gender jungle - wo/man

Künstlerhaus Mousonturm Frankfurt
April 7, 8 and 9, 2011, 9pm 

Ciało/Umysł / September 25, 2010 / Warsaw, PL
9. International Contemporary Dance Festival

Stary Browar / September 27, 2010 / Poznań, PL

Aerowaves - The Place / May 16, 2010 / London
Something Happening - Session 4 

Something RAW / February 6, 2010 / Amsterdam 

Tanzquartier Wien / January 14 and 16, 2010

Working Title Festival / December 2009 / Brussels
Preview Performance / Jardin d´Europe Selection /

reviews in english
short cuts short cuts
Interview with Doris Stelzer  "I see a retrograde step” in diestandard, scroll down
reviews full version (only in german)
Der veräffentlichte Körper corpus
Weiblich oder Männlich?
Variationen über einen Körper der standard
Text Astrid Peterle about gender jungle - woman, scroll down

Pictures see Gallery
When does our view identify a movement, an attitude or a body as typically male or female?  - this question is asked by Doris Stelzer in her new performance “gender jungle – wo/man“, in which the staging and reality (?) of feminity is juxtaposed with masculinity. In the gender-stereotype-cocktail the female cliché meets the male body and vice versa. After shaking, stirring and mixing to deconstruct stereotypical behaviour “restudied bodies” attempts to answer the question: what is common, what is inbetween - or - what is left apart from the normative binary conception of gender? Is there such a thing as an „unoccupied“ body?

Doris Stelzer’s work (choreographer and biotechnologist) focuses on the representation of bodies and their appearance in different media. Stereotypes and attributed roles are analyzed, questioned and transformed into movement-statements. gender jungle – wo/man is based on the research called restudied bodies – wo/man worked on during an residency at ImPulsTanz in summer 2009.

Concept, Choreography Doris Stelzer (A)
Performance, Choreography Lieve De Pourcq (BE/A), Ondřej Vidlář (CZ/BE), Gabriel Schenker (BR/BE)
Soundconcept, Liveelectronics Mariella Greil (A/UK), Werner Möbius (A/UK)
Lightdesign Tom Barcal (A)
Theoretical Input Astrid Peterle
Production Management Stefanie Fischer, Nora Dorogan
PR SKYunlimited
Thanks to ImPulsTanz, ttp WUK, WorkSpace Brussels
Support Cultural Section of the City of Vienna and the Art Section of the Federal Chancellery of Austria
Production dis.danse
Coproduction Jardin D´Europe Coproduction with support of the European Commission - Education and Culture DG

NOTE: restudied bodies - wo/man became gender jungle - wo/man!



gender jungle - wo/man
Text Astrid Peterle

Doris Stelzer’s performance gender jungle is a gallery of movements in which clichés and normative gender roles are displayed. The basis of the performance is an exploration of the effects of the processes through which normative gender constructions constitute themselves. How do gender stereotypes show themselves in movement patterns? To what extent are movements of the breasts, the waist, the hips and the buttocks connoted as “female” or “male”? And can these movement clichés be slipped over the body like clothes?

In gender jungle the clichés as it were settle on the surface of the performers’ bodies. The performance is – in the literal sense of the word – a superficial and ironic appropriation of movements and gestures that are connoted as “female” or “male”. In the course of the performance the performers put on ever more pieces of clothing to underline the clichéd movements. The focus is less on the gender connotation of the clothing than on the question of what stereotypical movements clothes are commonly associated with. The performers slip into the movements, which are almost delivered along with and by the fashion pieces. Like a skirt, a bikini top or stockings, the clichés slip themselves over their bodies. In the process of the development of the performance, not only media and advertising but also consumer temples offered energetic assistance in the direction of this clichéd gender behaviour: the animal print as a pure symbol of a gendered and sexually connoted pattern was omnipresent in the international department-store chains in summer 2009 – the performers present a cross-section of what was on offer for teenagers in the ladies’ departments.

We “do” gender every day inasmuch as we stage ourselves as woman or man: through pieces of clothing, through movements, through gestures, through the conventions of speaking, through social behaviour patterns. The sociologists Candace West and Don H. Zimmerman described the concept of “doing gender” at the end of the 1980s and referred to the production and reproduction of the binary and heteronormative gender order in everyday behaviour. “Doing gender” describes the fact that the gender is produced by every person in everyday practices and it usually relates to the norms of the gender to which they have been regarded as belonging since their birth. The concept also emphasises the fact that people cannot choose their gender afresh, day in, day out, but that they have to reproduce gender and the related normative conceptions of legitimate behaviour afresh every day in order to be socially recognised. The practices that do not reproduce the “biological” gender are perceived as not socially legitimate or as drag performance.

gender jungle analyses clichés such as “femininity”, which are generated in “doing gender” by an over-identification with norms of “femininity” and “sexual attractiveness” – be it “sexy” disco dancing with excessive hip movements or the posing of models on the catwalk. In this play on gender clichés the performers assume the movements and clothes with “female” connotations. But they do not attempt to get as close as possible to perfect copies of the “original femininity”. All three performers make it clear that the ideal of “femininity” is an illusion, a conception that no one can do justice to. If binary or heterosexual gender conventions are repeated in drag, then this practice cannot be described as a copy of an original but as a copy of a copy. Because the supposed original proves to be “inevitably wrong”, to be “an ideal that nobody can embody” (Judith Butler). Drag performances or performances in which gender clichés are pushed here and there among the performers, as for example in gender jungle, can thereby make it clear that what we regard as “natural” and unshakeable reality in gender is a construction that can be changed.

gender jungle, however, also raises the question of whether it is possible to appropriate normative gender roles, clichéd movements, gestures connoted as “female” or “male”, as “heterosexual” or “homosexual” and attributes such as pieces of clothing only on the physical surface. Does it require an inscription in the body in order to achieve a “passing”, in order to be perceived as a woman or a man in the normal understanding?

gender jungle does not depict a utopia in which the normative gender constructions are completely dissolved (human cooperation without norms is impossible, as Judith Butler repeatedly emphasises). Rather gender jungle consciously appropriates clichés in an ostentatious way. Existing norms are joyfully and humorously exposed in the performance, exaggerated, so to say over-constructed instead of deconstructed. Thus it becomes clear how crazy such an image is when it is taken out of its usual context: from the MTV dating show, fashion advertising, underwear fashion show, the outdoor swimming pool and moved onto the big disco on the stage of conceptual art. But – who actually makes the rules of what is allowed where, and how? Where does disco-dancing stop and conceptual dance begin? And anyway – who says that leo prints have no business in conceptual dance?


“I see a retrograde step”
Interview with Doris Stelzer, online 14 January 2010

For the choreographer Doris Stelzer body stereotypes are reproduced more strongly in everyday life: so she stages the surface in gender-crossover.

Vienna – When Doris Stelzer sees that fashion for teenagers is becoming ever more sexualised, that advertising in times of crisis increasingly relies on naked female bodies and the everyday gaze does not even notice it, then she becomes “emotional”. “I see a retrograde step,” says the Austrian choreographer. But instead of fighting rhetoric Stelzer approaches the issue playfully in her works: “Gender does not always have to be deadly serious.” In her gender jungle – wo/man, which is premièred on Thursday evening in the Tanzquartier, the lady and the gentlemen wear leo patterns (more on this in the weekly planner).

Microscopic studies

She discovered the costumes with her dancers during “research shopping”. Fashion betrays the body stereotypes of a society – even more so when the dancers of her dis.danse troupe serve as props for a microscopic study. “This is my prime interest, I think,” says Stelzer, who also in her early works, such as in shifted views (2007 at Impulstanz) displayed a sharp analytical gift, in “filtering out movements under very strict conditions.” Pose for pose, muscle for muscle. “The hips for example are very interesting: when is their movement everyday, when do they have a specific meaning – and for whom?”

Doris Stelzer, born in 1971 in Upper Austria, schooled her patient research spirit for the details of the body in her biotechnology degree. “Actually several people from the scene have a technical professional background – from biochemistry to mining – but have then developed their lives in dance,” she explains. “In my work, there is a relationship between the two areas in the detail one is interested in.”

Trying out female clichés on male bodies

She had long been dancing on the side – “at some time you say yes to your passion.”  From the details in the meantime she has gone “one step further”. gender jungle is drawn “more fully, more colourfully” than earlier works, “consciously ironic and pleasurable, but not naive”: Stelzer presents her observations from everyday life, tries out her “female clichés on male bodies” on the “models”, Lieve de Pourcq, Gabriel Schenker and Ondřej Vidlář, and shows the three bodies in comparison: “They are more similar than different. The rest is staging through the movements, the accessories, the fashion.”

An everyday retrograde step

Stelzer precisely does not want to go so far as highly theoretical gender considerations. “The gender discourse has come a long way, but at the same time I experience a retrograde step in everyday life. You are not even yourself immune from reproducing the same stereotypes and uncritically making your ideal of beauty out of it.” So instead of intellectual ballast, here there is “quite consciously the surface”. The work is nevertheless political, “inasmuch as it gets me worked up.”

Stelzer showed the first version of the work in December as a preview at the Working Title festival in Brussels. Lighting and sound have been improved for the Vienna première. “Now I must just leave it alone,” Stelzer laughs, and allow the choreographic child to learn to run – if she has her way, as far as possible. “At the moment I just want to play some more, grow in the process, experience different audiences in different cities.” In Vienna there is always “a lot going on” in dance. “The city has a really exciting scene at many levels – but you also have to stand by it and give people opportunities. Dance should grow beyond the borders of Vienna.” (APA)