Residenz-Topical Section 3: Körper Kontakte

Quite apart from any personal and social limitations and changes, the experience of the Corona-crisis has first and foremost been an inscription into our bodies, into each and every one. As an act of solidarity and to protect them from infection, individual bodies are being separated collectively from communal life. This paradox contains the body’s physical experience of the pandemic, with sweeping consequences. Because encountering physical bodies is the requirement for any experience of community and human interaction. If physical encounters and all forms of communal experience are suspended, our communities’ existence is under threat.

The Corona-crisis has revealed the potentially ambivalent, alienated and fear-laden nature of our relationship with our own and others’ bodies, and it also taught us how strong our longing and need for physical contact is. All kinds of bodily fluids have become the greatest source of danger in our public lives. We have learned to protect ourselves and others from viruses, mutations, from invisible and unpredictable assailants. But beneath all our measures for precaution and protection, there it is: our pulsating, vibrating body, reminding us of our deeply physical nature.

The third topical focus is dedicated to the body, or, to be precise: to the body with pandemic experience. The aim is to bring the body as the arena of social and political fantasies back to the centre of attention. After a long period of abstinence, we want to give ourselves the opportunity to refuel with physical energies through artistic devices, everyday practices and inspirations.

The starting point for this topical section will be a new work by choreographer Doris Uhlich from Vienna: “anti-dry” (WT). It is the second part of a series in which the choreographer explores a substance that many people regard with ambivalent feelings: mucus.

“During the pandemic, mucus has become a substance fraught with anxiety. It can be the carrier for Corona-viruses. But not all mucus is bad. Not all snot is dangerous. In sex, mucus is a sign of enjoyment. Foetuses swim in amniotic fluid, we are all born covered in mucus, the primordial soup is a link between all life-forms.”
(Doris Uhlich)

In medicine and biology, mucus is seen as a breeding ground for disease carriers like viruses or bacteria and therefore fraught with disgust and fear. In science-fiction films, it often appears in connection with aliens. It is associated with the non-human, the unknown, the substance that spreads in a flow.

Mucus is attributed with many negative characteristics. And yet it is vital for most living creatures, whether human, animal or plant. It serves as glue, lubrication, selective barrier, hydrogel. It protects from dehydration, foreign matter, abrasion and is used as endogenous building material. It patches up organisms and creates connections. In sex, it is a sign of excitement. Beneath our skin, inside our bodies, we are damp; wetness pulsates. When we breathe, sweat, talk, cough, sneeze and become aroused, we produce mucous substances that are released to the outside world.

From the foundations of these ideas, Doris Uhlich will develop a new stage work for Residenz with a group of performers. They envision a format that will confront the audience members themselves with mucus. Face to face. Slime to slime.

„The human organism is neither wholly human, as a person, nor just an organism. It is an abstract machine, radically immanent, which captures, transforms and produces interconnections.“
(Rosi Braidotti)

Doris Uhlich studied “Contemporary Dance Education” at Vienna’s Music and Arts University and has been developing her own projects since 2006. In her productions she often challenges conventional formats and body images: She works with people with varying backgrounds and physical inscriptions, among others, exploring the possibility of translating classical ballet into contemporary contexts, opening the dance stage for people with physical disabilities, demonstrating the potentials of nakedness beyond eroticism and provocation, investigating the relationship between human being and machine at different levels, or exploring the future of the human body in the age of its surgical and genetic perfection.

In 2017, she presented her performance “Ravemachine” together with dancer Michael Turinsky, which won the Nestroy special award for “Inclusion on Equal Terms”. In 2018, the production “Every Body Electric”, a dance piece in cooperation with people with physical disabilities, celebrated its Leipzig-premiere, once again at Residenz.
For her series “Habitat”, Doris Uhlich’s a naked cast have been performing at the Dominican Church in Krems/Austria, the façade of Wiener Secession and the former winter riding hall of the imperial and royal monarchy (Museumsquartier Vienna) in her largest performance to date, featuring 120 performers.
The relationship between bodies and new technologies was the starting point for her stage work “TANK” (2019) – a solo performance inside a Perspex tube inspired by science fiction. For “Habitat / pandemic version” (2020), she developed transparent protective suits that served as a sort of soft body-tanks and allowed physical touch on stage in times of pandemic. During the course of the performance, the full-body-suits misted up, showing the people inside them as the sweaty, steamy creatures that they are. The idea of working with the topic of mucus is a continuation of these works, with the tanks transforming into slimy networks and the dry, new technologies becoming damp bio-technologies.
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In cooperation with Doris Uhlich, Wien