Dancer with Cancer
The performance artist Hendrik Quast turns the tabooing of illness in meritocracies into the grotesque in order to undermine common illness narratives. To this end, he develops an alter ego on the basis of interviews and pantomime workshops with cancer patients. Beyond dramatic or dramatising narratives about the survival of cancer patients, new narrative forms are created in his performance and on the Instagram account “dancerwithcancer”, which mobilise the boundary between illness and health.
Concept and performance: Hendrik Quast
Costume: Christina Neuss
Mime Coaching: Wayne Götz
Artistic collaboration: Lisa Gehring
Friday, July 24 and Saturday, July 25, both 15:00
Stuttgart adult education centre, meeting point Rotebühlplatz, gymnastics hall
and on Instagram #dancerwithcancer
Two workshops “Pantomime with cancer”
4 July 2020, 5 p.m.
July 11, 2020, 7:00 p.m.
Stuttgart adult education centre,
Meeting place Rotebühlplatz, gymnastics hall
Registration and information
The participation is free of charge.
The pharmaceutical companies lie. The doctors lie. The sick lie.
The healthy lie. The researchers lie. The Internet lies.
Anne Boyer, The Undying. A Meditation on Modern Illness, 2019
Like in a fairy tale, the world into which people with cancer enter after their diagnosis seems to be shaped by the contrasts good and evil. In view of healthy relatives and experienced physicians, not only the disease itself, but also everyday life and relationships with the disease can be experienced in the sharp contrast between benign and malignant. However, the emotional challenge between hope for healing and fear of relapse is often much more complex for the patient.
The fairy-tale story of good vs. evil is made tangible in texts on cancer merchandising products such as T-shirts or cups, but also in memes from cancer communities on Instagram and Facebook. In “Dancer with Cancer”, performance artist Hendrik Quast takes up these phenomena and questions these attempts to bring up the issue of illness and death in modern media society. His work irritates the supposed unambiguity of health and illness, so that its open-endedness of interpretation can be experienced performatively by a healthy audience in a way that the affected people can experience themselves.
To this end, Hendrik Quast uses interviews with participants of Stuttgart sports groups and self-help offers for people with cancer to record their ways of speaking to describe their illness.
This is followed by pantomime workshops with the help of which Hendrik Quast develops the staging of his alter ego Hendrik with K on the Instagram account “dancerwithcancer”. The pantomimes provide insights into the fake everyday reality of a self-appointed life coach. The self-perception(s) and external attributions of cancer patients he shows indistinguishably. As Hendrik with K, the audience experiences a fairy-tale intermediate being of health and illness, which reveals what is actually human.
Beyond dramatic or dramatising stories about the survival of cancer, Hendrik Quast’s aim in “Dancer with Cancer” is to develop new narrative forms of illness. Using Instagram as a new place to thematize illness, the group is testing how sick people will be able to express themselves on social media in the future. In his performative protocol of the “Cancer Language”, he turns the tabooing of illness in achievement-oriented societies into the grotesque in order not only to undermine common illness narratives, but to reveal discriminatory language mechanisms towards people suffering from cancer.
Hendrik Quast was born in 1985 in Celle. He studied at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies in Giessen. Since 2009 he has been working as a performance artist both as a solo artist and in the performance duo Quast & Knoblich, in contexts of the performing and visual arts and as a radio play maker for the WDR. His works have been produced with independent production companies such as Sophiensæle Berlin, Mousonturm Frankfurt, Gessnerallee Zürich, FFT Düsseldorf and Kampnagel Hamburg and have been invited to the Impulse-Festival. He received working grants and support from the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Film and Media Foundation NRW, the Berlin Senate, the Capital Cultural Fund and the Goethe Institute. With a processual concept of art, he dedicates himself to everyday practices and craft cultural techniques such as taxidermy, funeral floristry or nail design. In addition, his solo works are interested in the acquisition of performing techniques on the borderline of entertainment culture such as pantomime or musical singing. In elaborate research, the ways in which these fields are spoken are precisely recorded and their worlds of things are visually documented. The translation of this research into the stage creates grotesque and comical worlds. Quast appears as an inflated alter ego, following his own language foils, logics and action necessities. The audience is challenged by this subversive comedy to deal with topics such as nature and art, the relationship between art and craft, as well as social background and (precarious) forms of work.
Previous works by Hendrik Quast can be found here.