LADA is heartbroken by the news that the brilliant artist and LADA Patron Raimund Hoghe died on 14 May 2021. Mary Kate Connolly, editor of Throwing the Body into the Fight: A portrait of Raimund Hoghe (Intellect Live, 2013), has written these beautiful words in memory of Raimund.
Pier Paolo Pasolini wrote of throwing the body into the fight. These words inspired me to go on stage. Other inspirations are the reality around me, the time in which I live, my memories of history, people, images, feelings and the power and beauty of music and the confrontation with one's own body which, in my case, does not correspond with conventional ideals of beauty. To see bodies on stage that do not comply with the norm is important - not only with regard to history but also with regard to present developments, which are leading humans to the status of design objects. On the question of success: it is important to be able to work and to go your own way - with or without success. I simply do what I have to do.
Raimund Hoghe has died. A choreographer, performer, dramaturg and writer, he made an inestimably deep contribution to the worlds of dance, live art and writing which he traversed over the course of his career. He was an artist whose work profoundly shaped those who encountered it, and who was at the time of his death, still creating at a pace, with many rich projects planned for the future. There was still, so much to come. I find myself today in the unwanted position of attempting the impossible – to find the words that can give shape to this profound loss, to honour the vast legacy of his work and pay collective respects to a man of grace and beauty. To say goodbye to a friend.
I am reminded of how artist Franko B began his contribution to the LADA and Intellect published portrait of Raimund Hoghe, Throwing the Body into the Fight in 2013:
What can I say about this man?
About this human being, this brother of mine, this brother in arms?
What can I say without sounding too incredible?
Without sounding too theatrical or too fantastic or too deluded?
Raimund has gone from us, and in this pandemic-ravaged time of incomprehensible losses, we have need of him now, as ever before. His work insisted on remembrance. On counting uncountable loss through the staging of absences both collective and personal. His performances sifted through personal memories, the lives of Hollywood stars, and previously erased stories of individuals subject to violence and tragedy. These remembrances evolved almost imperceptibly over the course of a work, unfolded through careful choreographies of sparse interaction with objects, outbursts of virtuosic abandon, and a particular utilisation of duration in performance. Images took hold slowly, sometimes beguilingly so, carried along by a poignant selection of music – the bittersweet swells of torch songs followed by sparse lieder or the dreamlike refrains of Debussy and Ravel.
By performing his own remembering, Raimund Hoghe opened up an encounter with absence, and the sometimes obscured histories which indelibly shape our present. These quiet insistences ruptured the smoothness of historical account and created a space in which disparate elements of memory and history could coalesce into something profound, obtuse, incomplete. There is no suggestion here that Hoghe’s work took on the guise of drab polemic or the tired performative arcs of triumph over adversity. Quite the opposite. As Gerald Siegmund once argued, Hoghe’s performance ‘opens up spaces between things, words and songs for personal reminiscences and affective moments. They are moments for reflection but also for laughter’ (Siegmund, n.d.). There was always a dramatic economy in place within Raimund’s work, and it was this economy and tension which rendered his works so affective.
Writing in 2013, Siegmund suggested that ‘If the theatre is an empty space that calls up bodies to take their place, it is by means of his body as a performer that Raimund Hoghe bears witness to the dead that have no voice of their own…He puts his finger on mourning and loss, thus on exactly that which our society of consumption, liveness and the blissful and everlasting presence of Reality TV denies. This insistence and perseverance is Hoghe’s radical gesture’ (Siegmund, 2013: 47).
His early trilogy of works, Meinwärts (1994), Chambre Séparée (1997), and Another Dream (2000) charted both intimacies of his personal recollections and the historical and cultural events of the time which had imprinted upon him. Martin Hargreaves (2013: 71) suggested that ‘The vulnerability of the body…means that a community and a culture, through varying means of exposure, form and deform our bodies according to norms which are policed through medical discourses, through images, through social and sexual interactions…Hoghe’s work…makes explicit many of these formative touches’.
I remember that Judy Garland said on the stage of the Palace Theatre in New York “I’ll stay as long as you want me.”
I remember the photos of Vietnam, the faces burned by napalm and the children running away from the bomb dust.
I remember the colourful glossy images of Hitlerboys and Nazigirls in an autograph book of an aunt.
I remember that in the school they never talked about the War and the Holocaust…
I remember the women’s beehives and the trousers of the men, skin-tight around the hips.
I remember the plaster bed in which I was sleeping. Every evening it was closed with two skin coloured straps over chest and stomach.
The publication of Throwing the Body into the Fight coincided with the twentieth anniversary of Raimund’s performances. Whilst he had been making works for theatre since 1989, he dated the beginning of his company from his first collaboration with fine-artist Luca Giacomo Schulte and photographer Rosa Frank (collaborations which have remained central to his work to this day). The book aimed to create a collaged portrait of the artist – deliberately incomplete – refracting the disparate elements of Raimund Hoghe’s work and offering up a range of perspectives from those who had collaborated with him or written about his work. At the time of writing, I note my assertion in the editor’s note that ‘despite the passing of a twenty-year anniversary, it would seem inappropriate to fix Hoghe’s work within absolutes or strict parameters of discourse’. I heartily wished to avoid the bear trap of eulogising an artist ‘whose work persists in reinventing itself’. It seems in hindsight, that this was a wise choice. In the near decade which has unfolded since the publication, Raimund Hoghe’s output has remained undimmed – there have been a catalogue of theatre works, films, and other performance projects. These include Cantatas (2012), Quartet (2014), Lettere amorose, 1999-2017 (2017), and Postcards from Vietnam (2019). These works have featured some of his longstanding performers – dancers who have worked with him extensively over the past twenty-thirty years. They sit alongside portrait works made especially for individual dancers, such as Songs for Takashi (with Takashi Ueno, 2015), Musiques et mots pour Emmanuel (with Emmanuel Eggermont, 2016), and Canzone per Ornella (with Ornella Balestra, 2018). Alongside their close collaboration in the creation of each of Hoghe’s works since the 1990s, Luca Giacomo Schulte has also performed onstage with the company in many of the recent works.
When Raimund first placed his body onstage nearly thirty years ago, it tended to be only barely illuminated. He described to me that ‘in the beginning, I was very much in the dark. The light was very minimal – often no theatre lights, only candles or torches and so the body was nearly invisible. Only the face and hands were visible and in some moments, my back. But the body disappeared most of the time… It came slowly, more and more light… in the beginning I was so shy to present my body it was very dark so I could disappear’ (Hoghe, 2013: 51). Rosa Frank’s vibrant images of Raimund’s performances from 2004 or so onwards illustrate this evolution in joyous stark relief. Not only bathed in bright stage lights, he is also costumed with sharp accents of colour – a scarf, a veil – or lifted high in the arms of Takashi Ueno in their 2011 Pas de Deux. When I noted the emergence of enhanced theatricality and the virtuosic in his work, I asked Raimund whether the political gesture of placing his body onstage was still important (since he had been awarded Dancer of the Year (in 2008), and programmed annually at Dance Festivals – a stark contrast to his early years of performance). He replied that ‘the political theme is still there. In Si je Meurs, it is about remembering the people who have died of AIDS… in Pas de Deux there is a lot of beauty but there is also Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fukoshima – there is not only beauty and this is important’ (ibid: 122). This oscillation between beauty and the political, between sentimentality and devastation, was a key facet evident in the works throughout his career.
Raimund Hoghe was not to be rushed. His acute sensibility of time played out in the careful duration of his performances. He called on us to surrender to the extended moment, the long exhale. He insisted on playing the song all the way to the end. By small increments – the shifting in our theatre seats as we watched the slow accumulation of grains of sand falling upon a stage, or ice-cubes melting gradually under theatre lights – he brought us into relationship with our own bodies, our vulnerabilities, and our understanding of time. Our ways of being in the world together. The lives we live, the memories we make, both individually and collectively. The people who are absent. He invited us to wait, to lean into the slowness. This was not always a comfortable negotiation.
And now it is Raimund himself who is absent from us, and we are called to remember him. To honour an artist who gifted us with numerous works of beauty and power. This becomes a difficult task, and one which cannot be accomplished solely in the words of a tribute written in the raw shock of grief. It requires slow remembrance and recognition of the many ways in which his work has touched us – altering our landscapes little by little in the encounter, with a steely poise and grace. When I penned my editor’s note in 2013, I wrote of the fear the task had invoked in me – the anxiety of ‘destroying the very thing I had set out to preserve; that of the complex and ethereal space which is Raimund Hoghe’s theatre’. Back then I turned to the words of Japanese writer Junichirō Tanizaki (writing in 1933 on the construction of beauty), as a way of trying to unpick the operation of the sublime in Raimund’s performances:
There is an old song that says “the brushwood we gather – stack it together, it makes a hut; pull it apart, a field once more.” Such is our way of thinking – we find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates.
Today, as I write, I am listening to the voice of Peggy Lee singing Everything Must Change recorded during a 1977 performance in London. Lee’s cover of the song provided the soundtrack to a short film made by Franko B, called Lettere Amorose (2004), of Raimund dancing with Lorenzo de Brabandere. It was a film which was close to Raimund’s heart, and the one he chose to screen at the launch of Throwing the Body into the Fight. The lyrics were poignant then, set as they were, to the images of Lorenzo and Raimund dancing together – the man and the boy. They are ever more poignant now. In remembrance of Raimund, and hopefully in a manner in which he would approve, I’ll allow the words to speak for themselves.
Everything must change.
Nothing stays the same.
Everyone must change.
No-one stays the same.
The young become the old.
And mysteries do unfold.
For that’s the way of time.
Yes, everything must change.
There are not many things in life we can be sure of.
Except rain comes from the clouds, sun lights up the sky.
And hummingbirds do fly.
Winter turns to Spring.
A wounded heart will heal.
But never much too soon.
Yes, everything must change.
There are not many things in life we can be sure of.
Except rain comes from the clouds, sun lights up the sky.
And the hummingbirds do fly.
Rain comes from the clouds.
Sun lights up the sky.
And music makes me cry.
—Mary Kate Connolly, 15th May 2021—
Lyrics taken from Everything Must Change as performed by Peggy Lee. It was written by Bernard Igher and originally released by Quincy Jones in 1974.
Connolly, M.K. (ed.) (2013) Throwing the Body into the Fight. London: Intellect.
B, Franko (2013) Lettere Amorose, in Connolly, M.K. (ed.) (2013) Throwing the Body into the Fight. London: Intellect, p. 118
Hargreaves, M. (2013) Undone, in Connolly, M.K. (ed.) (2013) Throwing the Body into the Fight. London: Intellect, pp. 65-77
Siegmund, G. (2013) Raimund Hoghe’s Emblems of Absence, in Connolly, M.K. (ed.) (2013) Throwing the Body into the Fight. London: Intellect, pp. 37-51
Siegmund, G. (n.d.) Raimund Hoghe.
Available from: http://www.raimundhoghe.com/english.php
Tanizaki, Junichirō (2001 ) In Praise of Shadows, Great Britain: Vintage p. 46
This biography was written Mary Kate Connolly and featured in Throwing the Body into the Fight: A Portrait of Raimund Hoghe (2013: 21-23). The text is reprinted here with kind permission of the publishers.
The word hunchback she never uttered. She just called it his back. In loose pullovers it would be scarcely noticeable. “There are worse things than a back like that,” she says…When the son tells that he had heard that also men could kiss each other, and that he would like to know what that was like, he receives from the mother the only clip around the ear he can remember.
(Chambre Séparée, 1997).
Raimund Hoghe was born in Wuppertal, Germany.
In 1967, he began work as a journalist with the weekly German newspaper Die Zeit, writing portraits both of celebrities and individuals on the fringes of society. These portraits were later compiled into several books, including Stärke als Schwäche (Strength as Weakness) 1976, and Anderssein. Lebensläufe außerhalb der Norm (Being Different. Curriculum Vitaes of Life Outside the Norm) 1982.
In 1979, Hoghe wrote a piece on the seminal choreographer, Pina Bausch, for the periodical Theater Heute, entitled Meinwärts – Ein Zweig, eine Mauer (Mewards – A Twig, A Wall). An artistic collaboration developed between Hoghe and Bausch following this initial contact. From 1980 to 1990, he worked as dramaturg for Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal, a role requiring artistic involvement in production elements ranging from theatre programme design to staging. This period also produced the subject matter for two more books written by Hoghe: Bandoneon –Für was kann Tango alles gut sein? (Bandoneon – How many uses can be found for the tango?) 1981, and Pina Bausch – Tanztheatergeschichten (Pina Bausch – Stories from the Dance Theatre), 1987.
In 1989, Raimund Hoghe began creating theatre work for a number of actors and dancers, beginning with Forbidden Fruit, for Mark Sieczkarek. 1992 saw the beginnings of his collaborations with fine-artist Luca Giacomo Schulte and photographer Rosa Frank. Thus began a longstanding working relationship which continues to the present day. In 2012, Hoghe celebrated the twentieth anniversary of his company, which he dates from the commencement of his work with Schulte and Frank. This began with Verdi Prati (Green Meadows), created for Rodolpho Leoni in 1992. Since then, Luca Giacomo Schulte has worked as artistic collaborator with Hoghe in the creation of every piece, and Rosa Frank has photographed all of Hoghe’s works.
In 1994, Raimund Hoghe took the final step of throwing his own body into the fight, by creating his first solo, Meinwärts (Mewards), which together with the subsequent Chambre Séparée (1997) and Another Dream (2000) made up a trilogy on the 20th century, tracing personal and cultural memories from the 1940s to the 1960s. Following this, he created a 2000/01 lecture performance Throwing the body into the fight which combined choreography and text from pivotal moments of his previous work.
Early collaborations with dancers produced works such as 1998’s Dialogue with Charlotte performed by Hoghe with Charlotte Engelkes, and Sarah, Vincent et moi in 2002, with Sarah Chase and Vincent Dunoyer. These were followed by larger group pieces Young People, Old Voices (2002) and Tanzgeschichten (2003).
An interest in the history of iconic classical music scores formed the basis of many further works, beginning with a 2004 duet with Lorenzo De Brabandere, Sacre – The Rite of Spring. This was followed by Swan Lake, 4 Acts in 2005, Boléro Variations in 2007 (created for the Centre Pompidou, Paris/Festival d’Automne), and L’Après-midi, a solo for the dancer Emmanuel Eggermont which premiered at the 2008 Montpellier Danse festival. 2007 also saw the creation of 36, Avenue Georges Mandel, a solo for Hoghe based on the life and works of the singer Maria Callas, which was first presented in Seoul, and then during the Festival d’Avignon.
2009 heralded the creation of Sans-titre, a piece for the Congolese dancer-choreographer Faustin Linyekula. In 2010, Raimund Hoghe was commissioned by Montpellier Danse to create an homage to the late choreographer, Dominique Bagouet (former director of the Centre Chorégraphique National de Montpellier, and founder of the festival Montpellier Danse). This resulted in Si je meurs laissez le balcon ouvert, a group work contemplating loss and the art of saying farewell.
Pursuing his interest in Japanese theatre, Hoghe created Pas de Deux with Takashi Ueno in 2011. At the time of this publication, rehearsals were in progress for Cantatas, a performance for seven dancers and a soprano (Kerstin Pohle). This will be the first time Hoghe has worked with a singer (rather than dancers), having worked with actress Astrid Bas for Si je meurs laissez le balcon ouvert. The premiere of Cantatas is scheduled for November 2012 at Tanzhaus NRW in Düsseldorf, to coincide with the twentieth anniversary celebrations of his company.
Whilst in the earlier stages of his company, Hoghe tended to work only once with each performer, there are certain performers who feature in a number of his works, with whom he has established more longstanding collaborations. These began with Lorenzo De Brabandere, and continued with Ornella Balestra and Emmanuel Eggermont. More recently, Yutaka Takei and Takashi Ueno have also featured in multiple works.
In addition to his performance work, Hoghe has worked for television on projects such as Der Buckel (The Hunchback), an hour long self-portrait, created in 1997 for WDR (West German Radio and Television). In 2005, the short film Cartes Postales was made by Richard Copans, featuring Raimund Hoghe and Lorenzo De Brabandere (for ARTE).
Alongside the touring repertoire of the company, he has also created a number of site-specific one-off performances. These have featured text, site-specific performance and excerpts from previous works. On September 11th 2010, Hoghe created Skyroom Project, performed at the French Institute, New York. In July the following year, he performed Montpellier, 4 Juillet 2011 outdoors in the Cour de L’Agora, as part of Montpellier Danse.
Raimund Hoghe was awarded the French Prix de la Critique in 2006 for Swan Lake, 4 Acts, and the title Dancer of the Year in 2008 by the magazine Ballet-Tanz. Developments such as these are demonstrative of the continually increasing exposure his work enjoys. He has been programmed throughout Europe, and in cities such as New York, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.
Banner image credit:Raimund Hoghe - Throwing the Body Into the Fight.
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