when I was born, I couldn’t move at all

sophie travers talks with antje pfundtner

Antje Pfundtner, EigenSinn

Antje Pfundtner, EigenSinn

Antje Pfundtner, EigenSinn

EIGENSINN WAS ANTJE PFUNDTNER’S FIRST BIG SUCCESS AND TOURED THROUGHOUT EUROPE AND ASIA. SHE RECALLS A JOURNALIST ASKING HER TO SUMMARISE HER WORK AND HER SINGLE SENTENCE RESPONSE WAS, “WHEN I WAS BORN, I COULDN’T MOVE AT ALL.” PFUNDTNER NOTES IN A CONVERSATION OVER EMAIL, “ THIS SENTENCE SUMS UP MY WORK PERFECTLY. IT HAS AN AUTOBIOGRAHICAL BACKGROUND. IT CONTAINS A STORY, A FAILURE, AND THE WORD ‘MOVE’.” PFUNDTNER PERFORMS THIS SOLO IN JUNE AT SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE’S STUDIO AND MELBOURNE’S ARTS HOUSE.

Pfundtner first visited Australia briefly in 2005, supported by Goethe-Institut Sydney to lead a research project with local artists at Critical Path. Performing excerpts of Eigensinn in an informal workshop setting to illustrate her practice gave rise to the invitation to perform the work in theatres in Melbourne and Sydney.

In our discussion about her return, Pfundtner elaborates on the special place this solo has in her rapidly increasing repertoire. “I made EigenSinn at a time when I was digesting the input I had received as a dancer and artist. I was travelling, working with different people, taking a lot of classes and workshops. The solo form seemed the most suitable way to process all that. EigenSinn is still my most personal work and reflects upon my life…as an artist, a human being, a woman. The main thread is the Brothers Grimm Fairytale, Das Eigensinnige Kind (The Willful Child), in which a girl is punished for developing her will. Nowadays this is the one thing everyone is trying to achieve, especially artists, for whom reflecting upon will and stand-point is crucial. EigenSinn also deals with three other stories from my experience. The first is the most personal, the story of my early inability to move.” (A rare and severe medical condition which Pfundtner overcame as she grew. )

Pfundtner’s work is warmly anticipated by her Australian presenters. Steven Richardson of Arts House writes, “Antje is a fantastically engaging and skilled performer who has a theatrical expressiveness which makes her a compelling, watchable dancer. Importantly, she is unafraid to use dry humour as a part of her performances and I experienced this first hand at her Critical Path residency showing. Hosting international artists is an important part of what Arts House does. International guests are invited into the program partly to provide audiences with an expanded context to the work of local artists, many of whom investigate the themes of self knowledge as Antje does. We are committed to performers who insist on interrogation of practice, culture or thematic concerns…and Antje certainly fits this bill. “

Just as she will give a workshop for professionals in Melbourne in association with Chunky Move and Arts House, Pfundtner will also accompany her Sydney Opera House Studio shows with a second research project at Critical Path. For three days she will work with 14 participants; several of these Sydney based artists were involved in Pfundtner’s original workshop. She writes, “I love it when things continue or leave a trace. With Critical Path I am again presenting my tools for getting to material and choreography in exchange with the participants. The last workshop maintained its own dynamic after I left, which made me very happy. As I heard from the participants, they made a performance night out of that workshop. What more could I ask?”

Since making EigenSinn Pfundnter has created four group works. The first, Selbstinschuld, has the English sub-title “If you can’t fix it—feature it” and is about being trapped in life. She followed this with a quirky piece for the students of her old school. She then created Outlanders with Beijing’s Living Dance Studio, a piece where, “misunderstandings became a form of communication.” Pfundtner’s latest work inDeckung, recently premiered in Germany. Dealing with wishing and wanting, fantasy and absurdity, this piece employs language once more and extends into singing.

Antje Pfundtner hopes that more of her work will be shown in Australia, and if her last voracious engagement with the scene is anything to go by, it seems that she will become a regular visitor.

Antje Pfundtner, EigenSinn, Studio Sydney Opera House, June 14-16, www.sydneyoperahouse.com; Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, June 22-24, www.artshouse.com.au

RealTime issue #79 June-July 2007 pg. 30

© Sophie Travers; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 June 2007