About

Maren Strack

There is always something violent in Maren Strack’s works; they push the limits of physical strain and play with expectations of female bodies. Unforgettable, for example, how she strings her body up by her own fox-red hair in “muddclubsolo,” while her feet dangle free-floating above the ground in rough rubber boots. She strains peculiar costumes under constricting circumstances (“DasLaufmaschenistnichtmehrzukittenSolo”) or loudly performs St. Vitus dances in skid and nail shoes. Underneath, metal planks groan (“ICE Lise Meitner”), a ytong block dusts (in her solo percussion piece “Ytong”) or she cracks whips in “6 Feet Deeper” in an interplay with video projections to the legendary cowgirl Calamity Jane.

In the case of the trained sculptor, a virtuoso in marking time, the installation becomes a dance, which in large work shows, such as the one recently held in Munich’s “Kunsthalle”, works even when the artist is absent. Her objects and machines like to perform a pneumatic and otherwise mechanical life of their own, inspired by her first experiences already as a 4-year-old, who was born in Hamburg and had her Kettcar equipped with huge rear wheels and since then does not want to let go of any physical intervention, the play with torque, transmission, leverage and sonic boom.

Maren Strack

For each sculpture and performance she develops new (movement) techniques. Sometimes she herself is part of the physical experiment, sometimes it is the materials that, set in motion, stretch, squeak, break or shatter. When she dances in an elastic dress with the maelstrom of mechanics, the fabric howls.

Latex, Ytong, steel, hair, all materials are examined for their choreographic usability and overstressed in the endurance test in order to find very specific movement sequences or their movement limits according to the material. Dressed in materials such as artificial fur, silver latex or white fabric masses, she sometimes plays electric guitar, on self-made instruments or with peculiar sound amplifiers for costumes and props. In this way, she always audibly creates exciting arcs of tension between the physical presence of the dancer’s body and the manipulative power she elicits from the machinery and its mechanisms.

Maren Strack’s performative installation art shows numerous connecting lines and approaches to the theme of modern femininity in connection with body action, movement dynamics and technology. These areas are by no means alien to each other in the context of her work, but rather explore the possibilities and dimensions of an image of woman in which independence, assertiveness, adventurousness, and feminine charisma belong together.

Arnd Wesemann

Vita

Maren Strack received, among others, the author prize of the “Junge Theater Bremen” as well as the prize for the best German dance solo. She was a fellow at the Künstlerinnenhof “Die Höge”, Bassum (2000), at the Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart (2001) and the Künstlerhaus Lukas, Ahrenshoop (2005). From 2008 – 2013 she was a visiting professor and course director of the Spatial Strategies course at the “Kunsthochschule Berlin Weißensee”. Since 2009 she has a teaching position for performance at the UDK, Berlin.

She has shown her works and performances at the following venues, among others:
Pavillon Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona; Goethe Institute Salvador Bahia, Brazil; Städel Museum, Frankfurt; Sofia City Gallery, Bulgaria; Academy of Arts, Berlin; Panasonic Center, Tokyo, Japan; Printemps de Septembre, Toulouse; Berliner Festspiele; In Motion, Museum of Modern Art, Barcelona; Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris; Vooruit, Genth, Belgium; Haus am Waldsee, Berlin; Goetheinstitut Belgrade; Deutsches Museum, Munich; Ménagerie de Verre, Paris; Festival Tanz im August, Berlin; Yamaguchi Centre for Media and Arts, Yamaguchi, Japan; Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, Frankfurt; Festival Perspectives, Saarbrücken; Pina Bausch Festival, Essen; BankArt 1929, Yokohama, Japan; In Situ, Marseille; Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin; Rathausgalerie, Munich.

Texts

New “Orchésography“*

Feet are not only for walking, that is shown everywhere by the solo dancers of the ear-catching musical theater. This jumping and rowing with the extremities and all the gymnastic fisticuffs around it – the rituals of the contortion establishment give the erotic fantasy the last rites. But there is another way.

In her “Ytong” performance, Maren Strack transforms a pair of dancing feet into instruments of block-breaking hard labor. The way the metal-shod soles are rammed into the stone is reminiscent of a form-eroding sculptural process. The hoped-for dance-like movement in space turns into a destructive treading on the spot. How does this continue? Differently, completely differently; contrast program. The revue is passé. In the ear, the sounds of footsteps and the stopping clicks of percussive tongue acrobatics increase to stone-softening intensity.

Minimalist sound also frames the mechanical ballet of a walking machine that brings seven pairs of shoes and prostheses to life. It’s an art-machine that references both the sophisticated high mechanics of the 17th and 18th centuries and the android automata of the Industrial Revolution with a shoe-plating wit. “Levers, cambrades and gears, screws and worms, ropes and pistons” Andreas Jungnickel demanded of his pupil for the Mechanica (Nuremberg, 1661) for the basic framework of the machines. E.T.A. Hoffmann also used his stylus to create his Olimpia in the story “Der Sandmann” (The Sandman), published in 1815. Maren Strack’s little machine whirrs, rattles, rattles, grinds… as if Coppola and Spalanzani, the two devil masters of the Olimpia story, had been locked up together with Fabritio Carosoda Sermoneta, the famous Venetian dance teacher, so that they could invent a machine movement sequence that would finally comply with the detailed rules of the manners books. This absurdly tacking walking machine is a reliable guide for ball-goers and ball-givers to prevent that most unseemly impression that dance students sometimes create in the act of wasting their natural grace. Finally, in her monitor quartet “Tanzstunde” Maren Strack instructs the postmodern Biedermeier in the steps of cleaning and household dance. How a social relationship of proximity and distance is characterized with the help of bell and brush shoe is truly fabulous.

*Orchésographie is the title of the famous dance textbook by Thoinot Arbeau, probably the most important dance theorist of the 16th century.

Christoph Tannert

The performance artist Maren Strack moves between sculpture and dance. From movement, props and sounds she puts together stories that tell something different to each audience member. With ironic theatricality she combines the genres, free of any fear of contact.

When trying to narrow down Maren Strack’s themes, one ends up again and again with terms such as “physicality”, “dependence” and “freedom”. Strack creates tensions between the physical presence of the dancer’s body and the manipulative power of machinery and its mechanisms. The question arises as to who actually depends on what: The body on the machine – or vice versa?

The body is encased in props that completely reduce its “nature” to absurdity. Oversized dresses made of strange materials such as fake fur, silver latex or white masses of fabric reminiscent of a monstrous wedding dress turn the performer into a work of art before she even bends a little finger. Unusual footwear draws attention to the feet: hiking boots on iron runners, pumps with huge heels, walkable brushes, etc. change any kind of movement, which is suddenly subject to completely new constraints (or possibilities).

With humor, Maren Strack questions the meaning and perception of dance. What is dance? What rules and norms is it subject to? Where are the limits – of gravity, of logic, of the body, of perception? And how can they be undermined?

Christiane Pfau
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