The Marquis de Sade was one of few French aristocrats who was spared the guillotine during the Reign of Terror that saw King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette executed, among another ten-plus thousand political prisoners, priests, and nobility. A libertine notorious for his depravity, interpretations of de Sade’s writing range from outrageous sexual deviance to radical nihilism, and even an early form of socialism. “The Pleasure of Pain” evening of music and theater at Heimathafen Neukölln, draws on his idea that “it is always by way of pain one arrives at pleasure” to interrogate ideas of opulence, extravagance, and greed, and their unholy liaison with poverty, austerity, and exploitation.
Unlike Sacher-Masoch’s masochism, de Sade’s sadism draws delight from the suffering of others, and “The Pleasure of Pain” looks to the old ballroom in Rixdorf (now a part of Neukölln) to explore hedonism and vice on the margins. The historical “entertainment” district was originally a medieval outpost of the crusading Knights Templar, which became known as “Bohemian Village,” after the Protestant exiles of modern-day Czech who settled there in 1737. Rixdorf would eventually meet social “decline” and a growing reputation as a proletariat hub of debauchery at the turn of the 20th century.
The Creamcake-organized 3hd event brings a contemporary take on the lurid conduct and gaudy ostentation exemplified by both de Sade’s Late Baroque and Berlin’s Weimar decadence, as invited artists present their own unapologetically provocative and self-aware performances of queer eroticism and corrupt sensuality. BULLYACHE’s “WHO HURT YOU?” presents a performance inspired by erotic thriller Showgirls, working class choreographer Kenneth McMillan’s ballet L’histoire de Manon, and the distressing story of championship boxer Jake Lamotta performing an autobiographical play, written and directed by his seventh wife, while suffering from the dementia caused by his job. Ahya Simone weaves beguiling tales of Black trans womanhood to the stage in an interplay of voice, text, and her harp—a symbol of femininity and an instrument of beauty and autonomy. Dylan Kerr’s Baptist Goth persona arrives as a fusion of an emo trap idol and a Catholic saint to DJ the “in-between parts” of the embodied languages of ritual, protest, and worship. Astrid Sonne shares new material composed for a string trio—including viola, Vanessa Bedoret’s violin, and Emma Barnaby on cello—using Baroque techniques and exploring the belief that when expectations collapse, new dreams occur. With the audience as spectators to the melodrama unfolding before them, “The Pleasure of Pain” program paints a lush tableau of bodies as sites of experience for both abuse and exaltation.