1 9 Monologue – Letters from Isolation

Performance monologue as part of the ongoing cycle HOME by VestAndPage

While many in Europe consider it to be long since eradicated, it still presents one of the deadliest pandemics worldwide. In the Romantic period, it was epitome of muse and poetry and a popular motif in painting, literature and music. As the "firstborn of the mother of pestilence and disease" it has accompanied the primate human through the eras since time immemorial. Today it is a curable disease, and yet still more than one million people worldwide fall victim to it every year*. Its social perception has changed fundamentally over the course of the epochs: from the glorified malaise of the romantic Bohemian poets, through the painful proletarian death during industrial revolution, to the antisocial illness of the lepers during National Socialism. Today it is considered the disease of the marginalized, the dependent and the destitute, hardly noticed by the common public. The talk is of tuberculosis. The personal experience of being as a body home to pathogens flows into this autobiographical performance text, while building a bridge between precise self-observation and a global, historical and literary outside.

While my wings are pierced as by moths with what they call the first-born of the mother of pestilence and disease, by what I call the contagion from the heart, I feel dematerialisation. The tissue, the matter they have consumed never comes back. Where has it gone? They leave only shadows. What are now elongated spider-web holes will retreat into applied, drawn scars, and darken on the interior portrait as black cracks – cracks, grown from shadow holes.

One falls into these holes from the edge, from edges where there is no hope. From edges where one flees and loses, edges of every time, from edges of order in disorder, from subversion and rebellion one falls into it. From edges where one does not know home. And also edges we didn't see coming, edges we didn't even know there were. But where there are edges, there is also a centre, and even from there you fall in. They came as the price of capitalism, for the exploitation of labour. They remain as the price of its dreams, which we still pursue. Nature gives us guidance about illness as a threat to the social order.

* WHO World Health Organization Fact Sheet 2019 (as of October 2020)

"Consumption remains a 'social disease', it has become a 'disease of the marginalised'. This makes it rather unlikely that consumption will once again become a literary or artistic subject."

Ulrike Moser, Schwindsucht - Eine andere deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte

We thank Dr Bock-Hensley and the German Tuberculosis Archive Heidelberg for the valuable assistance.

VestAndPage - Verena Stenke in "1 9 Monologue" about pathogens and pulmonary tuberculosisdPage-Verena-Stenke-1-9-Monologue

As part of

TAMEIH – Eine Untersuchung über das Zuhause

supported by Fonds Darstellende Künste

with funds from the

Federal Government Commissioner

for Culture and the Media