Anne-Mareike Hess

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Strength. Authority. Confidence. These age-old virtues of patriarchal society are the subject of mockery in Anne-Mareike Hess’s solo performance Warrior. Hess redraws the main figures from our male dominated history books (emperors, kings, popes), and incarnates them as a single condensed comic book character. Her interpretation of this caricature is vigorous and uncompromising: with heavy breathing that makes her nostrils clench against her face, imposing gazing that almost makes her eyeballs pop out of her skull, and neurotic tongue rolling, moulding it into her cheeks. She draws the lines of her cartoonish body ever more bold as layers of sponge armour thicken her contours, creating unexpected body extensions and colouring her character in playground chalk pastels. Just like her Spartan cries and ‘chansons de geste’ that echo and amplify into a sacred call to war.

Jonas Schildermans

It’s so refreshing to see a piece that doesn’t show ugliness as an antithesis to beauty, but rather as the outcome of deeply nuanced research. Anne-Mareike Hess accomplishes this in Warrior. In this mini post-modern opera, Hess embodies a painful, imperfect transformation into an expanded version of herself, not only through the sequential layering of oversized foam armour, but also through electrified pop-and-locks and grounded power poses. Deliberate, exaggerated breathing, beatboxing, coughing, throat-clearing and strong, activated vocals reverberate against the rafters. It’s not always comfortable to watch her box and bend, not because you’re embarrassed for her, but because the struggle is so relatable.

Maybe ugliness isn’t the right word here. The work is not ugly. Hess is not ugly. Her voice is not ugly. It’s impressive. It’s fierce. It’s vulnerable. Sometimes sad. But in the end, she’s made it through: calmer, wiser, stronger.

Zee Hartmann