Production Details / Press Releases
Variant of Concern responds to our era beset by upheaval. There is a nervousness of pitch living today when real existential threats — a global pandemic and climate change — loom large. Current research linking ecological devastation with pandemic outbreaks heightens the urgency. Moreover, ours is a time when ancient remedies and crops nurtured over millennia are being patented by Global conglomerates, affecting our food, the environment and the control of our natural resources, including seeds and plants. Land use is not decided by working individuals but by omnipotent commercial entities. Yet, „Big Pharma“ offers us the way out of this pandemic. Within this conflicted and unsettling space, my work situates itself as a way of „staying with the trouble“ (Donna Haraway).
Variant of Concern explores our entangled relationship with the living world: the hazards of tinkering with biological evolution (transgenic species in our food, our forests) to the race today — viral variants (of concern) infecting our bodies. Performance, video, installation and living material (trees grown from seed) combine to create a kind of ethnobotanical theatre destabilizing and problematizing power relations between us and the other living things. A type of speculative fiction – seeds and seedlings supersede oil or money as the commodity of ultra-value, subverting capitalist patriarchy and the military-industrial complexes tied to techno-agriculture, forestry and medicine. The project explores the ambiguities of human nature and our human condition as irreconcilably caring and destructive.
Variant of Concern develops Lucy, the artist’s alter-ego. Subversive. Adaptive. A rabble-rouser, of sorts, challenging the status quo. At Tanzfabrik, Lucy will emerge as a kind of hybrid figure, approaching something closer to Mary Shelley’s fictional character than Florence Nightingale. Endurance gestures of repair test the limits of her body while satirizing her Promethean will — always over-striving, over-reaching until something goes awry. Delirious times demand delirious measures: Absurdity, disorder, disorientation, and repetition shape the work. Irony and disjuncture will convey the dread and psychic tension living on the cusp of a world gone mad.
Variant of Concern strives to uncover something about who we are: our hubris, our resilience and our will to survive.
A word about the plants
The seedlings were grown from seeds collected pre-COVID 19. Due to the pandemic, the artist was unable to return to Berlin from Canada until recently to continue the work.
Currently, the artist has been collecting additional biological specimens from across Berlin looking for phenotypic diversity.
The artist also travelled to Recklinghausen, transplanting wetland species from the work of Hayden Fowler, Death of Worlds, Ruhr Ding: Klima 2021.
Patricia Coates is a cross-disciplinary artist working in performance, film, installation and living material (trees grown from seed). For over two decades she has been transforming 60-acres of rural land in Canada from industrial agriculture to habitat, growing and planting trees, restoring Carolinian forest and wetland. The restoration work is integral to her art practice propelled by ecological degradation and inspired by fecundity and beauty. Two questions central to her work: How is it that we have poised ourselves to destroy the prospects for decent existence for much of life? (Chomsky) and, Does one actually ever become a woman, or is to be a woman a mode of becoming without end? (Judith Butler) play out through Lucy Palustris the artist’s alter-ego. A larger-than-life, flawed figure, Lucy refuses all limits, taking on ecological and social sickness, ageing and death. Her own body reveals that she, too, is an ecosystem subject to time and decay — like the degraded sites she doggedly repairs. Her tenacious, though quixotic efforts question her ability (and art itself) as a force of resistance. A manifestation of the absurd, Lucy is a tragic-comedic figure — like Sisyphus, she carries on. A subplot speaks to notions of gender, race and class. Costume and irony create disjuncture, anxiety, alienation, dread.
Coates’s recent work includes the film screening Landfill at Tanzfabrik, Down to Earth, 2020; The Masochist #4, performance and zine launch at MoMA PS1, NYC, edited by David Rimanelli, purchased by the Whitney Museum of American Art; artist residency and solo exhibition, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin.
Coates holds an MFA, University of Windsor, Honours BA (English and Visual Art), University of Toronto. She has been awarded several Canada Council and Ontario Arts Council grants supporting her international practice.
[Source: play bill]
TFB Nr. 1540
Cast & Credits
Performance: Patricia Coates
Funding support from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario
With special thanks to Michaela Meister/Kolberger Apotheke (Gerichtstr. 18, 13347 Berlin) for the pharmacist bottles.
Tanzfabrik Berlin’s performance program is funded by the Senate Department for Culture and Europe, co-financed by the EU’s Creative Europe Program.
Tanzfabrik Berlin / Wedding
The video documentation is produced by Kulturprojekte Berlin GmbH on behalf of the Senate Department for Culture and Europe. 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):