Credit: Nicole Marianna Wytyczak
Credit: Florentina Holzinger/ Schinkel Pavillon
Credit: Nada Zgank
Credit: Nicole Marianna Wytyczak
Credit: Nicole Marianna Wytyczak
Credit: Nicole Marianna Wytyczak
Credit: Florentina Holzinger 'TANZ', Eva Wurding
Credit: Nicole Marianna Wytyczak

IN CONVERSATION WITH FLORENTINA HOLZINGER

Florentina Holzinger is one of the most emerging and arguably fascinating voices in contemporary experimental performance art.

In doing so, she questions and explores the limits of physicality and conventionally prevailing ideas – and often leaves her audience wondering.
As part of this year’s Berlin Atonal, festival for experimental music, performance and visual art, Florentina Holzinger presents her publicly effective study “Étude For Church”

You once said dance was almost something meaningless to you, yet you’ve literally been at it for almost 15 years. What had moved you to dance in the past and what was the turning point that led you into choreography/performance, or was it simply a logical development?

Yes, I didn’t literally mean senseless, but functionless, it has no concrete function or practical use. The metaphysics, which dance deals with a lot, has always interested me and is also inexhaustible inspiration – at the same time it was always clear to me: dance is functionless and therefore you don’t need to take it so obsessively seriously. That’s why it’s the constant underdog of the art forms – but I experience exactly that thing about it as very refreshing and pleasant.

It tends to be primarily the audience that experiences the thrill of a performance, in that sense you are more the string-puller in the role of choreographer, or the executive as performance. Performance in itself is a lot of organization. What does a performance have to have for you personally that it carries you away, entertains you or makes you think?

I like humor. For me, art can be complicated, defying, questioning the social consensus, cynical, and a challenge to everyone involved. I expect a lot from my audience: openness, trust, participation, courage and above all time.

Beautiful and ugly, good and bad – what fascinates me about art and especially dance is that these supposed opposites are so close together and interchangeable.

“The body is formed by the specific life itself and how it is treated.”
Performance lives from movement and you once said that words would never be as meaningful to you as movement. One also says that facial expressions and gestures, i.e. the micro-movements of people, would be treacherous. Why can movement tell more than words?

My approach to the body and the physical is a very material one – I don’t like to work psychologically. The body is formed by the specific life itself and how it is treated. Besides, this fleshly construct is a projection surface. For me the body alone holds a lot of interesting information and stories, for that you don’t even have to move… And I am interested in dance as a transformation technique. Through the dance or also through training I decide which form I represent today in a world full of other forms. I have a very formal approach to dance, but at the same time it’s clear that I present the body from the outside, but also everything inside of the body, the object that no one wants to see. And also things that we do not necessarily recognize.

In your performances you question and explore different concepts, among others the concept of nudity is a recurring stylistic device – To what extent does nightness influence a performance?

I got tired of costume and reflections on it at some point. Even our set has to be primarily functional and allow the bodies on stage to do something specific. Fashion bores me and decor takes up space.

It’s just not necessary with us. I’ve always been more interested in what’s underneath, what’s happening ‘behind closed curtains’. I’ve found it somehow liberating to show the body at work and not just in anything private or sexualized. With us, the body is also often mechanics, and the more of the scaffolding you see the more direct it is as a medium. Also, the dancer has long been considered ‘the best’, the one who offered the best erotic projection surface, the greatest sexual attractiveness according to standards.

This already triggered me as an adolescent dancer, and as a result I am very concerned with the issue of gender representation on stage. There are a zillion different reasons and must have a new necessity for me from project to project. Aesthetic decisions can also play a role and cultural-historical references for example, (like the topos of the ‘naked bathers’ in Ophelia’s Got Talent). Or, of course, a relief of the production budget.

In this sense, the body becomes a kind of transmitter and stylistic device, a projection surface. What fascinates you about the body, and is consciously using the body in this way already a kind of objectification?

Probably one can call it like that. In the best case the body is an object for me: a machine for special effects. My research is to explore and challenge the potential of this machine. Those who know my work know that I am not interested in moral attributions.

“In theater, I’m very interested in illusion, illusion with rather meager means as they are still common here: Spots as sun, fog machines and fans.”
The stage becomes a „laboratory”- why is it easier to experiment in a public space than in a private one? What generally fascinates you about dissecting topics in public, especially the over-stylization of high culture?

The theater offers a space in which other rules of a game can be defined. For me it is one of the safest places of all. The contract between audience and performers is so clear and defined. One party pays and then conventionally sits in the dark for 1-2 hours to watch others perform different simulations of reality. It is totally absurd! It’s different in our outdoor experiences, and it feels necessary for us to break out of the black box every now and then, because it has its own limitations. But the black box remains for me the place where one can define and influence the circumstances the most. In theater, I’m very interested in illusion, illusion with rather meager means as they are still common here: Spots as sun, fog machines and fans. Fantasies can be played out and utopias can be tested.

You also play with a kind of “miniature fears”, something that could be harmless on a small scale, but tends to be deadly on a larger scale. An example would be going for a swim and drowning. What makes fears interesting to you?

Well, fears can be extremely good and useful, but also the source of a lot of unnecessary violence. Just the fear of death makes people do the craziest things. It seems to make sense to me to deal with it and to confront fears, so that one learns to deal with them and to transform them into something constructive. The performative space, this Punch and Judy show for adults, at least offers us a good outlet – so we don’t have to run through the city with machine guns.

“The first idea for Atonal was a human bell. A hybrid of bodies and a 2 ton iron bell.”
In the context of the 10th anniversary of the festival series Atonal Berlin you will show your performance ‘Étude For Church’, what awaits the audience?

Etude for Church is a part of a series of etudes that I have been performing with my team in public spaces since 2020. The essence of these etudes is the very literal creation of sound with and through the body as an instrument. I played a lot of Chopin on and off the piano as a child.

The repetition of technical difficulties plays into the definition of an etude- I wanted to represent that musically as well as to ’embody’ it.

Stunt elements usually play a big role in our etudes, we like to use the effects repertoire from stunts for sound production (crashes, collisions, etc).

In this etude, however, things will be a bit quieter, but there will still be stunt performers as musicians. The first idea for Atonal was a human bell. A hybrid of bodies and a 2 ton iron bell. The whole thing has now evolved into a noisy tryptich. So yes here we are certainly working off of certain symbolism and rituals from Catholicism and their relation to physicality. It becomes very straightforward a musical composition for a bell and 5 bodies.

The Atonal Berlin event series is characterized by its unique alchemy of experimental music, visual art and immersive experiences designed to challenge the audience – What does experimental culture mean to you? Or how would you define an experiment in general?

I like experiments. I associate it with a lot of cool things: failure is an integral part of an experiment and therefore risk, but also the possibility to experience something unique or first time. I like it when people really try something, a lot of people don’t do that because they are afraid of the unknown or of failure. Those are people who take art very seriously

Last but not least: If everything were possible, which performance would you like to realize?

That’s exactly what I think about before every new show…

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