Bodies in distance – Distant bodies


Last Sunday I went to the church across the street. It opened for two hours to sit and contemplate, pray quietly (and with distance to other people). To my big surprise and utter delight the wonderful church musician played some music, first organ pieces and then some on the piano. I didn’t see her at first because the organ is on the balcony and the player hidden. Then she came down and went to the piano which is standing towards the centre of the church where the altar piece would normaly sit. She set down and started to play.

In times of physical distancing the contact to other bodies is very limited. Even being in the same room with a number of people has become rare for me, apart maybe when going grocery shopping. You sort of don’t necessarily notice what you’re missing until you being hit again with what’s been missing.

Absence makes the hard grow fonder, they say. I saw her playing. I felt her playing. My body was almost aching by the sheer overwhelming sensation of feeling how the music moved through her body while she was playing. I usually enjoy live music perfomances much more and more fully as oppossed to recorded music. However, having been deprived of that opportunity for the past couple of weeks in addition to generally very limited contact to other people made this experience even more a special one. I saw her and I felt her, her music in her body travelling to my body, my whole body and not just my ears.

My work is very often literally or metaphoracly linked to bodies. All the diversity of bodies. All the beauty of bodies and all the atrocities bodies might be subjected to. Bodies, that are not allowed to be. Bodies, that are being policed and meassured. Bodies, that, when not fitting the norm (and the norm is tight), are free to be commented on, to be judged, to be violated, to be killed. Bodies, that are hidden from plain sight. And fortunately also, bodies, that dance, celebrate, fight, love, empower, live and don’t give a …

Seeing and literally experiencing her play the piano through my body brought the importance of bodies in public places, expiriencing bodies, all bodies, in shared places acutely to my attention again. I am currently experiencing a temporal physical distance to other bodies. I have the priviledge to be around other bodies, feel the closeness and everything that goes with it again, as soon as physical distancing meassures are being eased. For other bodies this is a permanent and unvoluntary situation because they are excluded from the public sphere and not deemed to be worth of human contact. But it is vital. I believe, for most people. Highlighting and finding ways to limit exclusion structures, connected to power and priviledge for individuals and in organisations is a central part of my work.

Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor are going for a walk in a series called „Examined lifes“ and converse about bodies and what you should and shouldn’t do with certain parts of your body:

Tanzen – den Körper sortieren

Ein Wochenende tanzen. Ein Wochenende den Körper Geschichten erzählen lassen. Der Körper, mein Körper, nimmt immer Informationen auf und speichert sie. Die meisten kann ich nicht bewußt abrufen. Sie geben mir allerdings wichtige Hinweise über mich und meine Sicht auf die Dinge, die um mich herum passieren, die mich beschäftigen. Sie geben mir Hinweise darauf, wer ich bin, wie ich bin.

Ich denke viel. Mein Geist ist ständig am Laufen, in Dauerbetrieb. Mein Körper darf diesem Denken im meinem Alltag nicht folgen. In der Regel ist das so. Ich würde viele seltsame Blicke auf mich ziehen auch wenn es manchmal verlockend scheint, einfach dem Körper zu folgen. Im Tanzraum darf ich meinem Körper folgen. Ich darf ihm lauschen, staunen, mich wundern, was er alles weiß, und mit welcher Freude und Lebenslust und Leichtigkeit er so vieles preisgeben mag. Am Ende es Tanzwochenendes sind mein Geist und mein Körper in Balance, mein Körper durfte erzählen, der Geist folgen. So sortiert sich alles in mir. Ich fühle mich klar und wach.

Was berührt mich jedes Mal wieder? Die Körper, jeder einzelne Körper, und wie sie unterschiedlicher nicht sein können. Sie bewegen sich, geben Ausdruck für innere Prozesse in all ihrer Vielfalt. Hier geht es nicht um Schönheit an erster Stelle, eine Ästhetik im klassischen Sinne. Und doch entwickelt sind mit jeder Bewegung, jedem Drehen der Arme, dem Schwung der Beine, dem Strecken auf dem Boden eine so unglaublich tiefe Schönheit des Seins. Wir sind. Ich bin.

28 years ago …

The Berlin wall fell 28 years ago (and a couple of other things in German history happened too on this day at various times). Every year this day is a very emotional day for me. Tonight I am sitting in my kitchen, reading in Christa Wolf’s „Ein Tag im Jahr“ („One day a year“). Between 1960 and 2000 Christa Wolf collected her thoughts on every 27 September. So, there is an entry for the 27 September 1989 and one on the 27 September 1990. In between those days the Berlin Wall fell and changed the path for Millions of people across Europe.This inspires me to think back to those months so many years ago.

I was 15/16 years old at the time. I cannot imagine what my life would have looked like without this historic event. I also have to admit (although this is a difficult one) that I did not go to one of those glorious demonstrations, where people across East Germany took to the streets and demanded change and freedom. My eternal gratitude goes out to every single one them. It wasn’t that I was not interested in politics, quite the contrary. I followed very closely what was happening in the world. Like probably many people I didn’t believe, that this Wall could ever move just one single metre. It was like a natural law. It’s there and it is going to be there for ever. I just didn’t go. This is not easy to say because it is such a huge historical event and so many people went and it would be great to be able to say proudly „I have been to those demonstrations too. I contributed too.“ But at that moment of time, in this particular instance, I didn’t. To some extent I have been carrying this around me for a very long time. It feels like a relief to say it out loud. I’m not sure why exactly this is important today, but it is. So here is the space for it.

My conclusion on this November evening, whatever you’re up to, however impossible it seems, let yourself be surprised. Literally, nothing is impossible. It feels very empowering to have lived through this and experienced an enormous societal shift like that … even if my contribution was very little I benefited from this tremendously.