Ann Liv Young

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Ann Liv Young
Cinderella © Christy Pessagno

Article

Sherry Forgives Nothing

If you lie or seek refuge in irony, you’ve already lost. Sherry doesn’t forgive anything. When the American performer Ann Liv Young slips into the role of her trashy Southern figure, Sherry, she’s merciless. Sherry can be verbally abusive, but also friendly. She targets audience members, snatches them from their seats, grills them about intimate details of their lives, always looking for confrontation. “How often do you masturbate?” “Who’s important to you?” “How much money do you have in the bank?” “What’s missing in your life?” Any attempt to flee is only punished with harsher treatment. The spectator follows the insistent, never-ending questioning with a mix of fear (“I hope she doesn’t pick me out!”) and pleasure in the inquisitorial interaction.
Some critics have called this kind of performance “trash talk.” In a scathing and controversial review in the New York Times, the pre-eminent American dance critic Alastair Macaulay surmises that, possibly, “Ms. Young’s followers invest in her as a
substitute for the avant-garde they seek but lack.”

“People are so mean. It’s such a great article, it’s hilarious,” says young. Meanness and hilarity – couldn’t that also describe her work? “I’m not mean, I’m looking for honesty,” says the New Yorker, who was born in 1981. “My character Sherry forces you not to be passive. She forces you to take responsibility for you, for what you say. She will challenge you, she doesn’t trust you. You have to be careful. She’s a mind reader.”

In contrast to the unyielding drive of her stage persona, Young comes across as friendly and somewhat tired in our conversation at the Berlin festival InTransit 2011. She’s weary from her flight across the Atlantic, during which she’s struggled with an old enemy, her fear of flying. Relinquishing control isn’t easy for her. On stage she’s always in control, especially as Sherry. “The audience definitely makes the show with me, they are active makers. I have to be one step ahead. I’m pretty good in reading people and I’m also good in calming people down.”

How much of Ann Liv is there in Sherry? “Sherry is an amazing character,” says Young, “but I don’t think of her as my alter ego. I think of her as a vehicle or a tool in which I explore or ask questions that I think need to be asked in an art context.” But is it really necessary to urinate in public or pull plums from her vagina and offer them to audience members? “To me peeing is not shocking,” says young. “I don’t have issues with urination or being naked or showing my private parts. It’s so much about the context and the story that I’m trying to tell.” When Young, as Sherry, plays “Cinderella,” the girl’s fantasy of the knight in shining armor is twisted into a sarcastic parody of traditional roles. In her relentless push to get to the bottom of things, Sherry is actually a kind of therapist, helpful and good. If also crass.

At just 14, Young left her parent’s home in North Carolina to learn dance at a boarding school for the arts. She later studied at the Laban Center in London and at the women’s college of Hollins University in Virginia. Upon graduating, the 22-year-old choreographer moved to New York. From the start, her performances were strident, extreme and not at all fit for children: In her first show, “Melissa is a Bitch,” she masturbates with turtles, and in “Snow White” she inserts a dildo. She expects reactions of indignation and welcomes her viewers’ disorientation. But the artist initially wasn’t able to earn a living with her provocative art that challenges traditional behavioral roles. What did she live from? Like any artist, from her material. In her case, literally: she designed clothes.

That, at least, was something her mother approved of, unlike the performances with which her daughter has successfully travelled the world for several years. Yet there’s a great deal of this Southern lady in the figure of Sherry. “My mom is the key inspiration to the Sherry character. I’m really hung up with the relationship with my mom and how it was when I was a child. I’m also influenced by any domestic relationship that I’m around or in.”

And there’s another person who has been an influence on her for some time now. The idea for “Mermaid Show,” in which Ann Liv Young mutates into a mermaid, comes from her three-year-old daughter, Lovey.


From an interview of Friedhelm Teicke with Ann Liv Young in June 2011.
Author: Friedhelm Teicke

Works

Mermaid Show

Production / Performance,
2011

Cinderella

Production / Performance,
2010

Tribute to Elliot

Production / Performance,
2009

The Bagwell in me

Production / Performance,
2009

Sherry and George – Monkey Town

Production / Performance,
2008

Sherry vs. Kanye

Production / Performance,
2008

Sherry Show

Production / Performance,
2008

Snow White

Production / Performance,
2007

Solo

Production / Performance,
2006

Press

Production / Performance,
2006

Michael

Production / Performance,
2005

Melissa is a Bitch

Production / Performance,
2002

Projects

This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

IN TRANSIT 2011

(15 June 11 - 18 June 11)

Www

Official Website