Lindy Annis - Lady Hamilton´s Attitudes

Photo: Lindy Annis

Lady Hamilton´s Attitudes

Premier: January 8, 2004
HAU 3 / Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin
70 mintutes in English and German
Concept and Performance: Lindy Annis
Assistance: Johann Barner
Music Composition: Hans-Peter Kuhn
and music by P. J. Harvey, Moonray Lounge
Set: Jessica Westhoven
Light design: Fred Pommerehn
Production management: Kerstin Schroth

Text by: Emma Hamilton, William Hamilton, Wolfgang Goethe, Johannes Tischbein, Horatio Nelson, Lindy Annis.

In her newest theater production Lindy Annis explores the roots of performance: Lady Emma Hamilton and her legendary „Attitudes“.

„what a thousand artists would yearn to achieve…..complete and in motion“
– J.W. von Goethe, 1787

„She really presents the very thing which the artist aimed at representing.“
– Lord Palmerston, Antiques collector, 1791.

Emma Hamilton, (1765-1815), the second wife of the British ambassador to Naples, Lord William Hamilton, and the mistress of the Naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson, was famous for her striking beauty, her romantic conquests and her unforgettable performances that have gone down in history as „Lady Hamilton“s Attitudes“. Her attitudes were based upon figures from antique Vases and wall paintings, baroque paintings and literature.

Lady Hamilton’s performances were social events. Lord Hamilton’s villa in Naples was a meeting point for the aristocracy and intellectuals of Europe. Scholars, Artists, writers, Musicians viewed Emma Hamilton’s attitudes as the concluding highpoint of their „grand tour, ending with a visit to Pompeii and the smoldering Vesuvius“. In front of such illustrious flocks of visitors, the Lady of the house magically transformed from one motive to the next – as the Madonna consumed in quiet contemplation, to a moment later, when she was an ecstatically dancing Bacchante, then Diana at the hunt or the stern Venus. The perfection and speed of the transitions from image to image were reported with particular enthusiasm.

In the attitudes of Lady Hamilton are mirrored the entire palette of the female icons, from the furies to the saints, which continue on into the work of such contemporary artist as in the secretaries, house wives and femme fatal of Cindy Sherman’s „Untitled Film Stills“. Lindy Annis follows in the tracks of Lady Hamilton and circles it back… to the artist herself.

For some years, the theater work of Lindy Annis has investigated the iconography in word and gesture and the image of the woman as self-portrait. Thus in „Salome 7“ or „Jackie Onassis: My Life as a Circus“ or „Lazy Legs“ (SHORTS).

„Art imitates life imitates art imitates life imitates art imitates life.“

This project was funded by the Senator“s office for Science, Research and Culture; Berlin and

The „Funds for the Performing Arts“, e.V. of the Federal German Government; Dept. of Culture and Media.

„You often have to wait a long time for a new piece by Lindy Annis and yet she sustains with great continuity a research into the languages of the body and the development of dramatic gesture. There is perhaps no one else in the theatre world today who assumes the tabooed pathos with such minimal and yet also extremely exact means.“

– Katrin Bettina Müller, TAZ, 2004

In the beginning, Annis sits at a table and reads not about Lady Hamilton, but about a trivial male phantasy of today, „so this guy walks into a bar, right? And there’s this woman“, until it is drowned out by music and the next story begins. Like a charming M.C., she introduces us to the life of Lady Hamilton as in a lecture-performance, and then in another sequence illustrates the psycho-geography of the Vesuvius using a puppet-show sized paper-Mache volcano or placed on a platform and accompanied by historical texts of contemporaries from Alois Hirt to Goethe, assumes the poses of Hamilton. Lindy Annis assembles her resources and scenes in a way that the diversity and contradictions of her heroin are retained.

Lindy Annis’ portrayal of Hamilton remains broken through her neutral expression and clothing. Annis makes a dehydrated performance potential visible in that the gestures which appear affected today are imbedded in Annis’ performances-set. She illustrates the arrival of Nelson the hero naively with a newspaper ship, in order to present the emotionally charged death scene at Trafalgar free of artificial pathos in the body gesture of Marat by Jacques Louis David.

Already in 2002, in her „Shorts“ in „an Encyclopedia of Tragic Attitude“ with the dancer Xavier Le Roy she began to ironically approach this potential. In Lady Hamilton’s Attitudes this research is expanded and taken seriously. The dangers which Annis dares are enormous and can only be avoided by intelligent montage: the childishly demonstrated catastrophe shows distinctly that the (emotional) catastrophes take place, in the end, in our own heads, but through the media can only milked and fed upon.

Thus Lindy Annis constructs a concise set of texts, music and images around the Attitudes of Lady Hamilton that revive not just her presentations, but her life. When the performer demonstrates Hamilton’s poses of a Helena, Madonna, Nymph, Niobe, comes a sadness along, what a life and what a (middle-class) culture of sensibility and expression has been lost.

– Max Glauner: Freitag – May, 04 .