Pulling Strings

11/05 – 22:00

12, 14, 15/05 – 20:30


Propelled onto the international scene in 2002 by her extraordinary performance Death is certain in which she finds a variety of ways to kill inoffensive cherries, Eva Meyer-Keller is developing a work where visual art and object theatre meet. With her, the inanimate acts as a double identity capable of evoking the most profound human relationships. In her new production, Pulling Strings, the artist from Berlin is literally pulling theatre’s strings. Assembled on stage are a series of objects usually relegated to the wings: a ladder, an electric cable, a plant… Attached to strings, they begin a strange ballet: an extinguisher launches into pirouettes, a microphone stand falls from the sky. And what initially appears like a very simple system is transformed into an organic network of encounters and interactions taking the audience’s imagination with it. A magical performance about “manipulation”!

Eva Meyer-Keller

In collaboration with
Tomas Fredriksson, Sheena McGrandles, Irina Müller, Sybille Müller & Benjamin Schälike

Pulling systems development
Florian Bach, Ruth Waldeyer

Thanks to
Andrea Keiz, Thomas Medowcroft, Rico Repotente

Susanne Beyer

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Beursschouwburg

Eva Meyer-Keller (Berlin)

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Hebbel am Ufer/HAU (Berlin), MDT (Stockholm)

Supported by
Hauptstadtkulturfonds, International Dance Programme/Swedish Arts Grants Committee

Thanks to
PACT Zollverein (Essen)

Performance in Brussels supported by
Berlin Senate Cultural Affairs Department & NATIONALES PERFORMANCE NETZ (NPN) International Guest Performance Fund for Dance, which is funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media on the basis of a decision by the German Bundestag

Work-in-progress created in Berlin in May 2012

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Tools in movement: Eva Meyer-Keller on perception and choreography

Eva Meyer-Keller interviewed by Susanne Traub and Jochen Kiefer (Essen/Stockholm)

In Pulling Strings, everyday items, spotlights, microphones and fire extinguishers dance on pieces of string, ropes and threads, yet you wouldn't say it's a dance piece or a form of object theatre. How did you come up with the idea for it?
EMK: My husband's a keen fisherman and I really like watching. There's something fascinating about fishing and the equipment and tools used. Somehow or other the rehearsals for Pulling Strings had something to do with fishing as well. You take your time, you throw out a line, and then you wait in fascination for something to happen, especially the kind of movement that comes out of it. It's not always entirely predictable.

Which means everyone involved has to be on the alert at all times...
EMK: Actually I've been interested for much longer in examining the process of attentiveness. I think it's important to be able to give your full attention to a thing or a subject. And it's more than concentration. This intense observation produces another kind of perception, a perception which perhaps is not always loaded with meaning. Watching theatre also has a lot to do with observation and attention. And in the case of Pulling Strings as well, the hope that the audience's perception also increases during the performance, that the audience will end up wanting to look more closely, more attentively, and be more alert. I'm also keen on experimentation and failure. The most exciting moments are when the strings getting tangled up or things go differently from planned and the actors on that particular evening and at that particular rehearsal have to react differently.

It was touching to see how the actors on stage were trying to understand their problems in a matter-of-fact, concentrated way. As an audience, but also in the rehearsal, you get caught up in the process of an ongoing game of imagination and perception, of discovery and identification.
EMK: I love evoking processes like this among the audience and actors equally, turning the rehearsal into something together, asking "What happens if...?" or producing movements that in turn have repercussions on the things that triggered them. The state of uncertainty emerging from these interactions is a very technical and functional matter on the one hand, but there is also a metaphorical level. When things are pulled or moved on strings, they are put in a new context which not only loads them with a meaning they wouldn't otherwise have, but we become aware of the perception ourselves.

Despite its experimental nature making it impossible to classify, would you put Pulling Strings in a particular tradition?
EMK: Of all my work, I'd describe Pulling Strings perhaps more as choreography (laughter). It's about dancing and movement. We're always aware of it. And that's true for each of the three types of performances for which this work was conceived: as a video, an installation and a theatre performance Pulling Strings always plays with the possibilities of choreography too. It's also a "site-specific" work. In each new place we deal with the concrete, physical space and also only use the items we find there or in the theatre. In the video version we deal more with domestic everyday life: the kitchen, sewing things, tables and glasses. We create movement patterns; so in the strictest sense choreographies. At Flack Newtech in Bremerhaven and in Khartoum, Africa, installations are planned that deal with the respective conditions found there. Even with invitations to stage guest performance in theatres, we tackle what's there in a new way. Therefore all three versions of Pulling Strings not only exist due to our choreographic inventions but also due to our spirit of discovery and our desire for experimentation. The performance only becomes a performance through the audience's imagination. You could say that it's work on a joint performance in the literal sense. With every performance we make new discoveries and move with the things in new contexts and meanings. Choreographically this also happens with the music. We contrast the ordinariness of the objects with classical ballet music like Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet and film music too, for example from Vertigo. The music immediately generates its own additional level of meaning and introduces associations and projections to the objects and events in progress. The special thing about Pulling Strings is that objects which otherwise only have a functional purpose are loaded with meaning. You could say that the tools of the trade used to produce performances are given their due attention - they are worth observing in their own right.

Pulling Strings however shows also a certain equality between man and object with regard to movement. Can you tell us something about this non-hierarchical relationship between the human actors and the things?
EMK: Things have their own presence, their own movement options. And they define the space, make it visible and thereby make it capable of being experienced in concrete terms. Things steer the gaze. Views of movement keep generating spatial connections and drawing invisible lines and diagonals through the space. In Pulling Strings the strings make this invisible geometry of the space visible too. On the other hand, in everyday life we combine the movement space of objects with a certain logic and functionality. Things stand in their place and are used. This also happens to everyday things in a stage space. In our project we're therefore encroaching on the things' everyday life on stage as well. We're not accumulating props on stage. I'm not interested in the senseless accumulation of things. The opposite is the case. We take things from the stage, use them somewhere else than usual and above all not in a functional way any more. The stage things become fellow players and consequently actors themselves. Man and things share the movement space. This means we take seriously the sound and noises of the things during the construction and dismantling of this stage set. Finally the ballet music produces an iconographic world taking us to collective associative spaces.

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Eva Meyer-Keller (b. 1972, Germany/Sweden) lives and works in Berlin. She works at the cutting edge of the performing and visual arts, appearing at festivals, art galleries, and theatres, from all across Europe to New York and Australia. Before her four-year studies in dance and choreography at the School for New Dance Development (SNDO) in Amsterdam, she studied photography and visual arts in Berlin (Hochschule der Künste) and London (Central Saint Martins, Kings College). The activities of Eva Meyer-Keller are diverse: she presents her performances at an international level, develops projects with other artists and groups, dances for other choreographers, and realizes videos. She taught choreography/composition for the Master’s in Solo/Dance (2010, 2011) in Berlin and for the Master’s in The Autonomous Actor (2010) and the Bachelor’s in Dance at the DOCH (Dans och Circus Högskolan, 2011) in Stockholm. She was involved in projects by Baktruppen, and Jérôme Bel and Christine De Smedt/Les Ballets C. de la B. In October/November 2010, together with seven other artists, she participated in the pilot project Open Art W.I.S.P. (Women in Swedish Performance Art). Her own work includes the performances Bauen nach Katastrophen (with Sybille Müller, 2009), Good Hands (2005), Death is Certain (2002), and Ordinator (2002); the installations Volksballons (2004) and Himmelskörper (2001); the audio tour Hearsay (2002); the performative game Schattenspiele(2008); the video works Death is Certain (2002), Handmade (2007), and Von Menschen gemacht (with Sybille Müller, 2010).

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