Lukas Hofmann has intrepidly taken on the art of visual performance, styling, design and spinning tracks, becoming a master of various trades (and a jack at none). Having collaborated with many forward minds in the past—think: fashion designer Anne Sofie Madsen, composer Holly Herndon and singer/producer Dan Bodan—the multi-talent is adding another name to his well-rounded list. Tying bonds with Berlin-based brand Ottolinger, he recently set up a performance in a former Bauhaus superstore in the Czech city of Ostrava, where visitors were met with spiritual bends and immersed into an emotionally moving experience.
Titled Dry Me A River—literally baring resemblance to the ’90s hit ballad—the performance figuratively addressed current social-political themes of containment, connectedness, misplacement and separation. The styling granted an intricate aesthetic layer, emphasizing the overall destructive narrative. Glamcult sat down with the performing artist to discuss the unconventional presentation format that pulled Ottolinger from the runway into the confines of a desolate, concrete warehouse.
What does the title, Dry Me A River, refer to and how do we see the paradox visually return in the performance?
The title is a literal reference to Justin Timberlake’s track Cry me a river, but a symbolic one to environmental problems. It further refers to catastrophic events—apocalyptic, even—which are often paired with a fleeting sense of hope. The performance itself acts as a form of therapy, although not necessarily a favourable one, to inflict pain and create understanding. So, other than having people focus on their breathing during moments of meditation, the performance offers introspection through different means. For example, performers would hold their breath until they physically were no longer able to do so.
Dry Me A River seems to be underscored by a deeper socio-political message. Could you elaborate on what this might be?
What certainly underscored this performance was the wish for community and safe zones, as well as the defying stance against an increasingly numb society. You have performers of all physical capabilities attempting to lift each other up, to analytically test if they are capable of carrying the other in an urgent situation. It’s also about offering a different view on failure.
The audience acts both as a participant and a witness. Why is it important to combine these two modes of address?
In some of the acts, the audience was physically involved. Upon entering the space, members from the audience had sage and thyme balm rubbed on their temples, representing a form of ritualism and signaling their entrance into a zone that is entirely detached from the outer world—a zone of silence and containing a certain spiritual quality. In a different act performers embraced audience members without making any physical contact. To me, this felt very emblematic of today’s individualistic society; people feel the need to heal and embrace while also keeping their distance as to respect the private spaces of others. The use of technology in the performance revealed the often-perceived divisive quality of technology and the ability it has to provide vital information [on or about someone].
For this specific performance you teamed up with fashion brand Ottolinger. How did this collaborative exchange take shape?
Well, I have always had an affinity with fashion. I’m also a stylist and view garments as intimate, personal objects and a visual articulation of sentiments. Clothing plays a crucial role in my performance, which I styled together with Sasha Myshalova. I sometimes also use clothing that I’ve designed myself. Living in Berlin and knowing the close affiliation the brand has to this scene, it felt right to reach out to the designers at Ottolinger. I feel we have a great understanding of each other’s work and practice. Christa and Cosima were also intrigued by the idea that their designs would gain another, narrative value. What I personally find interesting is that Ottolinger’s approach to design is as much about the community as it is about the mental engagement it tries to create with the wearer and the aesthetic quality.
Set in an empty space, which previously served as a Bauhaus superstore, how does your performance relate to the space and what role does space play in general?
I carried out a similar performance in a smaller space in Athens before, and the experience was completely different! Here, working with a space of about 5000 square meters, I had to consider whether or not the space allowed a sense of dramaturgy and magnetism, allowing the acts to engage the audience both mentally and physically. The space helped gravitate people towards the acts and garner their thorough attention as to enhance the community experience. It worked out; people were really invested—both mentally and physically.