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Raimund Hoghe - 'Another Dream'

An uncommon honesty

by Ramsay Burt

January 30, 2005 -- London International Mime Festival, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London

FOOLISH. I feel I must be honest even if it makes me seem foolish, because Raimund Hoghe himself in performance and in an after show discussion seems so uncommonly honest. He seems to have an exemplary strength through humility that comes across both when he speaks and in the light but frail way he moves. So, to be honest, I sat there watching Hoghe's "Another Dream" at the ICA thinking: how am I going to write about this? This was not because at two hours long there was so much that it made the piece difficult to describe. Nor was it difficult to write about because it was one of those pieces that, though presented in the London Mime Festival, could equally have been seen as dance or as live art. What I was foolishly dreading having to try to put into words was Hoghe's physical appearance. He is a very small man and his back and chest have grown in ways 'that do not comply with the norm', as he says in a programme statement. Thus when he arches his back forwards you can see that he has a hunch back. In the programme he validates the importance of seeing bodies on stage that do not comply with the norm, and in the after show discussion he reminded us that all minorities have a right to representation.

PRESENCE. Hoghe has an extraordinary stage presence. I imagine he must be someone who has always known people looking at him because of his 'special body' as he called it in the discussion. Perhaps being on stage doesn't hold the same fears as it would for others because through his pieces he has found a way of projecting a presence that allows him to take control of the way we in the audience look at him looking back at us.

DURATION. The piece had a slow, meditative quality. In his programme note, Hoghe said that performance is for him a confrontation and acceptance of his own body. By making long, slow, repetitive pieces, he said later, people become restless and uncomfortable sitting still for so long and thus aware of their bodies. It is only right at the end of "Another Dream" that Hoghe took off his jacket to reveal his chest while holding a framed glass picture (see photo). What he did here is what the piece had been doing throughout - inviting an intimate one-to-one conversation - a second person narrative between you and the performer for the duration of the piece.

SIXTIES. The subject of this narrative was the 1960s. "Another Dream" is the last of a trilogy, each piece dealing with a different decade of the Twentieth Century. It was made up of a series of songs (almost all by female pop stars) and other pieces of music that were from the 1960s or strongly associated with it. Early on he danced one number in what seemed to me an almost ingenuous Austin Powers-like way. Although "Another Dream" was often quite humorous, the audience at the ICA seemed almost afraid to laugh. For the first ten minutes, starting while the audience were coming in, Hoghe quietly paced the almost dark stage while the slow movement of the Mahler symphony made famous in Visconti's film, "Death in Venice", played. He picked out a neat, asymmetrical path that was always parallel to the back or sides of the stage. Each subsequent song was accompanied by a simple action which Hoghe performed throughout it. Sometimes, the choreography for a song involved stepping or moving in a particular way ; sometimes, an extremely clear and economical presentation or manipulation of objects - a fan, a red shirt, a doll's house mirror. Sometimes between songs he would say 'I remember …' and proceed to tell us an autobiographical anecdote set in the 1960s.

RITUAL. While listening to Joan Baez sing "We Shall Overcome" (from the live in concert record that De Keersmaeker recently used in "Once") Hoghe reclined on the ground with a burning incense stick, making rhythmic patterns with its thin trail of smoke that were picked out in a sharp spot light. Several of the pieces involved night light candles. Incense and candles have religious associations. It was as if Hoghe was lighting candles or offering incense in memory of the people who lived through or died during the sixties - President Kennedy, Maria Callas, Momma Cass, Dusty Springfield were all mentioned during the piece.

BEAUTY. I myself was born in the 1950s so all these songs had an almost painful, uncanny familiarity for me - an instantaneous anticipation generated by the first few notes. Hoghe allowed this beautiful familiarity to exist on its own without setting his choreography to it, but just letting the two exists side by side. Thus as Petula Clark sang "Something Missing ", he merely walked in a random path around the stage occasionally reaching down to pat the floor with his palm (a ritual gesture he had observed in India when a performer enters the stage). In the middle of "Another Dream", Hoghe used a section of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" played almost painfully loud. To such strong, vibrant, powerful music he made curiously minimal actions, pouring out a little jug of milk into a bright red glass saucer, displaying it to the audience, waiting for a particularly devastating crash in the music and sipping it.

MEMORY. "In Germany we didn't remember for a very long time" Hoghe commented afterwards. While for Hoghe being in London, the 'scene' of the swinging sixties, made the performance special, some of his memories seemed particularly poignant in a week when commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz had been in the news. Hoghe remembered the uncle of a Jewish friend who had numbers tattooed on his arm which he said was his telephone number. Hoghe also remembered a woman who was so pleased when a particular athlete won a track event at the Olympic Games because he was German and white. And in the post show discussion he observed that though London was a very multi-cultural city, the audience at the ICA had been exclusively white. His sensitivity to these absences, his honesty and directness in remembering and mentioning them - it was true, these were things we ought to face up to and think about - and the gentle way he went about making us aware of this and other qualities and memories - all of these things made Hoghe's performance a very special experience.

Edited by Jeff.

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