Henriette Pedersen is always searching for all things underlying – the hidden, secreted, disguised and erotic – the clandestine reality we silently employ. With the performance concept “Utidig innsyn” (2000) she questions the autonomy and authenticity of the arts seen from the high chair of visual art – the art gallery. Pedersen brings the elements of performance-art with her and move into the theatre when she with “Small Stick Big Bird” (2004) takes up working with staged characters and sound as a vital part of the conceptual whole of the piece.
With “Hamburger Allee” Pedersen continues the theatrical and staged work within the confines of her absurd and imaginary world, while investigating with an ironic and problematic approach the term identity re-contextualized into a cliché-festered and unresolved western culture.
Pedersen has put together a performance-project where all the elements are functioning on equal terms and in an equal degree of dependence. A performance about unresolved relations an the problematics where a group of people seemingly relate to each other by a given set of rules, being as it may absurd, perverse and burlesque rules, they are still clear and consistent.
Almost uniformed (are they hiding something?), the performers enter a play where everyone has a double agenda, the individual is tucked away in the secret system unfolding on stage – privacy is maintained in the shadows. With “Hamburger Allee” Pedersen comment the objectified body in choreographies where the aloof performers provoke bodily fluids in extroverted hypersexual or asexual, (depending on the eye of the beholder, but definitely sexual!), movement patterns.
We encounter dancers involved with physical tasks; (with elements of propaganda, self-defence and function) witch at times perform equal movements and actions, but with a diametrically opposite consequence. The performers continue into functional actions where they (literally) create the system they are a part of – the performers are themselves putting up the framework of the “gesamtkunstverk” where situation, function, sound and movement is established from stage.
In “Hamburger Allee” the collaborators are developing characters with extensive underlying biographies to contribute to the physical play on stage. But to Henriette Pedersen a work on character-development is not in order to create a mute situation-based theatre, but rather a tool to construct impetus, motivation and credibility to the relations realized on stage.
The performers are greatly supported in the costume design of Maria Bolin’s which together with Pedersen are placing a clear narrative lead on the performers: Man in lamb-fetus-fur, (or “Persian fur”) with puffed sleeves; woman, (or is it a man?), – in a completely covering jump-suit with mask. Pedersen continues with “Hamburger Allee” to comment man as animal – or objectified sensuous being, next to the fascination for the extreme diversity that exists in the forbidden or taboo-festered ritual sexual underground.
Meaning – or “the perception of significance, explanation or reason for something” – is a compilation of experiences such as smell, taste, form and colour. “Hamburger Allee” can be explained as a collapse of understanding after being presented with a series of experiences that seemingly lead to a meaning. The characters battle defined roles and physical challenges that lead us to the understanding of a system, but as always with systems, they are unintelligible from the outside – what does it mean? What sense does the performers’ practical and dysfunctional actions create?
Pedersen is always interested in talking about taboo in the context of absurdity. This work is continued with “Hamburger Allee” by investigating the cross-section between secret and lie. Is it the same thing? Is the one whispering lying? In a constant deconstruction of lies we let us lure and seduce to believe that we are handed a truth.
Composer Lars Petter Hagen toggles the problematics of identity and high cultural values in a reduction or deconstruction of the western music-history, exemplified with Richard Wagner. Hagen stops the role-play of the performers by letting them sample and play back Wagner through megaphones. The music becomes a concrete and poetic comment to terms such as tradition and history. The use of Wagner, with unresolved such as his anti-Semitism and the use of his music in propaganda, is in itself problematic, but when Pedersen and Hagen employs his music, it is first of all with love and care for the romantic composer.
In the world of Henriette Pedersen, a play of secrets, neuroses and paranoia occur in the meeting point between convention – the expectations – and the way we actually are.
“Hamburger Allee” is neither Hamburg nor Germany, but perhaps the place where we all are situated – at home – in the politically incorrect bomb-shelter underneath the living room, where we go to act out our normality. Perhaps
that is what Pedersen wishes to show: how sick, perverse, paranoid, disturbed, neurotic and actually quite normal we are, underneath the politically correct mask we all carry.
Text Alan Lucien Øyen, 2006
Henriette Pedersen (choreographer) Lars Petter Hagen (composer) Dagny Drage Kleiva (scenography) Maria Bohlin (costumes) Erlend Samnøen (performer) Sissel M. Bjørkli (performer) Marianne Skjeldal (performer) Siri Jøntvedt (performer) Karin Weststrand (seam) Ida Gottschlag (seam) Inger Johanne Byhring (light design) Photos by Sveinn Fannar Johannsson.