The Hands That Feed You, 2010

Performative Dinner, 4-hRS Program With Bernadette Anzengruber And Teresa Novotny

 Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (AT), in the framework of This Sentence Is Now Being Performed - Research and Teaching in Performance and Performative Art


 THE HANDS THAT FEED YOU was a staged evening program for participants of the symposium "This Sentence is Now Being Performed - Research and Teaching in Performance and Performance Art," the central element of which was a shared dinner.
While the symposium raised the question of teaching and research in the context of performance, here the act of eating, and its performative potential, was to be illuminated both critically and pleasurably.

1. course, photo: Christian Messner
1. course, photo: Christian Messner

The process of eating is a central social function in many cultures. The common meal should enable communication and is consciously used for this purpose, be it to talk to each other, to negotiate, to celebrate, to enjoy. The moment of eating together enables the integration of the individual into the group and can strengthen a group socially. The feast on which the performance dinner is based is not just about nourishing the individual body physically, but a larger body, in this case academic. The resources needed to do this are manifold (financial, time, personnel, etc.). The edge of the plate is thus only an apparent boundary that seeks to define a content while holding multi-layered processes in a fictional, split-off, and often invisible outside.

Eating and drinking is as an exceedingly sensual experience, but "unlike hearing, touching, or seeing incorporation, when we eat we are snatching at a habitable piece of the environment." What does it mean to grab at the hand that feeds you, to bite into it and to bite it off from the rest of the body, to crush and digest it, transforming the usable parts and excreting the dead weight? And what does it mean if this hand was one's own? (Text: Teresa Novotny)

Overview, photo: Christian Messner
Overview, photo: Christian Messner

Performative interaction, opening speech
MY NAME IS (Veronika Merklein)

The spoken word performer Gina Mattiello enters the stage, an approx. 100sqm area of tables, and opens her speech with "I am aaaa performer." Within this speech she also introduces the documentarians. "On the right Diego Mosca, In the middle Christoph Kolar, On the left Christian Messner, And behind Bernadette Anzengruber - right, middle, left, and behind, right middle..." She tells the audience to be sure of themselves regarding the historicity of the documentary media. "Please always look into the camera, right into the camera, cheese and clack, cheeessse and clack in the middle." During her performance she will put on the T-shirt "My name is". From this moment there is no documentation because all the documentarians do the same to her. Mattiello's speech ends with "I am Gina Mattiello, I am 33 years old and I lied."

While Gina Mattiello retreats, the only named person stands up from the table and circles it talking. On the actress' T-shirt you can see Johanna Witholm written in large letters, which refers to the phrase "My name is." In contrast to Mattiello, she embodies the artists who have gone down in art history.
In her speech she takes up what will have happened in the future. ("Future 2"). She implicitly talks about the careers of the three organizers by having them appear in a panel discussion. Through Witholm, the organizers talk about history, discourse, and memory. The speech ends with "The spectators will have listened, amazed at having these historical subjects sitting there, looking at art historical moments and remembering how it was, how it is and how it changed and how"

With the end of The "Opening Speech", Gina Mattiello puts on a pig mask made of edible paper, and all the performers, who until now had been hiding in the table holes, emerge.

The first course served was a Vegetarian Goulash with Potatoes and Rice (by Rania Moslam) by the "Pigs". The audience is invited to pass the dishes and share the food in the spirit of a people's kitchen.

Katharina Ernst and Fabian Pollack accompany the whole evening improvising with drums and guitar. They work with the tempos of the performances and the soundscape in the auditorium.

Music: Katharina Ernst and Fabian Pollack, photo: Christian Messner
Music: Katharina Ernst and Fabian Pollack, photo: Christian Messner

Performative interaction, transcription

After the food is distributed, while the audience is eating, the performers with the pig masks bring out a cheese plate to be served later as the last course. With food pens they note and document what is happening around them.

Performative interaction, During the main course

Five women (Jessyca R. Hauser, Lisa Oberhofer, Sophie Resch, Nicole Sabella, Mercedes Springer) simultaneously perform the same text written by Teresa Notony. The text negotiates the consequences of decisions made live, with the performers interacting individually with the dinner audience.
As they move around the table, the audience decides which performer to pay attention to at any given moment. At another moment, the women speak in person to only a small portion of their audience.

‘(...) And I felt the weirdness of watching myself; and I felt the weirdness of that very moment taking hold of me. I felt that I could watch myself, stepping slowly onto the table, as if it wasn’t me. As if the real me had gone someplace else, and the remains of  me had to deal with this shell of a body,  to which I now had to explain that I was gone, watching from someplace else, if my life would still be lived, the way it was supposed to be lived.  I pass you by this very moment. I try to get hold of the thought of your appearance. Maybe we could know each other or could have known one another. And you are changing my thoughts right now. You will never see what I see when I look at you. I will never see you like this again. All we can do, is to draw this final conclusion: this moment is almost over (...) Standing in front of you, as you are eating, chewing, swallowing, I can tell you what I am thinking, I can show you what I am seeing, but you cannot eat what I am eating. You cannot remember what I  am remembering. This is something that only I can experience. This is mine. (...)  And still. What would I remember if I was on the other side of the table. You fucking pig. Putting all these thoughts in my head. Where could I be now, if it wasn’t for you, all the things I could do, all the people I could be.) I should not bite the hands that feed me; the brains that feed my mouth. To spit out these words into your ears. And it would not have mattered wether I said it or any other me. As long as those thoughts are being thought, these words are being said. (...)’


Text: Teresa Novotny

Performative interaction, cannibalistic act

After the second performative text part of the evening is finished, the "pigs" crawl out of their holes again and start to eat themselves and their own kind. At the same time, however, the real faces of the performers emerge from underneath ("My name is").

During the cannibalistic act the waiters appear for the first time, who up to then had been overlooking the scene in an elevated and sublime manner the whole evening. They serve Cognac XOP, accompanied by truffles with edible flowers and gold dust (by William Knaack and Johanna Baader). Decadence is then to be reflected in the third performative text act by Bernadette Anzengruber.

Performative interaction, dessert
INSIDEOUT (Bernadette Anzengruber)

In the third part, a woman (Nora Jacobs) finds herself at home reading a postcard, the content of which states that there are 6 million people and yet she feels alone. This is her motivation to leave the house and attend the dinner as an "uninvited guest".


Auszug aus dem überarbeiteten Text:

insideout. do i want you to force your hand into my mouth. at first one or two ____________________ breaching all resistance the fifth finger. invading the throat the jaw spread nearly dislocated as your knuckles push through the body revolting. choking. starving for more choking the choking. regaining control over it not allowing the body to limit itself not losing touch. finally accepting you inside me. inside. i feel my skin my thumb squeezing into my palm my hand forming a fist. i want to feel you beneath the surface of the skin i want to get swallowed to seep through its pores. you can't sweat me out. i will be with you and i want to touch you with tenderness but for some reason don't get touched at all. even when you touch with all the force one can offer. i want to try harder i promise you will. No! listening. are you listening to what i am saying. it is not going to hurt. listen i am not going to kill. don't be shy. fuck. concentrate. concentrate. we can do it. you just have to concentrate a bit. a bite. relax. listen. relax.       (break)       it makes me feel sick. i regain control. i lose it. i want you to go through me. things disintegrate. not there any more. a body wrapped around the hand. it bites. it breaks. it beats. the free hand hits it shouts it screams. without desire except the desire to make it stop begging to stop

the hand inside. without connection. the fist an object without           . I broke you."


Text: Bernadette Anzengruber

After Nora Jacobs finishes her speech, she and the first performer to appear, Gina Mattiello, leave the scene. All the others follow her and the scene empties. To round off the stomach, the described cheese (AOC Alp-Sbrinz, Entlebucher Nusskäse, Jersey Blue) with pickled walnuts and wood oven bread is given out to the audience.

Later the tableau is released for the dancing audience.



Concept Bernadette Anzengruber, Veronika Merklein, Teresa Novotny, Project coordination Michaela Schweighofer Performer My name is Gina Mattiello, Johanna Withalm, This moment is almost over

Jessyca R. Hauser, Lisa Oberhofer, Sophie Resch, Nicole Sabella, Mercedes Springer, Insideout Nora Jacobs

Pigs Isabell Gross, Veronika Merklein, Tomasz Minczuk, Teresa Novotny, Gina Mattiello, Sophia Süssmilch, Tiina Sööt, Jenny Wille, Waiters / waitresses Bernhard Buff, Veronika Burger, Johanna Flechaire, Suzie Legér, Mario Strk, Dorothea Zeyringer, Kitchen Johanna Baader, William Knaack, Isabelle Kellnar, Veronika Merklein, Rania Moslam, Pig masks Viktoria Mohorn, Music Katharina Ernst, Fabian Pollack, Documentation

Bernadette Anzengruber, Kevin Dooley, Christoph Kolar, Christian Messner, Diego Mosca, Marco Pointecker