Mette Ingvartsen – the choreographer and sole performer of 21 pornographies – takes an extraordinarily plural approach to the body. Although we are eventually treated to some pretty rad dance moves (there’s an excellent foray into ’60s gogo), don’t buy your ticket expecting an evening at the Bolshoi: this is definitely choreography in the broader sense of ‘a body negotiating a plan’, and Ingvartsen’s plan brings us far beyond the conventional.
In fact, a lot of the movement in 21 pornographies is performed by absent bodies in imaginary spaces, verbally described by Ingvartsen with deliberate assurance. Culled from an extensive pornographic corpus dating back to de Sade, the scenes she invites us to imagine tend to marry eroticism, violence and various incarnations of state power – not light fare, but certainly absorbing. When she shifts deftly into the roles she’s describing, now channeling a horny marquis, now a chocolate-covered starlet, the gravity of her transformation is arresting and often genuinely disturbing.
21 pornographies is meticulous and intricate, and despite the multiplicity of Ingvartsen’s clamouring to take the stage – Ingvartsen as articulate narrator, as exhausted corpse, as porous material, as posing mannequin, as a bark in the dark – her precise and deliberate choreographer persona never loses its grip on the situation. My favourite moments occurred when the body itself seemed to exceed the narration, persisting in its transformed state far longer than strictly required for illustrative purposes. These curious moments linger like openings to something beyond or beside the thick layer of pornographic fantasy that Ingvartsen conjures.