THE BIG SLEEP by Alisa Hecke and Julian Rauter is, I can fairly admit this, the performance I had been looking forward to the most after I read the extensive proposals sent to the organisers of Dirty Debüt. What can I tell you – taxidermy, baby! The programme leaflet contextualises the performance as a “preview of their current research project” in which “they mount both (in-)animated bodies and display the motives, aesthetics and obsessions of a profession that presupposes death in order to create an illusion of life”. In clear contrast to the earlier performances, the stage here is filled with very many objects (inanimate, that is boars and rabbits and birds stuffed and mounted), living human bodies (one female taxidermist, and three performers dressed in remarkably orange shirts) and a cat in between being a carcass and becoming cat again (prepared live during the 20 minute long performance. Earlier, I learned that it is a Saxon cat, road kill from a couple of days before). “Das Tier ist tot. Das Tier ist weg.” (The animal is dead. The animal is gone). One of the first lines to be spoken by one of the performers who have their lines transmitted to them via headphones and then speak unrehearsed, sometimes seemingly surprised, sometimes with a small delay while standing, or moving slowly through the assembled dead/gone animals on stage. Sometimes, later, one will caress the white rabbit about which we learn that they are most difficult to prepare due to the amount of pink skin visible. The words that we hear are segments of interviews with taxidermists, namely the one who sits on stage at a table preparing the dead cat. “Sobald der Hund (or in this case: the cat) tot ist, ist der Hund tot. Ich kann nur so tun, als wäre er noch da.” I giggle. I love the facticity and seriousness such banal yet deeply profound contemplations are being presented with. The comic effect it has for me. And am particularly moved by the way the performers are delivering their lines – detachedly, with a mostly monotone voice, with clearly marked artificiality that remains respectful to the seriousness of a profession and its motivation. Nothing is real here, and everything is utterly real (if dead, but what is death if not real). Taxidermy, I realise during the performance, may have a lot to do with acting on stage, the way of representing/ presenting a character. An echo of the real thing and, paradoxically, much more real because it surrounds me here and now. Both the representation in acting and in preparing dead animals to appear alive and in situ again, necessitate and make impossible the real thing to exist and to perceive. “Die Endlichkeit macht wertvoll, das drohende Verschwinden.” Too quickly, the precious glimpse into this research is over. Applause.
Intermission. Mopping. Elated.
Kristin Flade, Benevolence