Pricked and Away

Project | Musical Theater (2018)
A hundred years of sleep – what a gift.

Commissioned by netzzeit and Wien Modern
Produced by netzzeit and co-produced by Dschungel Wien and Wien Modern

The girl pricks herself on the spindle and is gone. Gone are the many voices, the rules, and possibilities. Gone, the many questions about sex, gone the admonitions and temptations. Gone the pitfalls of fertility. For one hundred years the girl spins and spirals into a world between life and death.

We travel with her in this immersive, real stage space to virtual worlds of sounds and images, following her slightest head movements as she, wearing VR goggles and headphones, navigates through imaginary landscapes and explores the farthest corners of an abundant world full of birds and insects but no mammals or humans.

We are guided in and out of this world by the sounds of the harp, virginal, and flutes, played by airborne extended, and the words of the narrator.

Elisabeth Schimana: concept, music
Ann Cotten: text
Markus Wintersberger: VR-Projektionen
Airborne Extended: Sonja Leipold (virginal, spinettino), Caroline Mayrhofer (recorder, Paetzold), Doris Nicoletti (flute), Tina Žerdin (harp)
Christian Reiner, Sonja Kreibisch: storyteller
Nora Scheidl: stage design
Jan Wielander: light design
Peter Venus: audio and video engineering
Michael Scheidl: artstic director

26 11 2018 - FR 30 11 2018 19:30 WE and FR 10:30 Dschungel Wien

When netzzeit and Wien Modern approached me two years ago about whether I would like to do a project based on Grimm’s fairy tales, I immersed myself in folktales and the Grimm brothers again, having already once composed music in connection with Grimm’s fairy tales for an ORF production in the 90s. This time, I chose Sleeping Beauty, and in my search for the original text I stumbled upon Sophie Claire Wolf’s bachelor’s thesis “Intertwined Storytelling. Woman’s Voices in the Folktales Collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm”, in which she makes reference to the Ölenberg manuscript dated 1810. “The first transcript is only available to us today because the brothers sent a copy to Claude Brentano, who later bequeathed the manuscript to the cloister in Ölenberg.” The production Pricked and Away is based on the original text found in this book.

Nora Scheidl brought me the book “Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, an analysis of fairy tales from all over the world.

Sophie Claire Wolf takes a feminist approach in her analysis of Grimm’s fairy tales, citing Luce Irigaray’s theories. Many stories in the collection compiled by the Grimm brothers were told to them by young upper-class women.

“These young women all lived in the same higher society at approximately the same
time in Germany. They told their stories to the Brothers Grimm without the promise
of authorship or recognition. Therefore, it is important first to examine how to analyse
feminine storytelling in a world dominated by males.”

The deformation and patriarchalization of the stories as they exist today in children’s books obscure the originally matrilineal themes and stylize men, for example the prince in Sleeping Beauty, who just happens to show up at the right place at the right time, as heroes.

In her book, Clarissa Pinkola Estés also traces these distorted fragments back to their origins in search of the archetype of the “wild woman”.

“Over the course of thousands of years the storytellers ‘purified’ many of the stories for religious reasons, so that their actual meaning is barely discernible through the subsequent overlays. (...) One example (among many) is the collection of fairy tales by the Grimm brothers. (...) This is how many women’s teaching tales about sex, love, marriage, birthing, power, money, female transformation, and death were lost.”

In her text “Pricked and Away” Ann Cotten addresses the interwoven themes of fertility, reproduction, and the dangerous time of puberty inherent in Sleeping Beauty – the main character falls into a 100-year sleep just as she reaches reproductive maturity – and in doing so gives a fresh take on a very old story. In this part of the piece, a narrator (Christian Reiner) and the ensemble Airborne Extended engage in a dialogue on the stage. Whereas Ann Cotten’s text is the point of departure for Christian Reiner’s interpretation, and is therefore tied to the tradition of the written word, Airborne Extended follows a sound score played by memory and is thus tied to the oral tradition. Playing ancient instruments (virginal, harp, recorders, and flutes), the musicians interpret field recordings from various parts of the world, digital needle pricks, and recordings of looms, whose mechanical rhythms incessantly remind us that production must march ahead in time with the machine.

A hundred years of sleep – what a gift

There is something I have been wondering about for a long time. Throughout the history of Sleeping Beauty, the 100-year sleep has been regarded as a punishment inflicted by the wicked fairy godmother, but in light of today’s overproduction, total restlessness, and the resulting destruction of the world, this can instead be interpreted as a true blessing. What would a world without us mammals be like? Would it be capable of recovering?

A residency led me to Wellington, New Zealand and to Zealandia, a place named after the (not officially recognized) geological continent in the Pacific Ocean, to which New Zealand belongs.

“ZEALANDIA is the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state. The 225 hectare (500+ acre) ecosanctuary is a groundbreaking conservation project that has reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area, some of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years.”

In Zealandia a world is simulated in a physical space – “Pricked and Away” simulates a virtual world. Markus Wintersberger and I created digital worlds using the original video and sound recordings from Zealandia, and with the help of VR goggles and headphones the narrator, Christian Reiner, immerses himself into these realms and is swept away to a place disconnected from the physical world. Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger on a spindle. This is an ancient symbol of life–death–life or the here and the hereafter, which could already be found in Plato’s “Politeia” (Republic) in the Immortality of the Soul (Book X) and the Myth of Er.

For the audience we will project these digital image and sound worlds into the physical stage space. With each head movement, Christian Reiner will let us see and hear a new section of the 360° virtual world.

But eventually in Pricked and Away, too, we have to wake up, and the story must go on.


Airborne Extended

The instrumentation with harp, harpsichord, transverse flute and recorder is unique and aside the mainstream. | homepage

Ann Cotten

born in Iowa (USA), grew up in Vienna, Austria and finished her studies with a work on concrete poetry. Publications: "Fremdwörterbuchsonette" (2007), "Florida-Räume" (2010), "Der schaudernde Fächer", "Hauptwerk. Softsoftporn" (2013), "Verbannt" (2016), "Jikiketsugaki.Tsurezuregusa" (2016); in English, "I, Coleoptile" (2010) and "Lather In Heaven" (2016). Fast Dumm (Starfruit Press, 2017) collects essays on the USA, Was Geht (Sonderzahl, 2018) was a poetics lecture on walking and literature. Science Fiction is forthcoming: Lyophilia (Suhrkamp 2019). | homepage

Christian Reiner

is a narrator of poems, prose and experimental texts. | homepage

Markus Wintersberger

was born in 1968 in Krems an der Donau and studied at the University of Applied Arts Vienna with Prof. Bernhard Leitner. Since 1995 he has worked as a freelance media artist and professor of Experimental Media Studies at the FH St. Pölten. Numerous project implementations in real as well as virtual spaces mostly in cooperation with artists from different branches of art. | homepage

  • VR Image


    © Markus Wintersberger

  • VR Image


    © Markus Wintersberger

  • VR Image


    © Markus Wintersberger