Performative Polyphonies: An Art Series Curated by Felix Meyer-Christian
This is part of our special feature on Sustainability & Innovation.
“She wrote: “Who is entitled to a narrative, a document, a story? Can we report on a time, on a conflict, if we have not experienced it?” And memory, she wrote, was more like a situation that she wanted to share with others, than a thought or a commodity.
Felix Meyer-Christian: Conversion / After Afghanistan
The Berlin and Hamburg based COSTA COMPAGNIE was founded in 2009 as a collaboration of interdisciplinary working, emerging artists. The works of the last years combine documentary, performative, and choreographic methods with an essayistic, multi-perspective narrative. The group’s focus of several works has been global transformational processes and the human within. COSTA CIE. thus conducts interviews, writes essays and collects audio- and video-footage on-site, such as in Afghanistan, the USA, Russia, Israel, Fukushima/Japan and the Lebanon.
The continuous essay always begins with “She wrote” and as a strictly formalized assemblage, re-defines language and narration in performative contexts: Where are we located in space and time? Who speaks for whom and with what intent?
The following entry provides a brief overview on previous works of COSTA COMPAGNIE and questions along the way.
“She wrote that all the material she had collected could not provide “documentation”. Documentation would always aspire to completeness, to truth. But even if everything was based on documentary material, what it reflected was more an emotional state.”
CONVERSION / AFTER AFGHANISTAN
“Everyday we leave the house, we are aware that we may die.“
Afghan Interview Partner
The COSTA COMPAGNIE conducted research in the Hindu Kush for three weeks at the end of ISAF’s mission and spoke with Afghan activists, journalists, scientists and students, as well as with German and American soldiers and diplomats about their experiences within the region’s complex situation. CONVERSION translates the multiple voices and contradictions of the material into a performance that blends contemporary dance, research-based theater, soundscapes and multimedia installation to create a new form of the messenger’s report, while pursuing questions such as: How did the ISAF-mission affect the situation in Afghanistan? And by which artistic means can we approach war?
The premiere took place in 2015 at the Theater Heidelberg and the production toured in 2016-17 in Germany, Austria and the US (among others at Vassar College, NY, Kampnagel Hamburg, Impulse-Festival 2016)
View the trailer here.
“She wrote that Kabul’s balloon sellers had left a deep impression on her. It made her happy to see them trying to sell balloons in the streets to people who had something to celebrate: a birthday, a wedding, an inauguration.
She wrote that she could describe everything she saw: the eyes of the people she met, the brilliant light in the mountains, the cold nights, hands on hearts in welcome, the mountains which framed everything, which seemed to be everywhere; the smiles, the scurrying, the regulations, the acceptance. She wrote about physical memories, about procedure, repetition, routine, bodies like mechanical structures, bodies like speed and about the horror that always returned and entered the limbs, manifesting itself on skin and bones, in the eyes, within a look. She wrote that violence, which appeared as a permanent and all-embracing possibility, was transforming the country. The people could feel it and were living with it like a person who is a constant presence.
CONVERSION_1 / A GERMAN-AMERICAN CHOGEOGRAPHY
»Heidelberg certainly had a substantial strategic importance to the US Army and to NATO. Back in 1983 and still in 2003, because it was a very central location to contributing to the “Global War on Terror,” both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.«
In summer 2013, the last US-soldiers left Heidelberg. At the same time, the COSTA COMPAGNIE and the Theater Heidelberg began conducting interviews and memories from almost 70 years of common history. In January 2014, four of the artists traveled to the United States and spoke with soldiers and their families, who were formerly stationed in Heidelberg, about their memories between 1945 and 2013. What traces did the US-Army leave behind in Heidelberg and the people involved in its presence? Where do world politics meet individual stories?
The performance CONVERSION_1 took place at the Wormack-Gym at the former US-Hospital. Contemporary dance, text, video and a sound-composition merged into an atmospheric, interactive visual essay.
This performance engaged the audience in a system of fluctuating voices, languages and locations and to embark on a guided mental journey into their own memories. Drawn from interviews within an Israeli-German artist group, as well as from observations throughout Germany, Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon, Jordan and the West Bank, the focus shifted from the military experiences of the performers to aspects of botany, into questions about submissiveness and subjectivity, territory and mythology. Can we perceive what we see? Can we speak or even collectively dream about what we encounter – what we remember?
The work premiered at the Centre for Contemporary Art Museum Tel Aviv and was also shown at Mousonturm Frankfurt, Alfred Gallery Tel Aviv, Circle1-Gallery Berlin and the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil in Rio de Janeiro.
FUKUSHIMA, MY LOVE
1.5 years after the threefold disaster, a member of the COSTA COMPAGNIE traveled to Fukushima Prefecture and throughout Japan. He returned with a backpack full of interviews, sounds and video images. In FUKUSHIMA, MY LOVE the company pursued the question whether it might be possible to reduce the spatial, temporal and cultural distance to the events of the disaster that also resulted in Germany’s departure from nuclear power. Based on 35 interviews, three dancers, two actors, one musician and one video-artist artistically approached the inconceivability, while asking: What is the human in the face of disaster?
After the premiere at Fleetstreet Theatre Hamburg in 2013, the performance was presented at several festivals and locations across Germany, for example at the OutNow-Festival at Theatre Bremen, 150%-Festival at Thalia Theater Hamburg or the E-Werk at Nationaltheater Weimar.
HOW TO KILL SOMEBODY
At the end of the 1960s Monika Ertl, daughter of Leni Riefenstahl’s renowned cameraman Hans Ertl, joined the Bolivian Liberation Army. After not only its leader Ché Guevara, but also his successor and Monika’s partner were murdered, Monika Ertl traveled to Germany and shot the responsible Bolivian officer by her own hand. In a multimedia solo-performance the COSTA COMPAGNIE encircled the question of what it might mean to kill a person: out of political conviction, out of love, out of revenge or for the pursuit of power. The performative essay reflected several decades of forms of political murder and examined how they are represented and instrumentalized by the media.
The work was developed for Monolog-Festival Berlin 2016 and will be performed again at the Performing Arts Festival Berlin in June 2017.
Felix Meyer-Christian works as the artistic director of the Berlin and Hamburg based COSTA COMPAGNIE in the field of performance and dance, in solo works within the visual arts, as well as a director in text-based theater. He completed degrees in Geography and International Law at Humboldt- and Free-University of Berlin and the University of Lisbon (2007), as well as Theater Directing at the Conservatory of Music and Theater in Hamburg (2012). His works combine documentary, choreographic and performative methods with an essayistic narrative with a focus on global transformational processes and have been presented at several festivals, theatres and art centers in Germany, Austria, Israel, Brazil and the US.
COSTA COMPAGNIE is a Berlin and Hamburg based collaborative group with artists from different media and produces works that have been presented at galleries and art centers, production houses of the independent performance scene and at state- and city-theaters. Felix Meyer-Christian works as its artistic director and as well as a solo artist.
Published on July 6, 2017.