An evening-length dance-theater piece for two performers, Abominable examines the (self-)destructive logic of heroic consciousness. The hero figure has long been part of Western society’s ideological makeup—an inhuman yardstick for worldly success that is intimately bound up with that other great benchmark of normalcy and privilege: white masculinity. Through movement, recitation, costuming, and a dynamic set, the protagonist of Abominable enters an obscure relationship with his other-than-human shadow, all the while manifesting a “fallen virtuosity” in which the desire for individual ascendance degrades the very ground beneath his feet.
In my research for this work, I drew on source material from one of the great historical and cultural well-springs of modern white masculinity: medieval Scandinavia. Despite the recent resurgence of interest in Norse lore and the myth of a Scandinavian utopia, our contemporary culture tends to privilege the classical Greco-Roman tradition and the Judeo-Christian religious traditions. We often forget that the Germanic tradition of northern Europe is the third pillar of Western civilization. This may be an intentional forgetting, a desire to distance ourselves from the horrific violence that we’ve come to associate with this region, from the Vikings to the Third Reich. It may also be because the Germanic tradition seems to have a darker cast, a colder tone, and a rougher cadence than those that emerged along the Mediterranean and in the desert. Yet this tradition and many of its core values remain part of our cultural makeup, and for this reason our relationship to the Germanic tradition must be examined rigorously and unflinchingly.
The protagonist of Abominable channels the (vain)glorious heroes of ancient Anglo-Saxon epics (e.g., Beowulf) and Icelandic sagas (e.g., Egill Skallagrímsson). He also channels self-styled “heroes” from closer to our own time, like Peer Gynt, the protagonist of Henrik Ibsen’s nineteenth-century play of the same name, and Anders Breivik, the radicalized far-right terrorist who slaughtered 77 people in Norway’s horrific 2011 massacre. Placing all of these figures within the same line of inheritance necessitates a reconsideration of heroism and its dubious social value. By abstracting from this troubling genealogy of heroes, Abominable creates a context for considering the monstrosity of heroism.
A work-in-progress version of this work appeared under the title Aglæca (Old English: “monster,” “foe”) in August 2016. This version was a 25-minute solo performed at FLOCK Dance Center in Portland, OR. The full, 80-minute version of the work premiered 20–22 October 2017 at Disjecta Contemporary Art Center in Portland, OR. The performances were funded in part by a grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council of Oregon.
Direction, choreography, + sound design by Taylor Eggan
Set + costume design by Daniel Addy
Performed by Eggan + Addy
Lighting design by Dora Gaskill
Viborg tunic replica designed + fabricated by Sara Siemers
Field photography by Daniel Addy
Performance photography by Chelsea Petrakis
Performance videography by Dicky Dahl