The stage is affected by pointe sneakers. Expanded with crosses, for instance, they’re displayed in mild squares like artwork and cult objects. At first of the Performing Arts Season, the South African efficiency artist Steven Cohen exhibits his solo “Put your coronary heart beneath your toes … and stroll!” on the backstage of the Berlin Festspielhaus. The piece is a requiem for his companion Elu Johann Kieser, who died in 2016.
Cohen was with the ballet dancer for 20 years. When he requested his black foster mom Nomsa how he ought to address the loss after his sudden demise, she gave him the recommendation: “Put your coronary heart beneath your toes … and stroll!” Cohen took this to coronary heart in his personal approach: To start with The video exhibits how he has the saying tattooed on the only of his foot, the place it notably hurts.
Cohen repeatedly inflicts bodily ache on himself, as if this was the one approach he might perceive the fact of demise. However that’s not the one cause why this mourning ceremony, which mixes set up, efficiency and video, tends in the direction of extremes. Cohen, the white homosexual Jewish South African, has been performing this solo often since 2017 in reminiscence of Elu. He lives and suffers by means of the ritual each time, but in addition pushes it into nice artificiality, performing as a drag elf and with elaborate make-up on.
Spectators go away the corridor
His white made-up head is roofed with rhinestones, false eyelashes, floral patterns and butterfly wings and is harking back to a Fabergé egg. Within the video you first see this fantasy creature stalking by means of an enchanted backyard on excessive platform sneakers. On stage, two white miniature coffins function urns, with black sneakers resembling hooves connected to them. Elevated on this approach, Cohen strikes swayingly by means of the room with crutches and generally looks as if an enormous insect.
However it’s not simply the extraordinarily synthetic nature of the efficiency that’s irritating, because it overshadows the expression of the internal world and prevents empathy. The movies that present Cohen in a white tulle tutu in a slaughterhouse are disturbing. You see how cattle are killed, how they’re hung as much as bleed after which minimize up.
The photographs of commercial killing are so insufferable that many spectators go away the corridor. However it’s additionally laborious to bear when Cohen first smears his face with blood utilizing stylized actions after which wallows within the blood of the useless animals in a bathtub, attempting to aestheticize this merciless course of.
Aside from the slaughterhouse scene, the efficiency is on a purely non-public degree. There are extraordinarily sentimental moments when Cohen straps 4 gramophones to his physique and performs Elu’s favourite music. The stage, embellished with 5 candelabra, seems to be like a mausoleum. Lastly, Cohen lights the candles and says a Sabbath prayer. He’s accustomed to Jewish traditions, however consciously crosses spiritual boundaries right here. He desires to create his personal mourning ritual.
However the provocateur can also be an amazing romantic. Elu advised him on his deathbed that he needed to stick with him endlessly. Cohen fulfills his want: he takes a spoonful of what he believes to be the ashes of the deceased from a field and eats them. “You might be buried inside me. I’m your grave,” he says in a delicate voice. A morbid evocation of everlasting love.
Cohen celebrates struggling. He seems to be for moments of magnificence, however he additionally seems to be for a option to proceed residing. The finale is most touching: when Cohen takes off a few of his make-up and armor, he seems approachable and fragile.