The sun set one minute ago

Performance Verena Witthuhn at Studio Ilka theurich 01.png

by Adriana Disman

the sun set one minute ago

she tells me. We can’t see it in the overcast end of a heavy day but her phone has timed it precisely. A strange sense of data correcting my eyes.

 

It’s just us. Two bodies. My first live performance in a long while and my first time with an other since the pandemic began. I feel like the luckiest person in the city of Hannover and slightly terrified.

 

Verena was scheduled to perform as part of the series at Studio: Ilka Theurich. Once the pandemic reached Hannover, Ilka decided to alter the series so that one person would become the witnesser to one performance and would create some form of documentation  related to the performance. It’s a beautiful idea and I even get mad when she posts about it as 1-to-1 performances because it feels very different. It’s not that the performer does the same thing again and again for many different 1s, it’s that we are in a pandemic and the witnesser witnesses while holding a kind of place for the others who are the audience and are not allowed to be there, and then striving to transmit something to them. It’s a way of respecting liveness’ inability to be something else. And as soon as she came up with the idea I jumped up and down yelling me please me can I witness please please you have to let me I’m a performance writer please PLEASE and she said yes probably not only because I’m her partner because she has firm integrity when it comes to performance but then again who knows. So here I am. BEAMING and nervous.

 

Oh! I wanted to tell you one other thing: a couple weeks later, there was an announcement that a theatre nearby, run by a person that is on ilka’s mailing list, is doing 1:1 performances. I see her sadness and anger at recognition being thrown past her work yet again. I think about what modes of recognition and honouring we might use as an art landscape that allow for inspiration to be honoured and shared—bringing each other with instead of silently side-stepping. Okay. Now I think you know what you need to for ground so, back to the performance space:

 

My pink mask,

Her red t-shirt and white linen pants,

A hanging sheen of plastic-ish Material,

Projector throwing something into the corner,

Let’s begin

 

Music (that I can’t remember now except that it was perfect and changed throughout). Meditating, water surface reflection close-up on the projector, her spine begins moving as if there’s a mental ring circling each vertebra from the top down. I can hear the sound inside my cathedral head of the soft metal circling bone. She moves in front of the hanging Material, a centre piece in the room since I’ve entered, exploring her body’s unshaping and reforming reflection but I can’t see the reflection, just her and the projector image of her face through the material from another time. I’m still in my head. Narrating. Thinking.

 

The Material is probably very important because it’s the main object in the space. Before let’s begin she asked if I knew it, told me it was amazing. It looks like the 90’s from here but I believe her and wait for magic.

 

4, 3, 2, 1

a cut into jumping. up and then crouching down, kicking her feet back, circular, again and again as she begins panting, sweating, gulping for air. 

 

An intimacy of the unseemly, sitting and watching another do exerciseENG/sportGR/trainingFR in a silent room together. Watching the body lose surety, exhaustion coming on, starting to wobble and clutch. I love it and, still thinking, consider becoming an audience for windowed gyms but they no longer run.

 

Slumping to the ground, unrolling into a snow angel, she feels the cool surface of the floor on her feet and hands, pushing and pulling her skin along the surface totally caught in the proprioception of it. I’m still thinking. She’s feeling the floor like a lover I had once who would gasp when I touched him cause he hadn’t been touched in so long. And then she’s beyond the precious and more in the focus. Finding the pleasure, rolling and unfurling after it, I think of Ilka as a tiny child masturbating pressed against the cold wall in summertime. And as she moves this way, totally focused on engaging her worlding, I follow. And somewhere her swirling body takes over me and my worded mind can’t keep up can’t shove in and her whole swirling body along the floor circles that never end and it’s not about me about presenting to me it’s about her feeling the inside of her skin again and again and again – eyes closed she becomes stretched circles, in the feeling not the showing. 

 

I solidify a bit and notice a different video has flipped on in the corner and turned the Material red. I keep checking it for the magic.


Diving back into her current, she transforms in her swirling, Da Vinci’s man, octopus dreaming, snow angel again, the first time reading while held, sometimes this world is a vast child’s imagination and sometimes it’s the stuck try again of adulthood a sturdy slow  thud    thud     thud  against the wall till it becomes light and insubstantial and the body passes through.

 

In one moment she comes too close to me according to the rules, unfurling in my direction but I don’t exist much sitting on the floor in the sitting spot, she’s opening limbs towards me but she doesn’t know it and I know I know I’m supposed to we are supposed to keep distance and it’s the first time I’ve done this and it’s early on in the pandemic and I’m maybe high risk but I decide not to say anything because. It’s so amazing to look at someone who is not my isolation partner so close and so still inside. It’s intimate and bodily intimacy is not allowed now. Hugs here now are like how I imagine sex was in my hometown before HIV/AIDS (and the shitty myth making surrounding it). Like shaking hands.           She slides away again.

 

I follow her like a tree.

 

 

Video bird wings in a funhouse mirror. Maria said it wrong she wasn’t feeling pretty she was in awe of the mirror girl, bodily transformed, she just didn’t have the right words offered to her. Now many-headed, handless, narcissus looking in the lake and then becoming a nightmare swan and slipping the tip of a wing into the water while taking off.

 

The sounds of swishing on the cold hard floor, the blue becomes dustier and still transforming with the light’s fall. I return to thinking briefly to ask myself how the pandemic effects my witnessing. Am I watching how I would before the pandemic? Of course not what I mean is am I ready to love it all? Because I can’t have it now? What if I hated this? What would I see then? But I couldn’t hate something so soft and strong and self-focused while generous and heartful. I couldn’t hate something so honest. I decide witnessing this would be worthwhile even if it was that October where I saw 100 performances. But then again the taste of mind I hold stains everything, so who knows, who cares.

 

If Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole was yielding and gentle and cloudy, it would be this.

 

The video falls dark. The light slips into a deep blue wash and surprises me. The red t-shirt’s secret blueness is exposed. Plucked bass and skipping stones piano. She rolls to a dead stop and gets up to turn off the projector, the silence arrives.

 

unrolled. This must be it the magic time. I’m already disappointed because the centre piece has just been there hanging and maybe that was supposed to be the magic but I really can’t convince myself it was anything much. 

then, with the dimmest of lights,              she touches the Material.


                                          the aurora borealis darts suddenly open on the wall and my jaw drops behind my mask         where it stays open            in ways it forgot since I was little 

when I found awe in the dark all the time.                                        She shows me fascia and neon cobwebs            and the matrix                and x-rays of brilliant bones              and the shapes keep telling me more and falling deeper,    more complex,    they are all   I see   in the world   now

 

see? the dimmest of spotlights brushing over them revealing? spot by spot? but even returning to already visited spots is new… I could do this forever a voice cuts in robot hard: FLOW STATE CAN BE A TRANCE.

 

My grandmother gave me that pop science book about flow state. Maybe twice. So I know what it is. Science’s way of articulating full engagement in creation.

 

The dimmest of lights turns into a regular flashlightUS/torchUK and becomes a still sunset through the material when she sets it on the ground. 

 

It’s definitely the end.

 

Soft funk lounge to catch us as we exit this dark timeless place. I don’t move.

 



We thank each other with heart eye emoji gazes. Sitting crouched on adjoining walls, smiling and buzzed. Not about each other but about where we have landed. Let’s not talk about it we decide together. We will talk another day once we’ve left this place.

 

Let me save this for now I think. Thank you I think, I forgot about wonder.

 

I bliss half a foot above the sidewalk all the way home. I haven’t felt flow in so so long I gasp from its touch.

*

Adriana Disman is a performance art maker, thinker, and writer.

This text was created as a form of documentation of Verena Witthuhn’s performance at Studio: Ilka Theurich in Hannover, Germany. The performance took place 29 April.

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