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EROTICISM OF THE WOUND
Helena Waldmann started her career as an assistant of George Tabori, followed by a short-term work as director’s assistant and director in Bochum. With the successful and now widely known production of “Malady of Death” by Marguerite Duras she took up her work as a free-lance director in Frankfurt. The central subject of her work is the human body and its traces in different textures, in the materials of the stage in language and in the memory of the narrative ego. The voyeuristic viewer finds himself in an unusual position: he watches the performance from below, situated on a horizontal level, one beside the other. Waldmann continues to work with these preconditions affecting body and view of the public in her second piece. ‘Circuit’ was introduced in Frankfurt in the Künstler-haus MOUSONTURM at the end of March.
The viewers are seated on a revolving stage forming a voyeuristic kraal around a second stage. A one meter wide glas platform leaves the dancer little room to move in her martyr-dom. Her body is slightly elevated and exposed to the viewers as well as to the attackers placed in the background of the room: song (Karin Niederberger), composition/music (Hubert Machnik), Lighting (Mime Möller), eye (Susanne Kessler). The subject: a chinese puzzle of body and view between sensual pleasure and suffering.
Waldmann’s project bears the title ‘performance’. Artists from various disciplines participate: dance/choreographie, composition, song, lighting. The notion ‘performance’ promises an unconventional and process-like collision of the different disciplines. She may intend in a broad sense to set the viewers going (which is rare), to make them participate in her art. She may hope to provoke an irritation in maintaing their autonomy, including their bodies into the action.
The fascination of Sebastian initiates the dance as well as the entire composition playing with the figure. The dancer Angélique Wilkie (Jamaica) seems to be the ideal person to embody the androgeneus body of the martyr raised in beauty. At the beginning she is tied up in red ribbons which are crossing the room, leading to her attackers: arrows, penitential robe, the strings of power. Icon or disgrace.
In a space of sounds between orchestra and stoning the body is slightly swaying to and fro, testing the extension of his jail and the remaining moving space. May there be not only reluctance but also sacrifice? All presentations of the holy Sebastian include the erotic element of the body surrendering to the knife and arrow and of the body as an opening wound.
The holy Sebastian, sergeant and martyr, in the third or fourth century was condemned by an order of Diokletian to be shot by arrows of his own men due to his resistance, his christian belief and his beauty. He survived and was stoned afterwards. This body, sovereignly withstanding the injures, calmly offering his wounds in celestial beauty, was the subject of countless Renaissance pictures.
When the first attack hits the dancer the room and the viewers start moving. Reluctantly the body of the victim is disentangled for the ritual to start. The arrows are pulled out of the flesh, the stones are collected for a new attack.
However, Sebastian has to be destroyed a second time. He stands up. Simultaneously the moves become slow and the music becomes more passionate. The dance reduces to a minimum, relevés, views. The eye avoids to watch the scene until it closes tremblingly. The martyred body withdraws from the eye after this last glance. He stands up again, returns to the beginning. He has not been hit. Fade-out.
‘Circuit’ is a co-operation of all the signs in the system of the theatre. Light, sound, space, body and voice are performing. Their common motif is the body between agony and ecstasy.Their aim is to produce a ‘startling sensual event’.
Bettina Milz, ballet-tanz 5/95
The pleasure of violence, the body as a target for spears and views. This performance is experimenting with exhibitionism and voyeurism. The revolving stage quickly makes us associate a peep-show. However, this is not what the performance aims at. It is not about seducing the viewer but rather about enduring his views. For 50 minutes the dancer has to endure 70 pairs of eyes on her lonely platform.
Dirk Fuhrig, Frankfurter Rundschau
Helena Waldmann carries it to extremes. She presents the theatre as a viewing machine where the bodies of the performers are pierced by arrow-like views. She has found examples in countless Renaissance pictures. The holy Sebastian, martyred, exposed on a platform, the king’s minions around him, throwing arrows into his still uninjured body without hesitation. Throwing a glance heavenwards, the beautiful adrogyneous young being seems rather delighted than shocked about his pain. Suffering and pain, holiness and eroticism - theatre evokes sensual pleasure... The skin of the actress is ‘opened’. She is exposed to the eyes of the viewers. Theatre goes under your skin. The androgyneous Jamaican dancer is moving on a small dance platform in the middle. The viewers are seated around her on a revolving stage. Out of the four corners various attackers are aiming at her. Arrow-like, song, music and lighting flashes are penetrating the room. Helena Waldmann’s performance hits and displaces the viewer.
Gerald Siegmund, Journal Frankfurt
An expression is forming in the mouth of the singer. Resounding gestures of menace are evocated from her throat. She is stammering mutilated sounds. Angry gnomish noises are dissolving into soundless air at the same moment as they are uttered. Suddenly a shriek is heard, first trembling then harsh which hits the dancer Angélique Wilkie in the midst of the revolving stage. Hesitantly she is feeling her throat as if searching for a splinter. Her face shows no pain, she is only slightly irritated. Without haste she starts moving again, slowly bending her arms on her back, stretching, modelling sculptures with her body. Another cry. This time its might almost leads to an implosion of the Jamaican dancer.
Birgit Glombitza, AZ Frankfurt
Blood-red ribbons stretching through the room, crossing in the middlle of the circular stage. There, on a platform a woman is standing caught and tied. Her arms are bound to her body, one knee is bend, the head is is bowed across her shoulder. This is how the renaissance painters have presented the martyrdom of the holy Sebastian. Slowly the revolving stage starts moving. The circles are drawn and the ties are falling from the Jamaican dancer Angélique Wilkie. Her eyes incredulous, gentle and full of accord glance fleetingly at the public. She seems like a snake casting the slough. Like a rebirth, we experience the slow disentangling of her athletic body, which looks like naked in her flesh-coloured tights. Swaying and turning this reptile-like androgyneous being uncovers its body while being shot by arrows of red and white light. What seemed like the first timid moves of a newborn animal becomes a death-struggle. Winding under the lighting flashes her movements seem haun-ted. In painful panic she throws her body around on the small platform as if imprisoned by jail bars rendering a flight impossible. However, within the pain there seems to be a certain pleasure. In one of the corners Waldmann has installed a glas bowl. From there a big eye is watching the scene, indifferently catching the view of the public. It is closed only after the last desperate move of Sebastian. At the moment where he stands up, accompanied by the voices of a choral, relieved, freed and upright the eye becomes blind.
Ulrike Moser, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 2.4.1995