She came on stage like a mountaineer. With a down jacket, woolen hat and gloves, a backpack and two heavy hiking boots. As if she were on the way to a high summit, where the wind whistles and there is already snow, and would only make a short stop here in the Zurich Literaturhaus. “I’m not Madame Nielsen” was the first Stiller sentence that the author of “The Endless Summer” or “The Monster” called out from the standing desk both in an astonishingly well-filled auditorium, despite Corona, and in the wide world of the Internet. This was followed by a list of their different identities: “I am human and citizen of the world and European and animal and creature and nasty, zombie and pure spirit and, above all, suddenly no longer there.”
To always be something indefinite, never tangible, orderly, to become meaningful – that is the great goal of the Danish performance artist, musician and author Nielsen, who, according to her own statements, was born Claus Beck-Nielsen in Aarhus on May 6, 1963 and on On the evening of December 12th, 2000, he took to the streets in Copenhagen, left “wife and child” behind and a new life began. For a good ten years she worked as her own doppelganger and as an unnamed employee in the art production company “Beckwerk”, which does not distinguish between reality and fiction, which she sent to Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq and Iran for political performances. In 2010 she staged her own funeral in the middle of a busy intersection in Copenhagen and a few years later stepped out of a convent cell in Paris as Madame Nielsen.
Kinski-like preacher’s tone
At least that’s how she tells her career in retrospect: as a constant event, permanent transition, as a draft of a non-identity. “I am something indefinite. I am potential. ”What sounded slightly exalted at first, developed into a Kinski-like preaching tone in the course of the lecture, which was divided into four acts like a play. Just in Danish, friendly, without the calculated irregularities.
Nielsen’s writing begins where “reality comes to an end”, said Philipp Theisohn in his introduction. And it was as if Madame Nielsen was desperate to prove this sentimental assessment justified. She talked a lot about hallucinations and dream speeches, about the urge to constantly put yourself in a new form and also to have to formulate the world. She addressed her body as a material and symbol for the connection between the “individual and the planetary” and presented herself – in the exuberance of the passionate search for meaning – as the “realization of the avant-garde dream of a unity of life and work”. Many a sentence sounded overestimating itself, many a word as long sought, but the fascination of an author who not only grasps her writing vividly, but also physically, jumped even in the stream.
No dreams on offer
As her central poetics, Nielsen stated that writing is always remembering: “a reminder of the world, life and time that is no longer or not yet there”. In addition to many literary authorities such as Peter Handke, who she recently described in an extraordinary essay, whom she called her “irritating but always inspiring brother in writing”, she brusquely distanced herself from those “criss-cross researched novels” that do not contain music, having no dreams on offer.
Madame Nielsen doesn’t want to be told anything about them or, for example, “Ernst Jünger’s voice from the war”. Instead, they prefer to understand their whole existence as a lived work and wander through the linguistic landscapes “in which the unheard of words are hidden”. The Nielsen performed another intoxicating sound collage from Danish, Spanish and English, then she looked into the audience with her piercing eyes, first thanked Giorgio Agamben and then God and crawled off the stage with her hands in her hiking boots like Kafka’s beetle. Back on their way up to the summit.