While searching for inspiration for APPEARANCE, the first part of the Kindertotenlieder dyptich, we stumbled upon the work of the American photographer Mary Ellen Mark. She is known for her compelling empathetic images, mostly in black and white, that document the lives of marginalized people in the United States and other countries. She captures those who otherwise would be forgotten. One of her most famous and icon series is STREETWISE (1984), documenting the life of Tiny and her friends, living as young teens on the streets of Seattle, engaging in sex work and hard drugs, Streetwise displays the side of America that no one quite wants to see – opening up a lid on youth culture’s dark side during the 1980s.
APPEARANCE is a multidisciplinary performance by a choir, consisting of 12 children, supported by dancers of Ballet National de Marseille and ICK Amsterdam. The children perform songs by Mahler, Eisler and Janáček and remind us of lost innocence and the fragility of life. APPEARANCE does not only gives a voice to the children but also space to present their perspective on things, to be imperfect, to be fragile. They perform the songs with utter concentration in a language (German) that is not their own. This creates an alienation and adult-like posture while at the same time, cracks in their performance, language and the music reminds us so much the more what it means to be a child. The same can be said of the children/ teens in the photographs of Mary Ellen Mark. Life forced them to grow up fast, but Mark also managed to capture their hidden child – spirit. The fragility and uncertainty reflecting in their postures and eyes.
More about the life and work of Mary Ellen Mark: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11633719/Mary-Ellen-Mark-photographer-obituary.html