Review: SCHULDFABRIK at the Adelaide Festival

By Lisa Lanzi

Approaching the unconventional venue for this Festival experience was unsettling: what would I be subjected to, what was expected of me, how am I going to react, how should I react?


Currently based in Utrecht, Julian Hetzel works as a performance maker, musician and visual artist. He develops work that have a political dimension and a documentary approach. SELF - human soap is made from people for people. There is the actual product for sale in the clinical but high-end Store Front Soap Shop where we begin the one hour experience. Each boxed soap is numbered and certified as an artwork:


Schuld is a German term that implies two different yet related meanings: guilt as a moral duty and debt as an economical obligation. In collaboration with plastic surgeons and their clients, Hetzel created a soap from human fat that is sourced from liposuctions, with signed agreement from the humans to ‘release’ their adipose tissue for use in an art project - documentation is displayed on the walls of the ‘laboratory’.


The small audience/subjects/conspirators/students/confessors are led are short way through Adelaide’s back streets and into a non-descript building. After several flights of stairs we are ushered into a waiting area complete with disembodied voice issuing directives. Each step of our tour is choreographed as we negotiate numbered doors and corporate hallways, a one way journey that is meant to bewilder and disorient.


Our first stop, the confession room with attendant (Bronwen James) commanding our every move. (Trigger warning: there is total darkness plus enclosed spaces to deal with at times.) We then “see the doctor” - surgeon Dr Hennie Spronk in lecture/demonstration mode and yes, there is a ‘procedure’ to view. Now to the laboratory littered with apparatus used in the making of SELF - human soap then the packing room where electricity to power the lighting is generated by a human on a rowing machine. Subsequently we are seated in a barren room and observe white soapy foam ejected from hidden vents onto white plastic. The ‘mass’ is then shrunk by means of two fans blowing air toward it. As the suds gradually reduce, the foam moves and remodels itself in a mesmerising abstract ballet accompanied by a recording of Veruyu by the Gospodi Ensemble. It takes on an animalistic, chaotic but ultimately futile struggle to survive and spookily appears to possess life.


In the last area, spellbinding actor Orion Maxted exists in an office environment behind a glass wall. We wear headsets to hear his eloquent words as he dissects and explains the philosophies inherent in Schuldfabrik and sprinkles a little remorse in our direction: “Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me”.


With the input from a team of remarkable collaborators, the realisation of this astounding installation work is simply exceptional. An immersive experience worthy of inclusion in a world class Festival that will linger in my thoughts for some time.



Photos Supplied by Lisa Lanzi


All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.

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