Some performances make questions pop endlessly, like Mathis Kleinschnittger's “Grrr, I'm dancing”. We enter, he's waiting on stage, wearing a brown fur coat. Does that half smile contain some irony? Still, he seems friendly, and I suppose this is about bears. The party starts: high-beat electronic music with a metallic voice singing 'bitch' every two seconds. Is the mechanical and non-sexy bumping movement supposed to annoy? It does. An inflatable cabaret costume seems more fun, but Kleinschnittiger's face is empty. Maybe he hates dancing? Or maybe he hates us? He crawls on the floor with three cute, giant teddy bears, maybe playing or fighting? Or having a sexual interlude? He does roll fluidly. Is he criticizing the society of spectacle, denying us all pleasure? Or does he just need a hug? Am I too stupid, or not stupid enough? I feel little and understand less. But why, after two days, do I still continue this disturbing inner dialogue?
“Grrr, I’m dancing” Universe of a dancing bear
Kleinschnittger’s a performing bear for whom stage equals cage. But he wants to bite back. Laced with sour ironies, this arrogant, feel-bad solo starts with the tall, thin, bearded bloke in a faux fur coat waiting for us to get settled. In the interminable opening section he jerks about, upright or on all-fours, to an aggressive, flaunting Die Antwoord track. Donning a vulgar, inflatable dance-hall girl’s costume, he goes through the motions of various genres (folk, tap, Irish) as if indicating how empty and mechanical they are. Some honourable artistic intentions and aspirations are voiced, along with the compromises to which they’ve been surrendered. Kleinschnittger’s ugly, onanistic performance is occasionally punctuated with heavy-breathing hollers and growls. By the end he’s debagged and rolled in flailing circles with a trio of large, cuddly stuffed teddies. If he’s trying to say something about abuse and exploitation the attempt is misguided, unedifying, demeaning. Worse, this insufferably smug, cynical provocateur is boring. Grrr, indeed.
A hip hop track loops interminably and Mathis Kleinschnittger doggedly arches and pops his gangly frame to the provocative refrain “I'm a rich bitch”, his puckish flicker of a smile daring us to lose interest. One thing becomes clear: he's testing his audience. What never becomes clear is why.
He dons a pneumatic-breasted red dirndl (a Goldilocks reference?), lounges around and executes some ballet steps, but the bold costume choice is never really explored nor justified. He then gathers up three stuffed bears and rolls around with them, a tumbleweed of flesh and fur. It's a beautifully absurd image, but protracted until it loses all appeal.
Challenging the perseverance of both performer and public can be fascinating, but it requires detailed research and unwavering commitment. Here, potentially engaging ideas are stretched so thin that we're left wishing Kleinschnittger would try something other than our patience.