Schützen is a performance piece that provides a uniquely insightful take on the demands made on the human body in wartime. In just over an hour, Danish performance artist Cecile Ullerup Schmidt guides her audience through a successful hybrid of education and entertainment; investigating and helping the audience investigate this subject. This smart piece is a winner.
The name of the performance piece comes from a German word with two distinct sets of meanings. As a verb, “schützen” refers to the act of providing protection, of acting as a shield. As a noun, it identifies a soldier or a shooter. The tension between these two concepts, between the need to protect oneself and others and the ethical issues associated with violence, is what drives the action of Schützen forward.
This three-part piece takes the audience through what Schmidt identifies as the three stages involved in the act of shooting: preparation, the act of firing, and recovery. “Ready, Aim” draws on Schmidt’s own experiences with the act of shooting, both directly through her training at a Berlin shooting club and indirectly through yoga. “Fire” brings other performers onto the stage to fly their own drone aircraft against an unsettling sonic backdrop. In the final segment, “Release”, Schmidt draws from her own experience interviewing Israeli veterans, young people who have done their years of mandatory service in the Israeli military, and describing how they end up finding their equilibrium again (or not).
Schützen is successful as an intellectual and scholarly work. Drawing from Schmidt’s fieldwork in the area, engaging with the life experiences of American drone operators and Israeli veterans alike, the show draws its power from Schmidt’s clear presentation of her discoveries. She leaves it up to the audience to draw the conclusions from her presentations. Importantly, Schmidt gives the audience agency. The project even enlists the audience as collaborators, sharing in yogic meditations and enlisting members in post-show workshops.
As importantly, Schützen is a powerful performance. Schmidt herself is a wonderful performer, both physically and mentally agile, taking her watchers step by step through her schema of the changes forced on human body by violence. With her collaborator, Matthia Meppelink who provides the sound effects, she makes great use of the space provided at the Pia Bouman School for Ballet and Creative Movement. The entire piece is well-written and well-composed, taking the audience on an extended journey ending in a place of authentic catharsis.
Schützen is a piece of performance art that works on multiple levels. Anyone interested in the effects of violence on the human body, on the mechanics of the human form, and in interesting intellectual topics presented in unusual ways would do well to see this Schützen while it is still on.
- Schützen is playing at the Pia Bouman School for Ballet and Creative Movement (6 Noble Street)
- Show Times: Wednesday August 14, 7:00 pm; Thursday August 15, 7:00 pm; Friday August 16, 7:00 pm; Saturday August 17, 2:00 pm.
- Schützen is 90 minutes long including post-show workshop and features descriptions of violence only.
- All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, By phone by calling the Lower Ossington Box Office at 416-915-6747, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth (located at 100A Ossington Avenue, first floor) Aug. 6-18 10AM-7PM (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)
- Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.
Photograph courtesy of SummerWorks.