Empfindsame Zonen

Sensitive Zones

In André Uerba’s Æffective Choreography the five performers György Jellinek, Jone San Martin, Lyllie Rouvière, Manoela Rangel and Pedro Aybar reflect on the feelings inherent in their bodies and show vulnerability. The premiere took place on July 29 as part of the SENSE program series at Radialsystem.

Clad only in socks or barefoot, the audience enters the bright dance floor and sits down. The summer evening sun shines through the windows of the Radialsystem, its warm rays are reflected by the Spree and glitter in the panes. Leaning against the wall, performers György Jellinek, Jone San Martin, Lyllie Rouvière, Manoela Rangel and Pedro Aybar slowly swing their bodies back and forth as one performer pushes a wheeled suitcase into the center of the room. Then the others join in, sitting around the suitcase and on top of each other as if their bodies were also furniture, their legs crossing over. They rub their genitalia against the heads and shoulders of the other performers, caressing hands. They hold each other by the neck, keep contact with each other. Sitting behind a mixing desk, the sound designer Kreatress accompanies the scene with a whispering hum.

With her eyes closed, performer Jone San Martin nestles against the wall where I sit. She begins to caress and undress herself, letting her clothes fall to the floor. By now it is so quiet that even the rubbing of fabric against the skin can be heard. Naked, the performers walk through the space picking up sheets from the floor, pulling them behind them as they walk, then holding them in front of their bodies. The semi-transparent sheets/fabrics show close-ups of genitalia –– their own? They cover themselves behind the photo prints, lie down with them, hide themselves and their faces behind the vulvas and penises. Still lying down, they curve to the side, lying tired and vulnerable in a row. Sounds of dripping ring from the loudspeakers and Kreatkress, who has meanwhile also taken off her clothes, hums a melody in a bright head voice.

After the performers have hung the clothes on a pole construction, they line up behind a microphone and introduce themselves by reciting fragments of memories that have shaped them. In doing so, they work their way from describing some of their external attributes (for example, weight, condition of teeth, number of siblings) to what they have experienced (early death of a parent, bullying based on appearance or sexual identity) and to their internal feelings (feelings of lust, shame, or loneliness). They talk about trauma and queer realities as well as humorous moments and their hormones, sharing their stories with the audience who feels and laughs along. The performers show their wounds and vulnerabilities, which they push through their lives like the rolling suitcase at the beginning of the performance. At the same time, they demonstrate self-love, which is their emancipatory resistance against dysfunctional sensations, relationships and judgments.

In the following sequence, the performers rub themselves with a cold block of ice, whereupon the drops wet the floor. The intertwined bodies also begin to melt into each other. The naked skin reddens due to the cold. To warm themselves up, the performers blow on each other’s arms and bellies, so that it tickles and smacks, making the skin vibrate, transferring from the outside to the inside. Sitting and facing the audience, they eventually let their genitals imitate singing movements. Possibly to show that the semiologically loaded external genitals do not only exist for sexual stimulation. Or that the body does not have to strive for beauty and perfection, that it is okay the way it is, with all its supposed flaws.

Sensitive zones are often linked to the external genitalia in a sexualizing way. But feelings, emotions, memories and wounds also rotate in the body as embodied traces of human coexistence in societies characterized by violent power relations. As if locked in roller suitcases, these affects are often carelessly pushed through everyday life. André Uerba’s Æffective Choreography traces these embodied and perhaps confused transitions and brings them to light in a processual interplay between social interaction and introspection.

On the performative relationship between society and the individual, see Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari „A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia“ (1980), and for further explanation of the term „affect“, see Eric Shouse, „Feeling, Emotion, Affect“, in M/C Journal, 8(6) (2005), URL: https://journal.media-culture.org.au/index.php/mcjournal/article/view/2443.

Photos: Alicja Hoppel

Janine Muckermann is a visual artist and cultural theorist. She co-founded POKUS in early 2019. In her writings she mainly focuses on the connection between text/dance/movements and on performative processes, referring to intersectional questions of power, knowledge, accessibility, and feminist spatial practices.