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“Is this body out of date?” An interview with Doris Uhlich and Boris Kopeinig


Choreographer Doris Uhlich and media-artist Boris Kopeinig talk about their durational performance TANK, and the themes related to technology and the human body that it contains.

By Merel Eigenhuis

Doris Uhlich and Boris Kopeinig talk about their durational performance TANK, and the themes related to technology and the human body that it contains.

Hi, Doris and Boris. How did you come up with the concept for TANK?

Boris: It started with an invitation by Tanzhaus NRW [in Düsseldorf, DE] to participate in a festival about “the human body 2.0”. We did a lot of research on exoskeletons and robotics. The more machines we saw the less interested we became in bringing them on stage. Inspired by science fiction, especially the movie alien resurrection. we came up with the idea for the TANK.

Doris: We were thinking and discussing themes such as physical enhancement and prognosis of our bodies in relation to technology. The tank stands for transformation, operation – it is like a loop in which my body transforms constantly into another body. I also liked the idea to perform in a space which has an unusual dimension for my body. Because of the size and transparent walls, the tank makes some movements impossible to perform. On the other hand, it enables movements which you can´t perform in an open space.

In different reviews, it is stated that TANK “[…] asks the existential questions of human existence”. What is the most important existential question that lays at the base of this performance?

Boris: There is a section in the performance with an almost ritualistic beat along a vocal mantra: “is this body out of date?“. For me, this a key sentence. Do we really want to talk about human bodies the same way we talk about software updates? At the same time, it’s a question about the actual body of the dancer in front of you and the mechanisms of the art market.

The original version of TANK that would be shown at SPRING 2020 in May, is the ‘theatre version’. Now you’re presenting the ‘durational version’. How do these two differ?

Doris: In the durational version, audience can come and leave as they want. Because of the pandemic this seems to be an interesting proposal that more audience members can enter and watch the performance. It will be a more non-linear flow which we are very interested to develop. TANK has a lot of potential to work beyond the one hour-format of a theater performance.

Did TANK gain a new meaning in the light of the pandemic?

Boris: The pandemic has such an impact on life, that people will have different associations for sure. However, there are more layers to discover and I hope virus-related associations will not override the depth of the piece.

Doris: The isolated body in the tank gets a deeper meaning which we haven´t had before the pandemic. Moreover, there is one sentence in the project: “Rich people swim in a tank, poor people…” When I performed TANK the first time after the lockdown and said this sentence, I thought about who is able to afford e.g. quick tests, medicine or the first available immunizations…

What is the role of music in the performance (where did the inspiration for the music come from?

Boris: the sounds are influenced by my background as a DJ. I share my fascinations for alien, electronic, futuristic body-music. We tried something new in our collaboration, namely, we worked on “songs”. Sound has a very physical and emotional layer. If you hear these patterns and frequencies your perception will align differently to what you see.

Do you have plans to extend your artistic collaboration?

Doris: Boris and I have worked together since 2014. He has been making the sound for most projects since then. TANK is our first collaboration where developed the concept together. Let´s see what future will bring. We are at the moment very much into developing work with local people and work site-specific with huge ensembles. Boris is making the sound for these performances, and even performs in them as he is visible as a DJ and thus part of the group. This is our focus at the moment.

TANK is shown at Saturday, November 14th between 19:00-23:00 and Sunday, November 15th between 13:00-17:00. Click here for tickets.

Portrait of Doris Uhlich: Elsa Okazaki


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