Enmeshed bodies, impossible touch: the object-oriented world of Pina Bausch’s Café Müller
Taylor & Francis
Reason for embargo
Temporary embargo required by the publisher.
In 1978, a controversial dance piece premiered at the Wuppertal Opera House, one that was ground-breaking in its rejection of established dance idioms and in its troubling of accepted notions of what it meant to dance. Since then, that piece, Pina Bausch’s Café Müller, has been elevated to the canon of late 20th-century performance and often praised in critical discourses for the ways in which it addresses violence, power, the writing of the gendered body, and postmodern alienation. Notwithstanding its exploration of human bodies, their materiality, interiority, and the conditions under which they encounter one another, there is, however, an important element in Bausch’s work that has not been paid sufficient attention in scholarly literature despite the insistence with which it appears foregrounded in her pieces. That element is the nonhuman, as embodied by the furniture placed (and displaced) on stage in Café Müller. As such, this essay will address the nonhuman bodies of Café Müller and claim that Bausch’s piece resonates with the work of contemporary philosopher Graham Harman, in that it tries to go beyond human exceptionalism to present a world where all bodies, regardless of their perceived nature, are simultaneously tightly enmeshed together and inaccessible to one another. By analysing Baush’s piece and referring to interviews with the choreographer and her set designers, this essay will reveal an extra dimension of Café Müller and, ultimately, of Bausch’s oeuvre, by focusing on the active roles performed by nonhumans on her stages. In doing so, Bausch will hopefully be rescued from her postmodern maelstrom and presented as an invaluable resource for contemporary ecological thought and its blurring of the human/nonhuman divide.
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Performance Research on 09/04/2015, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/13528165.2015.1026719.
Vol. 20, Issue 2, pp. 53 - 59