this girl can’t be serious

philipa rothfield sees antje pfundtner’s eigenSinn

Antje Pfundtner, EigenSinn

Antje Pfundtner, EigenSinn

EIGENSINN (THE WILFUL CHILD) IS A FIGURE OF CHILDREN’S FICTION, A CAUTIONARY TALE OF THE MANY PITFALLS THAT CAN BEFALL ILL-BEHAVED YOUTH. ANTJE PFUNDTNER HAS AN AIR OF THE DISOBEDIENT ABOUT HER. SHE IS CLEARLY TRAINED IN CONTEMPORARY DANCE BUT HER PERFORMANCE IS A CONTINUAL TUSSLE, WITH EVERYTHING.

Not too far into the show, Pfundtner narrates an early childhood experience in which she couldn’t move. This was a semi-permanent condition she had to slowly and painfully overcome. One can’t imagine what that would have been like and the inflexion that whole process would have lent her current immersion in dance. What would it mean to move when once you couldn’t? Nothing is taken for granted.

EigenSinn is full of surprises. Pfundtner moves to the corner to sit at a small white desk, a school desk perhaps. Quietly looking out, scanning the audience, taking a long time…Whack! With an axe she cuts off her (fake) hand. She moves on. Little vignettes, either physical or verbal, grow like balloons which then deflate making farty sounds into the distance. These stories may or may not be true. She is a passenger on a bus. The bus driver collapses on the wheel. Antje takes over and saves the day. Did this happen? Children are full of fantasies in which they heroically save the day. Pfundntner offers a kaleidoscope of childhood perspectives, but from a distance. She does not enter the child’s persona. She gives it to us in the midst of her own movement, twisting the narrative not only in verbal terms but through her dancing.

Whilst there is an undercurrent of contemporary aesthetic values in her work, Pfundtner superimposes a level of irony in her choice of movement. Like the girl at the desk, our lulled waiting is interrupted by surprises. A quick drop to the floor, a lunge out of order, quirky arm gestures, all in a river of movement which is quite nice, lyrical almost.

Pfundtner has a liking for spirals. She enjoys, I think, the feeling of spinning, turning, twisting across space. I can almost sense an historical pattern of her training here—executing phrase material across the dance floor, taking a half turn, then another then another into spirals. But this has been worked over, like découpage, a series of cutout images laid on top of other cutouts. Pfundtner creates her own movement vocabulary, almost inserting elements from everyday life but not quite. She is more creative than this. Many of her movements are twisted deconstructions of the everyday. Someone could make this gesture but if they did we’d all stare and wonder. You could dance these movements but they would seem odd. It is an exaggeration to call her style grotesque or monstrous. But neither are her choices ‘normal.' What to say?

Well, watching her is funny. Not everyone in the audience was laughing but I don’t think we’re trained to laugh at dance. We’re trained to take it seriously. I’m one of the worst offenders. I felt transported into the world of stand-up comedy physically realised. And yet, this was not slapstick. Pfundtner’s persona is fluid, flexible, chameleon-like. In one sense, this is an autobiographical piece, like most solos, but she plays a certain distance through her parodic performativity. At one point she played air guitar, then this morphed into some convincing clitoral masturbation. Is this personal? Who knows? She put a glitter ball on her head, dimming the lights for a home planetarium experience. This was almost entrancing but became something else. We don’t get to sit too long until a particular experience is chopped off with an axe, leaving a corporeal memory trace on a little white desk as Pfundtner, that willful girl, spirals off somewhere else. I don’t know whether all this humour is a defence or an embellishment. Is Antje Pfundtner funny for the heck of it? She is good at it. She is an artist who has made a collage of her life, including her childhood, in movement. I liked this piece but I am also intrigued to see her next one, to see how the willful child grows up.

EigenSinn, The Wilful Child, dancer, choreographer Antje Pfundtner, sound design, Dayton Alleman, presented by Chunky Move and Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne, Jun 22-24

RealTime issue #80 Aug-Sept 2007 pg. web

© Philipa Rothfield; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 2007