Review: Songs from a totally different floor

By S. Ziegler

February 1, 2011

To write a review on something as original as Verdensteatret might be experienced as similar to being put to review a Rorschach-test. Which at the same time might not be so far fetched as a metaphor. As the symmetrical ink spot, this work is also a blend of strict order and accidental coincident and what you get out of this performance will, to some degree, be a reflection of yourself.

That is if it's proper to use the phrase "performance"—with the connotations that this gives—as a description of this hybrid of abstract object theatre, multimedia-performance and sculptures through sound, image and time.

A dimly lit stage filled with projections, people and machines. The performers on the stage function both as actors and instrumentalists, and play on intricate sound and image-producing machines—steel rods and rough welding-lines, at weave of cables and memorables from another technological area. Some of these odd objects are used as an interface to manipulate sound via computers. Others again are functioning analog; by the help of joysticks made of metal stics and tiny electro-motors the performers can control and move light, lenses and small robot arms to create a semiabstract shadow theatre that again is projected on the walls. Some of the performers has from time to time short monologues but the sound is distorted to a level where it is not possible to detect other that parts of the speech, more like the mood of the speech, the color and melody of the language in use.

All this are executed after a set detailed score, even though there are some small room for improvisation here and there, or maybe rather ornamentations, as in music.

Visual Music

Music is another descriptive analogy for Verdensteatret's rusty choir of traces from civilizations and digital nature-mystique. Like music, this is not a narrative art, but neither is it without semiotic value. In this art form humans and machines gather in a dance that produce a rain of references through sound and images that strengthen each other and contradict each other, or cast the light on each other from unexpected angles and distort the associations. Personally I think of the counter-point pieces by the minimalistic composer Steve Reich, where almost banal simple melody-lines glides and shift in position to each other until they change our experience of the rhythm and the melody in the other voices.

It becomes a trampoline for our associative abilities.

I guess they could have programmed all this to work automatically. But by letting such a high-tech piece be operated through a low-tech control-interface the chain of actions become possible to grasp, and when this is again controlled in real time by people, they induce a level of suspension and a feeling of risk.

Elements of accident become detectable and brought up to the surface, which leaves something indeterminate. This open space of questions is laid out in front of us to play with and to fill in.

Springboard for associations

Don't ask me how, but Verdensteatret must have found some secret backdoor into the consciousness. Like the ink spot of Rorschach this piece functions as a catapult for the association-ability, but the springboard here is far more resilient. The curve of the jump will be dependent on weight, velocity and attack but I think anyone who jumps will experience a high flight.

To let William Blake sum it all up: And All the Questionmarks Started To Sing presents a simple gaze of wonder that allures music out of the wonderment and all the questions—and allow us to see "a world in a grain of sand."