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à mort
Recording: 2023-03-22 , Sophiensæle (Video © Bickmann & Kolde GbR)

Claire Vivianne Sobottke

à mort


Production Details / Press Releases


“à mort“ (french) is excess and announcement of the worst: “I will fight you to death”. But it‘s also expression of hyperbolic enthusiasm. “Do you love me?” – à mort, hell yeah, with all I‘ve got!“, said with a crooked smile whilst acknowledging that the world is ending.

à mort is is a performative work in four chapters, each of them investigating processes and states of dying, domination and killing from different performative and musical points of view. Here we would like to share a collection of reflections and references that have inspired and influenced our artistic process.

It is the “memento mori” that has inspired the stage and objects created by Clementine Pohl and Yoav Admoni for à mort. A “memento mori” (translation: remember that you must die/are mortal) is a symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death. The “memento mori” appears in different cultures, religious or spiritual backgrounds and throughout different epochs, until today. It‘s found in the form of paintings or sculptures or in the form of little objects, talismans that can be carried by their owner.
In 1954, eight days before she passed away, Frida Kahlo finished her last painting called Watermelons –Viva la vida. The painting is a still life, depicting watermelons. Into one of them, the artist writes in Spanish: “Long live life”. In other cases, it is also typical that “memento mori” carry a double meaning: on one side it urges to remember one’s mortality, the ephemerality and fragility of life, the magic of a precious and radically alive body. On the other hand, and precisely by doing so, it may create a sort of “hyperalive” – a grotesquely alive body, in a state of denial or ecstasy.
In the “memento mori” the body is often portrayed in close proximity with nature: a human skeleton is painted next to rocks, stones, trees, plants, mushrooms or animals. The human body and nature share the same status. That life cannot be controlled is evident in our mortality. The constructed separation of human life from other forms of life, as well as the belief in its superiority, which has been enforced by western culture and science, is put in question in this artform. The “memento mori” is irrational, it laughs to our faces and demands us to be wild.

Historically, killing and dominance belongs rather to the realm of masculinity. In summer 2022, composer Stellan Veloce wrote an SMS to Claire, mentioning a movie that would influence the creation process of à mort significantly. Les Garcons Sauvages is a surreal and expressionist film by Bertrand Mandico, in which a cast of adult women plays a gang of wild boys, just as violent and nasty, as most of the other boy gangs we know so well from cinema and the schools we went to (A Clockwork Orange, to name one of these examples). In theater and film it is still rare that women are allowed to embody the role of the masculine villain. For Claire, who has been terrorized by being put into the roles of women, not only in her work as an actress, the act of playing with the masculine, carries the potential for a generative exorcism. The set of rules that has been associated with masculinity throughout the last centuries is certainly deadly though, also for men themselves. In à mort the three performers Claire, Moss, and Stina take permission to become boys. Justin, Jokke and Timmy meet in the woods and get their mouths full of dirt.

Hunting could be seen as a symbolic metaphor for patriarchal violence. In her book The Will To Change the Afro-American author bell hooks describes patriarchy as a dynamic which is defined in its core by the relationship and hierarchy between a subject that dominates and a subject that is dominated. Throughout the last centuries it is undoubtedly men who have predominantly profited from the hierarchy and privilege, which emerged in this dynamic. Yet the dynamic of domination and control is to be found beyond gender relations, for example in the relationship of humans with nature and more than human lifeforms.
For a long time, the animal has been a poetic and dear companion in Claire‘s artistic practice. In à mort a hunter encounters an animal. The hunter, in contradiction to the boys, is maybe an adult man, who has learned how to kill. Hunting is a fantasy to conquer, to own, to devour.
In our process we looked at the history of hunting, as an activity reserved to aristocracy and the upper class. We were interested in the exoticization and devaluation of the animal, inherent to the act of hunting for pleasure, as well as the trivialization, eroticization and heroization of killing a prey.
The collaboration with the horn players Abigail Sanders and Elena Kakliagou emerged from the fascination with the phenomenon of hunting. As instruments that were originally used for hunting wild animals, the horns informed the musical work both in abstract and direct ways. Some of the vocal and instrumental hunting calls used during the hunt have become part of the musical composition.

CLAIRE VIVIANNE SOBOTTKE is a choreographer, performer and dancer. Her work explores the body as a turbulent accumulation of concepts, collective and personal histories, traumata, memories, projections, identities and magic. The voice acts therein as political tool and poetic phenomenon. She develops sustainable strategies to subvert objectification and patriarchal hierarchy through a playful sexuality, sensuality, ecology and collectivity. Her work includes strange songs (2016), Velvet and WE BODIES (2019), Full Body Frontal (2022), Songs for Love and Rage (2018) and Amazonas (2017).

[Source: play bill]

TFB Nr. 1747

Cast & Credits

CHOREOGRAPHY, CONCEPT: Claire Vivianne Sobottke
à mort is a stage work by and with PERFORMING AUTHORS: Stina Fors, Moss Beynon Juckes, Claire Vivianne Sobottke
COMPOSITION: Stellan Veloce, Kaj Duncan David
MUSICAL COLLABORATION / FRENCH HORN: Abigail Sanders, Elena Kakaliagou
SPACE, OBJECTS: Clementine Pohl, Yoav Admoni
COSTUMES: Lea Kieffer
THANKS TO: Jule Flierl, Ignacio Jarquin, Mathilde Sobottke, Maja Zimmermann, Alma Toaspern
The song Dramacycle is written and composed by Moss Beynon Juckes

A production by Claire Vivianne Sobottke in co-production with SOPHIENSÆLE and PACT Zollverein.
Funded by the Hauptstadtkulturfonds.


Sophienstraße 18
10178 Berlin

Tickets: (030) 283 52 66

Video Documentation

The video documentation is produced on behalf of the Senate Department for Culture and Social Cohesion. The purpose of this contract is to document productions in the field of contemporary dance in Berlin. The master recordings are archived by the University Library of the Berlin University of Arts. Copies of the recordings on DVD are available for viewing exclusively in the reference collections of the following archives (at media desks in these institutions):

University Library of the Berlin University of Arts
Mediathek für Tanz und Theater des Internationalen Theaterinstituts / Mime Centrum Berlin
Inter-University Centre for Dance Berlin (HZT)

Claire Vivianne Sobottke / Trailers and Video Documentations

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