Mossbelly, which can be seen until 28 May 2023 at HAU2, is the culmination of Angela Schubot’s many years of exploration with moss and the trituration of plant material. A connection with her grandfather, whom she never met, emerged out of this project and prompted her to change her artist name to Angela Vitovec.
In front of the studio on the second floor of HAU2, a cluster of spectators is gathered. They hesitantly remove their shoes and place them in a plastic basket. Choreographer Angela Vitovec moves about and gives a personal introduction for each one of us in the entry area: we are encouraged to make ourselves comfortable and to change our position whenever we like. One by one, the audience enters the performance space. Because I am one of the last to enter, I have to make my way among the people scattered sitting and lying on the custom-built wooden floor. Scenic designer David Herman has created an undulating moorland out of pale, untreated pine plywood that seems to breathe. I find a spot near the wall of large windows. Behind me, the lush green space in front of HAU2 and two big blooming treetops. The room smells pleasantly of wood.
Suvi Kemppainen squats in the middle and begins to tap lightly on the floor with long fingernails. Eyes closed, I listen to the soft sound of rain that develops out of the arrhythmic drumming. Now and then, someone in the space shifts their position and I hear the noise of jeans or skin dragging over the wooden floor. Every third minute the subway rattles behind me, running along Hallesches Ufer, the near bank of the canal. Kemppainen changes location in the room and creates the rhythms of rain again: fingernails, toes, heels, and the balls of feet tap on the floor. The quality of the rain changes drastically depending on the softness and texture of the body part in use. In many moments I can imagine water droplets showering the folded body.
Suddenly, multiple people change places. Ann Trépanier balances on her buttocks in the middle of the space, the backs of her hands pressed to her eyes. Kate Nankervis stands and an impressive amount of liquid flows out of her mouth to the floor. They take up the movements that Kemppainen has established in the space. Now, with three knocking and drumming bodies, the rain sounds never stop for more than a breath. Nankervis and Trépanier create a kind of insect out of two interlaced bodies that crawls across the rolling landscape, still drumming. Andrea Maria David, Eileen Szabo, Maria Wollny, and Angela Haardt are dispersed throughout the space and for the most part take up the perspective of the audience. Only in the final third of the approximately 90-minute performance do their roles as part of Mossbelly become clear. The three younger performers make contact with them through an intimate embrace. Gently, their fingertips tap from the wooden floor over their skin, as if these bodies were an expansion of the underground, a piece of the breathing bog.
I experience Mossbelly as a rain ritual between two worlds. Aspects of the natural and of connection to nature are clear themes that are nonetheless repeatedly interrupted by artificiality, spontaneous and planned: the wooden floor, the fake fingernails, sounds of rain, blue sky, the subway, the blooming beeches behind me.
English translation by Cory Tamler