Katrine Staub Larsen (virtual resident) Apr/May 2021

Photo : Angelina Owino * Headpiece by me

Hello all, my name is Kat. I am a choreographer and dancer based in between Copenhagen and Berlin.

Welcome to this blog following me and my work in Copenhagen whilst being on a virtual residency at Lake Studios in Berlin. On this blog I am gonna post texts, pictures and references all related to my work and practise.

..today I am gonna share with you a text on my work that I have chosen to name ‘Hermes’. ‘Hermes’ is a container hosting and framing an ongoing engagement with my artistic practise at the moment. The text is not a conclusion to what ‘Hermes’ is or can be, but a poem and a spell that is doing its work on many layers in my work and life.

‘Hermes’ is simultaneously a performance, a drag persona and a method based artistic practise. ‘Hermes’ is mixing working with choreography, live singing, lip syncing, dragging and drawing in a search of a figure, a body and a space to live out desires and express political concerns and address the collective trauma of the genocide in Denmark and Europe during the ‘witch-trials’ especially in the seventeenth hundred. With a love for pop-culture, entertainment and for big, cathartic, high-production concert-shows, for standup, storytelling and for satire ‘Hermes’ is questioning what stageart is, can be and how it takes up space in the world. ‘Hermes’ explore how choreographic choices can be turned into containers that can embrace physical revelations and mystical epiphanies and how performances can be seen as dedications, yearnings, visualizations, political commentary and private dances. Through intimacy and flamboyancy ‘Hermes’ is trying to address human vulnerabilities as fragile material bodies, queer identities differing from an illusionary norm, bodies not fitting the structures and not living up to expectations, to efficiency. Speculating in particular upon the oppression of the body’s somatic experience of itself and the stories situated in in our collective narratives in the west on what a human body is in relation to what a non-human body is. 

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Conversation with ‘Hermes’ about songs, digging out knowledge and versions

Thank you so much for taking your time to try to knit some stories with me on this rainy May-day in Copenhagen

You are very welcome.. Also kind of enjoy this wet world right now ❤

I actually just wanted to start by asking you if you would tell me about your collaboration with music and songs. You perform different songs and it makes me wonder about your reflections behind this engagement with pre-existing music.

Thank you for asking about this.. It does feel quite relevant to unfold this area. So first of all I can say that I have this deep emotional and spiritual relation to music and to songs. Specifically to the act of drama in songs. It is like a song is a little play in itself, where the voice or actor behind the song is going through a little journey. The notion of storytelling, of delivering a story through performing a song. I have a deep love for musicals, for cabarets, revue’s and the liking, since I was very little. Also I grew up in a house full of music, both being played live and also just a non-stop dj set curated by my dad. And even though he was waaaay too dominant in his way of always being the one choosing the atmosphere of the house, I got introduced to a lot of different music. Through my mom as well who is a musician and music teacher. I have been singing with her since I was a child.

Thanks for sharing that. I am seeing a bit of a connection between this storytelling aspect of a song and the singing with your mother. I am imagining both her and your own story are alive in this exchange.. what does it do to you right now when I entangle these two things?

It opens up a lot. It opens up many different aspects of the things that are important to me. With my mom, I have been singing songs that mean something to her and songs she has sung with her mom and songs from her youth. I see her stories in the songs, and those stories are also mine and a part of what made me. When singing with her, I feel we are dealing with a lot of collective trauma and questions that we share, but that are different for our different generations. Also I feel this connection you are making, points to my engagement with digging out information on the ‘witch hunt’ and ‘-trials’ in Denmark, mainly in the seventeenth hundred. It is something I have been deep into for a long time. I am feeling some sort of loss inside of me of an ancient spiritual knowledge. And I am thinking that this feeling is tracing itself back to this genocide and the oppression of every non-christian practise and just oppression of women* and queers in general. I mean many people are on this quest and engaged with these questions of digging out knowledge and I am very thankful for that.

Now I see something in what you say, about reclaiming.

Oh indeed..

..but maybe also speculating. Like how to re-evoke hidden, lost or oppressed knowledge and practises. Or create ‘new’ practises and traditions … trusting the body, its signals and fueling this connection. ..the connection to plants, goddesses, forces, spells, practises…. I feel I am just starting to dream a bit..

Yes all that. And actively dreaming, going into trance. Writing, singing, drawing. Trusting it, empowering it, question it. Do it together, in groups .. dance, sing together, play.. Read the stories written and hear the stories told.. question it, work with it..

You had me dropping the words a bit now…

Yeah… but there is also something else in regards to this that feels important for me to talk about. I am working with many different songs and I also have many questions about them and what it means to put them on stage, to cover them, to inhabit them. Questions of referencing, appropriating, representing, reclaiming… I mean, it is all depending on the song in question. And what I find interesting about working with all these different songs is also all the complexities.. Like how did women* for example express themselves in songs throughout time? And how did people in general? And what view and stories shaped the struggles and stories that were put into songs? And what shaped the expression of them.. of singers.. the clothing, the gender expression.. There are so many songs I love so dearly with very questionable lyrics. But what I find very interesting is how to work and enlighten that complexity in performing them. How to both celebrate the song and the singer and its emotionality while also bringing in the satire. The satire around the lyrics, the gender expression.. I mean this is of course very specific to each song. But a good example is my love for old folkloric songs for example sung by Joan Baez. Some of them with lyrics about over-romantically committed love, of war, of ‘beautiful women’ and ‘strong men’.. And I feel that I am dealing with how those stories and the culture around them have affected me, through performing them. Dealing with how they might support and strengthen me, how they might have been very toxic for me, what they say about the time they were written and so on..

Well, with all this you are entering now, you make me think about ‘drag’ as an artform. In this play between celebrating, making ‘fun of’, satire, commentary, politics, gender bending, the love for something complex in its context.. And I know you both lipsinck and also make your own wearable stuff. What does this artform means to you?

It means so very much to me. And I have also been thinking about this. That what I do is so informed by this and maybe just is this. And I love covering, mimicking, being a chameleon, interpreting, copying mannerisms of singers.. Celebrating pop culture, entertainment.. Revue, cabaret… I mean yes, this is what I do I guess… I also want to acknowledge the potential complications of referring to and identifying with the art and culture of drag since this artform has such a rich, beautiful, complex story. As well as a violent one, as so many, especially black queer people and particularly transwomen, have not been having the freedom to live out their truth safely, even though they are the mothers and founders of the artform. I don’t wanna pretend that I haven’t used the term ‘drag’ loosely in relation to what I do before and I wanna stress that I don’t find it a loose thing, taking up that space. And I wouldn’t be able to do any of the things I do in this regard, if it wasn’t for their expression and fight for liberation.

Yes.. Just this… and you also make me think about how so much of what we consume in Denmark (cause this is where we are right now) is north american.

Oh yes, I mean all the songs.. I always almost only do or perform songs that are either from a north american artist and in english or one in danish by a danish artist.. A few british, german.. Again, this is what I grew up with and was presented to. And obviously there are a lot of artists I wouldn’t lipsinck to or cover, because of the question of appropriation, but also you could have that critical gaze on some of the songs I do now. This is again a question from song to song.. I have also started to be very interested in scottish folk music and the lyrics and stories behind them. This connects itself to this engagement with going back to dealing with the very local story of ‘witch trials’ and of my ancestors here, kind of wanting to ask what I am made from and do some ecofemme haunting. And deal with this collective trauma of all the crimes of Denmark during times of colonialism (as if this was something from the past) and the local oppression of pre-christian spiritualities.. also I am thinking a lot of the oppression of the Sami population in the north. …. But yes… celebration, satire, honoring, dedicating, questioning, failing, yearning, reclaiming, loving, remembering to be quiet...

I saw your male-persona doing the Sting lipsinck .. I am thinking if this ‘character’ also helps you deal with toxic masculinity, anger..

Yeah I mean.. Just that, exactly that. I grew up with an abusive and chronically angry caregiver and yeah, that and the harassment I experienced in my life is being digested and dealt with in this male alter-ego. I think his name or one of his names is ‘little kitty johnny’ – and again, don’t get it twisted; He is a celebration too, and he is also charming and he is also fun. And of course I want to perform him in spaces made for consensually playing with these ‘characters’ in us, humans. Maybe he needs to become part of some dragnights.. I am new in Copenhagen, but would love to find out where those are happening. Once again, all my references of drag at the moment and are north american, as well as my favourite queens, kings and drag-performers … Also, I need to improve my makeup skills a lot! That is on the list.

And wardrobe?

Haha yes! I also desire to make more things myself. The homemade headpiece I am wearing right now is also connected to what we talked about related to songs. Like these dolls are also ideas and interpretations of what a ‘woman’ looks like.. with complexities, references and gender expressions as we talked about with songs. And I love them, and I want to honor and empower their femmeness! And honor their dresses, their knitting tools, their bucket for the cow milk, their emotional labor, their stories and songs.. also in this complexity of how a lot of this was also shaped by men and by oppressive forces.. You know it is all very complex and entangled, I don’t want to try to escape that.

Well, so much to say, but this feels sufficient for now.. Or I feel I need a mental break to be honest. Thank you so much for sharing with me.

Well, my pleasure. Also it is just all versions I guess… Like versions of songs and stories. A cover or a performance of a song is a version and a take on that song. And I believe – or I am supported by a belief in (or point of view) – that what is being created, being by humans, communities, plants or ecosystems, is all versions of the things being created…or the things occurring.. we could say.

Versions.. Yeah indeed… takes off some pressure also, right? (lol)

Yes..I mean.. what I do is a consequence of so many connections, a myriad of entanglements with loved ones and their stories and our collective stories and queer support.. and the knowledge of plants and the sun and my flesh and bones..of positions, a lot of resources and privilege, or limited resources and limited accesses depending on the context and frame.. And a lot of work done by others.. Work that is not credited.. Invisible work.. I am not trying to not take responsibility for what I do by saying this, but it is how I perceive it.

We will continue from there sometime.. may another version of this conversation occur 😉 ..take care for now, dear

Yes. You take care as well! ❤

***************

Digging and reading

  • A small selection

With texts and images from:

Thisted museum

historie-online.dk

thymad.dk

Friplejehjemmet, Bedsted Thy

Hassing-galgebakke.dk

chr4.dk

***************

You had me dropping the words a bit now…

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