ElseWhere Rhapsody, Jen Rosenblit ©Simon Courchel

The Draw of Elsewhere or A Space of Contrasts

The Fold performance series (Tanzfabrik) presents ElseWhere Rhapsody from 29 February to 3 March 2024 at Uferstudios. Performance maker Jen Rosenblit takes the audience on an eclectic exploratory journey of queer desire. A collage somewhere between tender intimacy and sensory overload spectacle emerges through poetry, song, eroticism, line dancing, and utopia.

I am struck with a multitude of impressions this evening. And it soon becomes clear to me that I can not respond to this work with my own words alone. So I take a page out of Jen Rosenblit and team’s collectivity handbook and ask the artist Therese Bendjus, who was seated at the other end of the stage on premiere night, to share her thoughts (which I have right-justified in the text).

“I don’t need anyone else / I thought I might be able to do this with someone else at some point / I thought / this time / maybe with someone else”
(description of the piece by Jen Rosenblit, p.9)

The first glimpse into Studio 14 reveals a country western atmosphere. In the middle, a giant hay bale. Colin Self (acting & monologue) in a cowboy hat and sleeveless shirt is a friendly bouncer. A dedication to “Queen Freddy Mercury”. Jen Rosenblit stands at the edge of the stage in a mesh top and cowboy boots: “When we try to be better, so I read, we first have to draw a clear border around ourselves. Set boundaries.” (ibid. p.6) In the background, Li Tavor (song composition & performance) and Gérald  Kurdian (sound design & performance) sweep a pile of earth into a semi-circular stage border. The parameters of the performance are defined and a sense of readiness for whatever will happen in the next nearly 90 minutes is conveyed.

The fields of action for those present are constantly blurred, the bastion of equipment and sound – so clearly isolated behind a wall of fluorescent tubes – dissolves. Falling in line with singers, performers. Sometimes stage center, sometimes in the back, between the viewers.
While the team continues to spread out, I find myself wondering whether the boundaries of togetherness can also be permeated by the audience? A number of situations cause me, as an observer, to burn with expectation and a longing for responsibility in this game for a world of one’s own desire and fulfillment. We are offered Jell-O from Colin Self’s bottom, hold white signs in our hands for a while, before they are reclaimed, unused, reminiscent of chapters for performers who appear to know very well where they are headed this evening. An expectation to become a part of the unfolding fantasy of ElseWhere, which will remain unfulfilled.

Jen Rosenblit hangs or sways or pauses in a push-up position above a butt plug. The draw is apparently as strong as the force of gravity itself until the rubber plug is tossed aside and ricochets off the ground like a rubber ball. But something continues to pull the body towards the discarded object. A cycle of attraction and repulsion, like magnetic poles constantly shifting polarity. Some moments, gentle and intimate, stand out for me and almost disappear into the background alongside the loud, shrill show. For example, one scene where Gérald Kurdian is seated in front of an imaginary potter’s wheel, patiently and precisely molding a vase. Or straws slurping from plastic cups filled with ice cubes, reminiscent of the feeling of not wanting a desperately needed refreshment to be finished. “Desire is not just erotic. It encompasses nearly everything we want but can never (completely) have.” (Begehren als queeres Phänomen – Eine autoethnografische Erkundung (eng. “Desire as a Queer Phenomenon – An Autoethnographic Exploration”). Eleonora Ciani & Marcus Fassl)

ElseWhere Rhapsody is an evening of  contrasts that all long to exist in one place. Something like nature, hay bales, and earth meeting a rainbow-colored wheel of spotlights, orange Jell-O, and blue latex. Pre-programmed spotlights cross with manually-guided spots (light design: Joseph Wegmann). And as paradoxical as the notions of this elsewhere are, they are brought to life, momentarily filling a world, restless with the everlasting potential to reinvent itself.

English translation by Melissa Maldonado

ElseWhere Rhapsody by Jen Rosenblit is shown as part of the performance series Fold (Tanzfabrik Berlin) from February 29 until March 3, 2024 at UferstudiosTickets