Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"I apologise" in D-Dorf

Last weekend we were in Duesseldorf to see my sister, her hubby and my 15 year old nephew who happened to be really sick all weekend, fever, throwing up, etc... unfortunately. Poor thing, and he's grown to almost double the size since I last saw him. Some photos to follow.

We timed our visit to coincide so we could see Gisele Vienne's "I apologise" at the Tanzhaus NRW. It's an experimental piece that apparently is categorised as a dance piece but really it's a very unusual creative collaboration between Gisele Vienne, Dennis Cooper and the three actors/dancers. There are about 20 wooden boxes on the otherwise bare stage that could be interpreted as caskets but really are boxes for lifesize dolls looking like underage schoolgirls. The main character / Jonathan, a young nerdy guy in a death metal t-shirt, opens the boxes, arranges, rearranges, hits the dolls, even tries to speak to them at one point. You see dolls peeking out from behind some of the boxes, looking almost alive. At one point Jean-Luc Verna appears and lies his head down in a puddle of stage blood that Jonathan has just poured onto the stage. He's tattoed all over (real tattos, no imagination here) and has a strong, eerie, utterly queer presence, he's fascinating to watch and his performance has a real ....gravity . Later a third character, Anja, appears, in a black wig, looking a bit like a doll, starting a vaguely robotic dance. Over this you hear an eerie atmospheric score by Peter Rehberg/Pita (I liked what I heard), with Dennis reciting poems and a passage from "The Sluts" (I think) in between, there is at least one passage where there are several voices and you can't hear them so clearly but something weird/horrible seems to be happening. The piece reaches a certain climactic density towards the end, but there's no closure, it's utterly disorientating, maybe recounting a murder or something horrible, acting out an obsession, making a comment? Who are the dolls and are they more real than the performers? Are they projections or are they projecting themselves? What is happening? It seems to be opening up a secret inner room (not unlike Lynch) where reality and fantasy/obsession blur. Throughout there's a very convincing doomy, earthy, almost pagan atmosphere that somehow reminds me of Dennis' novels.

I haven't seen the apparently useless adaption of "Frisk" and I think it's been said it's difficult to adapt Dennis' novels. A long time ago someone told me he felt like entering a forbidden room when reading "Frisk" for the first time, like being dragged into a previously unknown space. It's exhilarating and disorientating, there is just so much going on, what is real and what is imagined, what is haunting and who is dreaming what, it is not always so clear, and it's also not clear how the reader/ spectator is implicated. So I thought that "I apologise" really worked, not as a straightforward adaption, obviously, but it managed to open up a similarly haunted space of private obsession, memory and violence.

The Tanzhaus is a great place, tucked away near the bad part of town, it's one of those post industrial art complexes you find all over Germany, it's really big, features a huge cafe, a big informal lobby/bar, a dance school at the back (?), and there are some more theatres (??) right next to it. The main room looked a bit like a big school gym room which somehow corresponded with the schoolgirl look of the dolls. At one point the scene looks almost like a highschool shooting too, with the dolls lying all over the floor. There was a very interesting introduction and an even more interesting post-performance discussion with Giselle Vienne (who speaks German), both held in the more informal lobby sitting around in a circle in armchairs. I thought it was interesting and telling that she comes from a philosophical background, she emphasized that she was interested in exploring the gaps between reality and fantasy in her work. The dolls in particular represent this blurring of reality and obsession, they are alive, dead, undead, objects, fantasies, totems, signifyers, etc. Giselle explained that she chose the schoolgirl look because of the powerful "Lolita" image. According to her, the texts by Dennis are very much part of the score, and the only bits of text used, but she sees them more like as if you're in a powerful situation and you hear a song, maybe a Bowie song, but a song that really means something to you, there is no direct connection, just a combination of associations spinning around each other, making the picture more dense.

We thought the introduction would be in the main theatre space so we walked straight in only to see most of the dolls sitting in the front row, in the process of being put into the boxes byt the small crew. So weird! Why were they there? Was it maybe part of a pre show ritual to have them seated in the audience before the performance? I've seen photos from these pieces for quite some time on Dennis' blog so I already managed to establish some bizarre mental connection to them and to see them like that for the first time was...really weird. I loved it, the whole evening was really great! It gave me a strange buzz (with some low, undecipherable frequencies) for the whole weekend...

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