26.01. +++ Words, words, words

White on White - or just wow (Photo www.pathosmuenchen.de)
White on White – or just WoW (Photo www.pathosmuenchen.de)

I’ve decided to write today’s blog entry in English in the possibly vain, but hopefully not vain hope that the ones concerned will read it. One usually only remembers odd ends and bits from school and university. Like the impossible jumpers my history teacher used to wear or the most strange accent one of my Eng. Lit. professors had. Sometimes, however, a random piece of content keeps sticking in the brain, against all rules of probability. One of these is the title of the major work of the father of speech act theory, John Langshaw Austin: “How to do things with words“. It has always been known to mankind (well, since they could speak, anyway) that words are not just words. Words, if applied in the right way, can hurt, heal, create, destroy – there’s basically no end to the physical consequences words can have. Yet although all of us know the soothing of a whisper, the pain of a remark or the capacity of a sentence to change our personal weather – it was not until Austin introduced the concept of speech acts in science, that this magic power of language was recognised as a fact. You know how it is: Three-dimensional it may be, but it isn’t true until someone has written a book about it. Again, the power of words.

Now all of this was just an introductory note for the performance I am about to approach in a few words. For #6 – QUEER SELLS by White on White (seen at Schwere Reiter, Pathos Muenchen) is nothing but applied speech act theory. And for all the dryness this may threaten the wary spectator with – it was a brilliant evening. What happens during this evening can be summed up quickly: Two guys, ostensibly in their street wear, introduce themselves and announce what they are about to do: Blur the gender image they represent in order to make a significant contribution to anti-sexist action through art, with the help of practically nothing but words. And then they set out to do exactly this, but oh, in such a charming way. One of the sentences /one-liners / speech acts that for some reason stuck in my mind was: “I’ve never been together with a partner who had less sexual capital than I do.” I hadn’t previously encountered the term “sexual capital”, so maybe that was why it stuck. Well, these two guys, Iggy Malmborg and Johannes Schmit, have not only a lot of charm capital, but intellectual capital as well. While being perfectly honest about what they are doing, they succeed in creating quite a number of auratic moments. There is programmatically no trickery involved, and yet, by unveiling all that language can do, they magick themselves into the audience’s hearts. Yes, that sounds a bit cheesy, which is exactly what it ought to do.

I was a little afraid at first that these two boys might be somewhat overly relaxed and not be able to get across to the audience (which, for shame, was not a full house); also, they are not loud speakers. And yet, they are so confident in their performance, they exhale every aspect of the story they are telling; they breathe together. Thus, although they speak at a very low volume, they make the audience listen, and there’s hardly anything that can’t be understood. Now in case you wonder: yes, the evening had a dramaturgy, and a clever punch-line, by which I don’t mean the dropping spotlight at the end of the performance. White on White are changing sexual politics with their performance; and of course saving the world and all those minor points going along with that task. And all this by using just words.


Area of application: Dehydration, especially supranasal.

Administration: Watch them at the next possible performance in town, the ticket prices are going to skyrocket once they’re in Avignon. This inspiring team will undry your brain processes.

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