Evolution and its physical legacy

Evolution and its physical legacy

Michaela Preiner

Foto: (Markus Gradwohl )


February 2023

"Bones and Stones" - what rhymes so wonderfully in English sounds much more unwieldy in German.

“Bones and stones” are two nouns that radiate anything but warmth and security and that one does not necessarily immediately associate with each other. And yet, as Claudia Bosse points out in her latest work, they are inextricably linked. “Bones and Stones” had its world premiere in Hall G of the MuseumsQuartier and – according to the theatre-maker – is soon to move to the great outdoors. This makes sense, because the theme of the performance is the relationship of man to his bony inner life, but also to nature with its stony formations and evolution from the formation of the earth to the present day.

Bosse works with six women ranging in age from 24 to 75, most of whom move naked among the audience during the two-and-a-half-hour performance. You are allowed to wander along with the ensemble or move further away from it. Which position you take is up to you, also how and when you want to change it. In fact, however, most people follow the direction, which makes full use of the space and constantly shifts the focus of the actions. The darkness of the hall and the partial lighting on small “volcanoes” marked with bricks, as well as the first appearance of the women, transports one to a time long before man as a species himself ruled the earth. Equipped with small bones, extensions of toes and fingers, the women act as beings who still have much animalism about and within them. They will remain mute – with exceptions – until the end, but their habitus will change permanently.

After the little ankles have been recognised and shaken off like annoying appendages, one embarks together with the performers on the retelling of human development, starting from prehistory up to the present. It is a narrative without words, with many stops. Those that are easy to grasp and others that leave more room for interpretation.

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“Bones & Stones” – Claudia Bosse – Tanzqaurtier (Photo: Markus Gradwohl)

There masses of bodies are presented as a sculpture placed on the floor, in which life gradually begins to stir. Memories of the artist couple Prince Gholam were evoked as well as works by Mette Ingvartsen. Dancing and aesthetics from the visual arts are skilfully balanced here. Shortly after the women have separated from each other and are now acting as individuals, dressed in long plastic aprons, their smiling faces change. The strongly tightened expulsion from paradise, which the humane beings were still allowed to experience unreflectively, with a smile on their lips, is followed by an action with veritable contempt for humanity. Those who collapse on the ground are roughly dragged away from the surrounding crowd by their arms or legs. With kicks, the extremities of the lifeless bodies are brought into position so that they can be dragged behind them without obstacles. A text accompanies the brutal act by pointing out that it is the bones of the bodies that leave traces on the ground. This draws attention to the physicality of women. But not to those stereotypes that are usually paid attention to in women – their faces, their breasts, their hips. Rather, it is now the skeleton that suddenly acquires a strong moment of attraction. This is reinforced by a scene in which most of the audience looks at the sitting and standing women from behind. Slow movements with stretches to the left and right from their centre illustrate the flexibility of their spine and also skilfully bring into focus the shaping of their shoulder blades.

Again and again, questions about one’s own physical constitution arise as one follows the performance. Where do we come from, what do we carry within us that was already there thousands and millions of years ago? How does this special way of seeing change the way we look at ourselves, but also the way we look at others? What role do we play as part of nature on this earth?

Dionysian moments with live sung and spoken fragments of sound and language push the imagined wheel of time forward by millennia shortly afterwards, leaving it somewhere between industrialisation and Wagner’s Grail myth. The sound of sweaty hammering on large chunks of stone merges with a powerful female voice repeating the sentence “reality exists of processes rather than material object” several times. The sound layer – ingeniously produced in many facets by Günther Auer from the beginning – becomes denser and reaches ecstatic proportions, also through the vocal accompaniment.

In the silence that follows, the oldest performer, equipped with two shopping bags, crosses the room and finally pours the contents – brightly polished pig bones – onto the floor. One by one, the women pick some out of the small pile and carry them to other places in the room to rearrange them. In time, the archaeological gaze with which the bones are put together to form new shapes spills over to the audience. The reference to the danger and fragility of nature is not omitted. Cylindrical glass containers containing small biospheres convey the impression of preserved nature in a dystopian future. They symbolise a remnant of what the earth was once made of.

It would not be a work by Claudia Bosse if she did not explicitly deal with the medium of theatre in it. And she does so with a grand finale. In it, she evokes an image of a sleeping woman in a place created like a circus, which places everything that could be seen before in the realm of dreams.

With Anna Biczók, Myrthe Bokelmann, Anita Kaya, Carla Rihl, Marcela San Pedro and Christa Zuna-Kratky, the ensemble was homogeneous but also diverse. The clever, all-female cast made it possible to avoid raising questions about male and female identity, rivalry, attraction and repulsion, which meant concentrating on the human in itself. One can look forward to the continuation in the outdoor space.

This text was automatically translated with deepl.com

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