The performative format I developed out of this collaboration was heavily influenced by COVID restrictions. I wanted to give access to people who are not able to enter a venue due to medication and their immune status. I invented an alter ego who understands him*herself as a cancer coach and performed at the VHS Stuttgart, online, and on Instagram. The fifty-minute format is both a pantomime course and a performance. Here, through my alter ego’s theatricality, humor played an important role in finding the appropriate tone for this serious topic. My main goal was to develop a framework that entertains cancer patients. So, I referred to my dialogues with cancer patients within the process on biases of non-affected people about »cancer bodies,« »cancer smell,« or »cancer faces.«
This led me to addressing the audience as »current and future cancer patients« One important scene and training element is »cancer faces,« a sequence of how to recreate mimic reactions on addressing cancer by healthy people in daily situations, reactions between pity, disgust, mourning, and other emotions. By taking the patient as point of reference I tried to empower them in dealing with misleading cancer narratives in society.
KF: Do you see a difference between illness/disease and disability?
HQ: From the experiences of my bowel diseases, the main difference between chronic diseases and disability, for example through physical impairment, is time. My condition is episodic: I do have periods in which I don’t have any symptoms. These alternate with periods of inflammation to different degrees. Nevertheless, within the symptom-free episodes, I still take medication and am reminded every day of the condition’s existence.
I also experienced a shift of acceptance and identification as disabled through the severely- disabled status that I got three years ago. It was a strange moment because on one hand I felt some resistance in being measured by the social system, while on the other hand it was a big relief in articulating what was kept invisible, even though it was through the medium of a simple plastic card.
Artistically I am very busy with the translation of chronic condition in an appropriate time format on stage. Chronic conditions do not seem to fit into traditional dramaturgies, for example in staging a protagonist into a (story) development of being successful or not in the end. In Spill Your Guts, the performance about my ulcerative colitis, I tried to work with episodic and interruptive dramaturgies related to my experience.
My practice is strongly informed by queer understanding of intelligibility and time. But for me, queer aesthetics is not always glitter, not only a battle through the politics of visibility. I am intrigued by crip and queer artistic concepts as (failed) performance, representation, and subversion through parody, drag, and dramaturgies that could possibly arise from the concepts of queer and crip time and bring invisible aspects of queer experience into artistic form.
In the beginning of 2022, after twelve months of advanced training, I entered the stage as crip ventriloquist, meaning a style of ventriloquism that allows failure in creating illusions by, for example breaking out of roles, losing the voice technique, confusing voices.
KF: Thus far, your performance work has dealt with your self-identification through class, queerness, and disability. Not many look at class as an identity. How do you see class as an identity, and also how has it intersected with your other identities in your life and work?
HQ: Perspectives of being queer, working-class, and disabled are lived experiences that inspire my way of working and help to question power structures. To be honest, the awareness of being marginalized was a process of understanding over the past ten years. I didn’t grow up in an environment of politicizing my social situation in any way. But being confronted with situations and feelings of injustice in the art world, which I was not fully and properly able to articulate at the time, led to a crisis of passing, and a more explicit way of articulating my practice.
What most of my marginalized experiences have in common is that I can make them invisible. Except for my chronic condition, which due to its uncontrollable character is very hard to keep secret in working relations in our deadline-based sector.
After being confronted with my infinite vulnerability, questions that still keep me busy are: How to postpone an inflammation? How to reschedule a premiere? How to find forms that can be adapted to my current ability? Through my chronic conditions, I became more aware of all my wasted energy and tactics of hiding things instead of explicitly using them as a source.
For example, I have never fully understood how to properly carry a pretzel and a glass of (alcohol-free) champagne in the foyer of the theater before the show starts. That might sound ridiculous, but everybody has their baggage to carry, and this is one of my bags. In a foyer, I usually deal with a conflict between my two hands and my mouth by holding a pretzel in one hand, and the champagne in the other. I keep myself busy by serving my mouth. The »balls« of this triangular juggling of shame are vanishing over time: The hands are emptied until the next refill at the bar. But this visible labor of holding and chewing, refilling, and emptying helps me to find first words or come up with an adequate topic and ritual for my encounters. This led to a scene in Spill Your Guts in which my ventriloquist puppet guides me in making a puree of pretzel and champagne in a mixer.
Within my performance creations I focus a lot on how to address the audience: How to irritate people. How to establish ambivalences in performing styles. How to find dramaturgies that turn a space or situation around and around. How to find new comedic tonalities for taboo topics.
KF: What’s next for you and your practice?
HQ: The next thing I will do is an education as clinic clown, which will take me about three years – the longest advanced training so far – and will be part of my Ph.D. project starting next year.