an outdoor performance directed by Lukas Matthaei in collaboration with Ingo Reulecke (choreography), KJ (doublebass/mobile soundscape), Dorothea Ronneburg (space design), Carlos Bustamante (video), Biliana Voutchkova (violin), Katharina Meves, Franz Rogowski (dance/performance), Carlos Bustamante (video). Funded by Hauptstadt Kulturfonds Berlin.
“If the city were our nature, if retreat were possible, and real life were radically simple? A choreographic walk, a site-specific performance, an open composition for variable cityscapes. With Thoreau, Cage, Kaczynski, and Meins.”
In 1854, Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, his literary and philosophical assessment of two years spent in the cabin he made himself next to Walden Pond: “It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look.” In New York City in 1991, John Cage said: “When I hear what we call music it seems to me that someone is talking. And talking about his feelings or his idea of relationships. But when I hear the sound of traffic here on 6th avenue for instance I don‘t have the feeling that anyone is talking. I have the feeling that sound is acting – and I love the activity of sound.” It was with these two perspectives in mind that we began to develop URBANSCAPES a year ago: a collective walk, a site-specific choreography, an open performance for the urban landscape around Innsbrucker Platz.
We wondered how we can harness the impetus and spirit of resistance inherent in our romantic longing for nature in order to shape our perception of the modern landscape: the city. Instead of fleeing to the supposedly pristine, we look to our urban environment for surprising discoveries, sudden changes in perspective, and beauty in details, which, as we walk and observe, produce effects similar to those of natural landscapes.
After scouting trips through the most diverse areas of Berlin, we ultimately arrived at Innsbrucker Platz and fell in love with this peculiar area: where the city’s motorway cuts through a remaining cluster of old buildings, firewalls look down on graves from the final days of the war, sudden idyllic scenes burst forth from between abandoned train tracks, where we are greeted by the “atomic bomb-proof high rise” from the 50s and the containers for asylum seekers from the reunification period have now been transformed into the hostel for “uncomplicated visitors to Berlin”… With every few steps, new atmospheres open up before our eyes and bodies, and the utterly unspectacular nature of this area pulls us in. Far away from the city’s hype, Berlin becomes something generic, similar to every other (West) German city and its structures themselves emerge with more clarity.
At the same time, a walk in nature is always political: It was in order to gain a clear perspective of the overgrowth of the human life of work and consumption that Thoreau built his cabin on Walden Pond, distancing himself from the city and living his life with the utmost simplicity, between bed and writing desk, bean field and pine forest. How little does one person need in order to get by and to reserve his or her time and energy for “higher” pursuits or for idleness? Which automatisms and self-imposed necessities of purchase and community prevent us from finally being able to live the “real” life, which gets continually postponed? But while Thoreau opposed slavery and encouraged civil disobedience, divergent strains of his radical individualism have emerged elsewhere: The Unabomber, Ted Kacynski, had a copy of Walden on the bookshelf of his cabin, where he lived and rigged bombs in order to blow the United States back into a pre-technological era.
And in 1972, as Cage read from his language score culled from Thoreau’s writing, former film student of the Berlin dffb Holger Meins was imprisoned. Two years later, shortly before he died of starvation in his cell, he would write “But collective is: EVERYONE DECIDES IN THEIR OWN HOLE AND THEN NEGOTIATES COLLECTIVELY… either you’re a part of the problem or you’re a part of the solution. THERE IS NOTHING IN BETWEEN, so simple and yet so difficult.”
With dancers and musicians, we explore the subjective possibilities between mimicry and increased attention, offensive intervention and subtle manipulation of reality. Together with a diverse group of actors and folklore enthusiasts who show up along the way, the visitors will become a part of the open score. A variety of bodies and voices explore the contours and depths of the “Walden Pond” in the middle of Berlin.