Karolina Tóth – Photo © Mike Kleinen

(Kristóf Szabó – FACE visual performing art)

Visited on
March 10, 2022
(first performance on March 5, 2022)

F.A.C.E. Ensemble, Orangerie Theater, Cologne, Germany

Ivó Kovács can sit back and relax. The young video artist from Budapest has the bulk of his work behind him. All he has to do now is make sure that his projections go off without a hitch. He doesn’t like to talk about the hours he invested, but he’s already happy about the praise for his work with various rendering programs. Kristóf Szabó has ushered in a new era with this video art. While in earlier works he urged Kovács to tell a parallel story with the room-filling projections, this time the two have gone all in on associative imagery. And thus achieved an overwhelming effect. For the first time, the audience no longer has to get involved with various events on stage, but can enjoy the reinforcing effect of the video images that underscore the stage action.

In general, director Szabó shows himself in his latest work Gaia. Meereslust at the Orangerie Theater in Cologne is more experimental than ever. Gaia – in German Gäa – is the personified earth in Greek mythology and one of the first deities. If you like, you will find her this evening in the person of one of the two dancers. This is of no importance. Already in the first seconds after the beginning of the performance nobody thinks about the title. In his play between transience and lust for life, Szabó lets the two dancers perform so strongly in silence that he immediately captivates the audience. Annika Hofgesang carries Karolina Tóth onto the stage, singing an incomprehensible song. As Hofgesang lets Tóth slip from her arms, withered leaves fall to the stage floor. The signs of transience will permeate the next hour.

Hofgesang throws herself into the arms of someone who has so far appeared in whimsical supporting roles and as a stage designer. Today, Boshi Nawa gets to contribute his actual skills. With a lot of diligence, the artist has built up a second mainstay. The bondage rigger master gives workshops and partner seminars to pass on his passion. Artful bondage has long since left its grungy image behind and has evolved into one of many forms of self-discovery and self-realization. Now he’s giving an example of his artistry on stage. Hofgesang is already wearing a black leotard with ropes attached. Boshi Nawa continues the bondage, winding ropes between her legs and ropes around her chest, then pulling the dancer up by them, where she twists under coils. The F.A.C.E. Ensemble, of which Szabó is the artistic director, has already announced this in advance. And thus also attracted new audiences. That it essentially remains with the one performance seems a little disappointing at first. But in fact, the one demonstration makes up almost half of the performance. And Szabó doesn’t want a pure bondage show; that will follow at a later point, he promises.

In the meantime, Tóth moves across the stage twitching, obviously hurt over the violation, above which Hofgesang circles in a mixture of lust and despair. After Boshi Nawa artfully unleashes Hofgesang again, Szabó dares another advance. The three actors leave the stage. For minutes, the audience is allowed to feast on the images Kovács casts on the side and back walls, on the floor of the stage, creating an image box. Again, images of decay creep in as Kovács shows collapsing or bombed skyscrapers. In the next moment there are scenes of happiness, when Hofgesang and Tóth approach each other, a touch of eroticism sets in. Finally Tóth goes hard at the master, throws himself into his arms again and again. With the bondage ring Boshi Nawa wants to catch his next “victim”, but Tóth is not yet ready for death. She escapes the metaphorical fishing rod and throws herself into life again.

The program of the Portuguese electronic label Crónica features music by Davor Mikan and Nicolas Bernier, Heimir Björgúlfsson, Pimmon and Helgi Thorsson, The Beautiful Schizophonic, Quartz and the Rolling Stones. There’s a good pounding, but always in keeping with the images on display.

Szabó and his team have presented, it can not be said otherwise, a new masterpiece. This may not be obvious at first glance and explains why the audience delivers spartan applause. But the images of this evening burn themselves in. And that is something one does not experience so often.

Michael S. Zerban

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