Raimund Hoghe’s Sans-titre, a collaboration with Faustin Linyekula at DTW through Sep 18, is contemplative, clinical, sentimental, absorbing. Its long passages of taskmaking challenge one’s patience. Yet they also add to the formal, rarefied atmosphere of the spartan, black-draped theater, punctuated by a lone candle flame upstage. Everything is slowed down and reduced to its essence, which politely requests that we do so as well.
The work is part of FIAF’s Crossing the Line festival. Hoghe, from Wuppertal, was a writer and Pina Bausch’s dramaturge before he began making work. Linyekula, a generation younger, is from the Congo. Although both are relatively short in stature, they are very different. Hoghe was born with a spinal deformity that he accomodates in his performances. Linyekula is wiry and athletic, and shirtless, his muscular back seems to be absently mocking this difference.
After standing upstage, backs to us and arms ghosting a hug, they traversed the stage in short spans of steps. Hoghe matter-of-factly lays out and gathers up a dashed-line of papers around the stage’s perimeter. Finyekula grabs and distributes a bunch of stones—in a line, in a circle an arm’s length in radius; he also performs some dance passages with rippling shoulders and deeply bent knees. Both men in turn lie prone as Finyekula, in a sort of metaphorical chiropractic alignment, places the stones along each of their spines. He discards the stones by walking like a quadruped and twisting his spine, letting the stones fall scattershot, while Hoghe reaches carefully around his back to remove a rock at a time and fling it a distance away.
Music accompanies the entire 70 minute work—a ravishing mix of dolorous classics (Handel, Bach) and intriguing spiritual counterparts, a blend of European and African diaspora. I was glad for it, but at moments suspected my emotions were being manipulated by such loaded arias as “Dido’s Lament.”
A very slow passage where each man bent over and made airplane arms, then walked several steps, was repeated numerous times. Mirroring their early side-by-side pose facing upstage, this time they one-arm hugged each other warmly. Shuffling backward together, yards at a time, they finally turned to face us like happy children posing for a snapshot false ending. Another aria played as the lights faded ever so slowly, their sweet image etched in our minds like a scrapbook, fading like Kodachrome in dusky sunlight.