repetitions jump over or touch each other.[4]

We, the recipients through space and time – listening in front of the loudspeakers, recapitulating at the writing desk –, experience a feeling of outside, penetrated by elements of coming together in the joint evocation of times. A coming together, a self-positioning even in the moment of performance. We follow Netta Weiser’s request: We – in this moment in this room of TQW – close our eyes and take each other’s hands.

We all, who are approaching the past performances in loops, are a part of Radio-Choreography in every form of reception. We are constructing a network of multiple perspectives on which the spirits of performances past may unfold again and grow, but differently. We are shifting the meaning of before towards now, tying it up with our life circumstances and our surroundings in our time. These ingredients become a part of the performance through us, and on several levels. Every repetition, be it the archiving of documents, putting together individual fragments for performance and broadcasting, passing on what we have seen, or writing a response to a call, leaves particles of current socio-political logics, socialisation in a specific environment, and a certain understanding of the world, and thus refreshes the performance.


Performatorium is an artist-researcher duo (Olivia Jaques/Marlies Surtmann) as well as a practical research laboratory with, and through artistic means. Jaques/Surtmann have been collaborating for 10 years. As part of the collective of artists and curators Friday Exit (2012–2016) they experimented with various exhibition and discourse formats, as well as managing a book club. In 2017 they founded the Performatorium. One focus of the Performatorium is the interconnectedness of the local performance landscape in Vienna. As an independent feminist platform for performance, until 2020 it provided space for joint experimentation and exchange. Currently the Performatorium works as a laboratory, developing artistic-performative research methods, and activating and actualising past performances.

[1] Cf. Rebecca Schneider who in a conversation with Lucia Ruprecht talks about the ability of repetitions to be simultaneously “the same and different”; Rebecca Schneider / Lucia Ruprecht, “In Our Hands. An Ethics of Gestural Response-ability. Rebecca Schneider in conversation with Lucia Ruprecht”, in: Performance Philosophy, vol. 3, no. 1, 2017, p. 108–125.
[2] Cf. Netta Weiser a. o., Radio Choreography, 2021, https://radio-choreography.de/#the-project (last accessed: 2022/06/23).
[3] Hanna Berger, “An den jungen Tag, Opus 40” (diary entry), 1942, cited from Radio-Choreography Episode 4, read by Christel Dreiling (original manuscript: German Dance Archive, Cologne).
[4] Cf. Rebecca Schneider, Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment, London 2011.