Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Concerto for Voice and Machinery Re-Enactment at the ICA: A Blast (and a Drill) from the Past

I'm listening to the new Shins album, haha, it's very pretty and gorgeous though at times perhaps a little vacuous, "wincing the night away" and reminding me that it can still take good, hummable melodies, old fashioned emotions and a very pretty voice to change someone's life. Or was that just a line in a movie? Really, I love the Shins, okay?

I chose it as a contrast to this evening's "entertainment" which was a re-enactment of the legendary "Concerto for Voice and Machinery" by members of Einstuerzende Neubauten, Genesis P. Orridge, Fad Gadget, etc. in the first week of the equally legendary year of 1984. It was a commissioned piece that ended in a riot and is apparently now part of the mythology of the ICA as a radical arts space (right next to the establishment, Buckingham Palace, etc). Pure noise terror. Drilling into the floor. And it still was that, but thankfully for not too long (the original piece was 25 minutes) and this time earplugs were provided when you walked in. Even though I'm not sure whether I can see the point of it...

The first thing I notice is that the ICA is now non smoking, yay! Finally the bar and theatre space has relatively clean air. there are a lot of cool gigs there but this theatre (!) space is ill equipped for a sold out room of smokers, no air conditioning! Thanks, ICA, for doing this earlier rather than later...

there are a lot of faces gathered that seem vaguely familiar or famous. Faces out of a time machine maybe. it's attracted a good crowd for sure. if you miss the 80s here it is for you to see and hear again, even if that doesn't work completely.

After about five minutes the noise is already too much for me and i use the fact that my glass is empty as an excuse to venture leisurely outside to get another beer where the racket inside sounds kinda interesting, to the bar men at least.

There are several pieces that make up the Concerto, the actors (?) playing the various characters as faithfully as possible switch, uh, instruments. Terrible noise passages, painful even with earplugs, with some slightly more managable bits in between. There are people re-enacting the audience heckling. Towards the end you see a thin figure in black leather, someone reenacting Blixa Bargeld. When he was at the ICA recently for the concert film "Palast der Republik" he didn't seem to like being asked about this event. Maybe he doesn't like to dwell on the past. I'm not sure whether it really worked for me either, but there was something liberating about the physicality of the textured noise unleashed on the audience in exactly the same way that made it more than mere nostalgia. It felt ... good, afterwards, like you managed to get rid of something that bothered you.

The people on stage weren't those legendary performers, and even though they did a good job at acting like them, there was something missing, a real presence rather than just noise. But I guess that's not the point. Or is it? It didn't really sound that great to be honest. I wonder whether Madame Tussaud's will devote a room to them next...

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