Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"I apologise" in D-Dorf

Last weekend we were in Duesseldorf to see my sister, her hubby and my 15 year old nephew who happened to be really sick all weekend, fever, throwing up, etc... unfortunately. Poor thing, and he's grown to almost double the size since I last saw him. Some photos to follow.

We timed our visit to coincide so we could see Gisele Vienne's "I apologise" at the Tanzhaus NRW. It's an experimental piece that apparently is categorised as a dance piece but really it's a very unusual creative collaboration between Gisele Vienne, Dennis Cooper and the three actors/dancers. There are about 20 wooden boxes on the otherwise bare stage that could be interpreted as caskets but really are boxes for lifesize dolls looking like underage schoolgirls. The main character / Jonathan, a young nerdy guy in a death metal t-shirt, opens the boxes, arranges, rearranges, hits the dolls, even tries to speak to them at one point. You see dolls peeking out from behind some of the boxes, looking almost alive. At one point Jean-Luc Verna appears and lies his head down in a puddle of stage blood that Jonathan has just poured onto the stage. He's tattoed all over (real tattos, no imagination here) and has a strong, eerie, utterly queer presence, he's fascinating to watch and his performance has a real ....gravity . Later a third character, Anja, appears, in a black wig, looking a bit like a doll, starting a vaguely robotic dance. Over this you hear an eerie atmospheric score by Peter Rehberg/Pita (I liked what I heard), with Dennis reciting poems and a passage from "The Sluts" (I think) in between, there is at least one passage where there are several voices and you can't hear them so clearly but something weird/horrible seems to be happening. The piece reaches a certain climactic density towards the end, but there's no closure, it's utterly disorientating, maybe recounting a murder or something horrible, acting out an obsession, making a comment? Who are the dolls and are they more real than the performers? Are they projections or are they projecting themselves? What is happening? It seems to be opening up a secret inner room (not unlike Lynch) where reality and fantasy/obsession blur. Throughout there's a very convincing doomy, earthy, almost pagan atmosphere that somehow reminds me of Dennis' novels.

I haven't seen the apparently useless adaption of "Frisk" and I think it's been said it's difficult to adapt Dennis' novels. A long time ago someone told me he felt like entering a forbidden room when reading "Frisk" for the first time, like being dragged into a previously unknown space. It's exhilarating and disorientating, there is just so much going on, what is real and what is imagined, what is haunting and who is dreaming what, it is not always so clear, and it's also not clear how the reader/ spectator is implicated. So I thought that "I apologise" really worked, not as a straightforward adaption, obviously, but it managed to open up a similarly haunted space of private obsession, memory and violence.

The Tanzhaus is a great place, tucked away near the bad part of town, it's one of those post industrial art complexes you find all over Germany, it's really big, features a huge cafe, a big informal lobby/bar, a dance school at the back (?), and there are some more theatres (??) right next to it. The main room looked a bit like a big school gym room which somehow corresponded with the schoolgirl look of the dolls. At one point the scene looks almost like a highschool shooting too, with the dolls lying all over the floor. There was a very interesting introduction and an even more interesting post-performance discussion with Giselle Vienne (who speaks German), both held in the more informal lobby sitting around in a circle in armchairs. I thought it was interesting and telling that she comes from a philosophical background, she emphasized that she was interested in exploring the gaps between reality and fantasy in her work. The dolls in particular represent this blurring of reality and obsession, they are alive, dead, undead, objects, fantasies, totems, signifyers, etc. Giselle explained that she chose the schoolgirl look because of the powerful "Lolita" image. According to her, the texts by Dennis are very much part of the score, and the only bits of text used, but she sees them more like as if you're in a powerful situation and you hear a song, maybe a Bowie song, but a song that really means something to you, there is no direct connection, just a combination of associations spinning around each other, making the picture more dense.

We thought the introduction would be in the main theatre space so we walked straight in only to see most of the dolls sitting in the front row, in the process of being put into the boxes byt the small crew. So weird! Why were they there? Was it maybe part of a pre show ritual to have them seated in the audience before the performance? I've seen photos from these pieces for quite some time on Dennis' blog so I already managed to establish some bizarre mental connection to them and to see them like that for the first time was...really weird. I loved it, the whole evening was really great! It gave me a strange buzz (with some low, undecipherable frequencies) for the whole weekend...

Monday, March 05, 2007

What's the time?: Safe Sci-Fi Nostalgia, fake security overload

the hairstyle was so strange. family ties, nostalgia rules. machinery leads back to older lifestyles. retro rocket set in stone. colours mark ascent into space-age jolliness. watching scifi reminds you of the possibilities, standards of living, stepped up and marked with the past. shiny and new in 1966. invention rings a bell. foreign houses. always the same place in denial. the crazy collapse of the modern world. tension rises in the corridors. programmed menace questions distortion. the same things questioned by convenience. the smile of the future. birds cracked. colours burst to promote a yes sign. environmental damage covers lonely flight. black trace, half orange, half truth. electricity lie. environmental message projected backwards. hypnotic rambling. loaded cyphers dominate civilization critique acting up. fractioned planet interface. melancholia overdrive. with ghost language. a siren collapses. space age glows into a desert stick. nostalgia fights another corner.

interlude: contemporary music. feel the now in the past. this animal will swallow your past. scratchy voice links the ages. a cry from the future rhymes with a lighthearted pun in the presence. flickering colours represent the next wave that you can't see right now. microphone's a blister right into applause. rotating skies. silhouette of a potential future. home in the background. wires promoting an absence. young face sings old music. woozy street scene. rhythmic interaction wins the day. a southern accent in Chicago, so you understand. filth keeps you going. rain relaxes your instructed positive motivation in sound. lie to the advertisers. sudden rush into meaningless. hiking into your own backyard. freebies snuggle up and overwhelm you. smothered in noisy hug.

hostility wave constructs an alternative screen. competetition drives you away. japanese whispers summon a full blown overwhelming street scene bathed in positivity, light, grace. twinkling little neon lights, you follow the corridor. there's a number hidden in the pompous display. written into the white space. landscaped misery overruled by internal chaos. nightmarish exercise. mother in a darkened interior. halftones with a religious background noise. the noise fog wrecks you as you dim the light. a shot in the arm will heal the time degradation matrix, regulate the breathing so it's streaming to the future. sitting on the toxic other side of everyday life. pleasure disappears into a grey hole. snapshots from the other side. horny sentences swallow lust. a soft touch deletes your account, swallows the time machine and spits you out in a starlit night. caught like a rabbit in the headlights. security overload makes you nervous. textures overload. paranoid interior panorama. therapies write a sunday on your senses. walking through the garden. release control factories. fear diseases. emptying images into a giant trash can. filtering out harsh surfaces. blurry edge upsets an outside wish generator. empty vessels steer into the opposite direction. what are we now? overhead lighting dominates the head. words disappear into black.

Gallon Drunk @ the 100 Club

The 100 Club, right on (practically no go area) Oxford Street, hasn't changed its decor since about the 50s I reckon. In the punk days when the club hosted some very famous era-defining gigs, it already must have looked retro. Louche, red, pictures of old jazzers in frames, etc. The sign by the stage forbidding any photographs looks really old, and everyone seems to ignore it, haha. It's a fun club though, a bit rough around the edges but quite comfortable and, yeah, definitely haunted. I saw Siouxsie return to the stage where she played her first public show year before last, and it was quite impressive. She managed to keep it fresh and fierce, so it wasn't just a nostalgia fest. The mighty Gallon Drunk worked well in there too, the retro setting fitting their distinctive brand of swampy, utterly possessed rock'n'roll. It's retro, yeah, but in a totally undead way. Here and now and in your face but also lost in some vague past where signifyers get meshed up. There's post punk edginess, there's old fashioned swooning, and there's some odd, over the top noises. Pretty intense, long may it roll...

Open Urban Spaces: Süd Isar in Munich

Some photos (click to enlarge) from my walk along the southern parts of the Isar that flows through Munich. All along the Isar there are green open spaces, it's a giant lung, not that wide but you can walk along it through the entire city. Just north of the centre is the more famous English Garden, which I know fairly well. That's were I always go when I'm in Munich. Some lovely big meadows, the Monopteros, the Chinese Tower. That's all very much part of the known topography when I'm there. But I've always known about the open, green and less manicured spaces along the Isar in the southern parts and as you leave the city, I've just never been there before. A friend of mine, a photographer, was commissioned, sometimes in the mid -80s , to capture the impromptu life along the riverbanks as part of an exhibition exploring the way these urban spaces evolved naturally and without too much planning along the Isar. One of his specialities was/is capturing scenes that aren't posed, street scenes, people coming together etc. It's not so easy to capture life at close up without it being too obvious, without someone becoming aware and there are some really interesting photos of people using these spaces, partying, fishing, cycling, boating, you do get the sense that the urban life along the the river banks has evolved over a long period of time and is happening because the topography supports it. I've had the book with his photographs for years but always wondered about where exactly I would have to go to get to there. So on my recent trip to Munich I was sitting in the front passenger seat next to Antje, my sister in law (my niece and my brother were in the back) on the way to Schloss Nymphenburg (another location I'm not so familiar with) , discussing the latest Nelly Furtado album (no comment) for some reason, when we crossed a bridge and suddenly there I saw these open meadows, and immediately recognized that that's where it was. So the next day I took the S-Bahn to a stop near the zoo. The Isar there has about three different strands with narrow pieces of land running along or between them, there are several bridges, walkways, etc. I first walked further south where it quickly became more quiet and almost rural, it really didn't feel like being in a city anymore, though you did get joggers, people walking their dogs, or just hanging out. As I turned around and walked back and further into Munich, the scene got denser, there were more people, factories, old railway bridges, graffiti, lush little peninsulas, open meadows, old buildings looming out in the distance, walls, paths ending in dead ends. It also got more confusing, you kinda neede to know which bridge to cross to get further. It's not that wide, maybe a mile or less, but you can follow it all through Munich, and there are spaces along it that are more or less unplanned and quite interesting all along it. It's like another line of space cutting through the more regular urban space, an alternative route, where there's more nature, water, and the occasional urban marker that will make you realize you're still in a city. When you walk along the Regent's Canal in London, say, from King's Cross to Primrose Hill, or from Islington to Victoria Park you get a similar sense of walking along a slightly detached urban route that is defined by the water, it's quieter, sometimes a bit eerie, quite industrial in places, but it definitely has a different pace, a different atmosphere. The Regent's Canal hasn't got that many green spaces, it has some, and it follows a weird, almost invisible route, if you don't know the area it pops out unexpectedly, wheras the Isar in Munich runs a straight line that clearly divides the city. So the parallels end somewhere... but it's interesting to see how cities have these seemingly leftover spaces that become an escape from the regular more fast paced urban life but are also very much part of the urban experience.