October 9, 2007
Haus der Berliner Festspiele

Let There Be Things

Heiner Goebbels' latest work in Berlin

Program

A performative installation by
Heiner Goebbels

Artists

Design, Lighting and Video: Klaus Grünberg
Music and Programming Associate: Hubert Machnik
Sound Design: Willi Bopp
Assistant Sound Design: Matthias Mohr

Leserbrief/readers comment Druckversion/printversion

Let There Be Things

Heiner Goebbels' latest work in Berlin

by Nancy Chapple / Photos: Klaus Grünberg (1), Mario Del Curto (2 and 3)

Stifters Dinge: zum Vergrößern klicken / click to enlarge

Heiner Goebbels' works are difficult to categorize. Your reviewer can make this assertion with authority since it is never quite clear in which of Klassik-in-Berlin's categories to place calendar entries for Goebbels evenings. The performances we've heard are sophisticated collages of fascinating fragments that combine to produce something magical, never before heard and elusive to describe. Stifters Dinge takes this principle to a new extreme: there are no actors on the stage, though we hear portentous texts from Adalbert Stifter, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Malcolm X recited; there are no musicians to observe at work, though we hear and observe the music playing on five electronically prepared pianos.

Stifters Dinge: zum Vergrößern klicken / click to enlarge

The stated ambition of the work is to make "things" that often play a merely illustrative role in the theater—"light, pictures, murmurs, sounds, voices, wind and mist, water and ice"—the protagonists of the evening. Thus, we entered through a backstage entrance, and while we were taking our seats, stage workers were making last preparations. There was no clear separation between the audience's anticipatory murmurs and the piece's actual beginning. The evening started with inexplicably lovely effects of water and light in boxes close to the ground, repeated rhythmic beats from which patterns emerged. Unusual the simultaneous feeling of intimacy and distance—physically close to the evening's substance, it feels like we can reach out and touch its elements, and yet we have an unsettling feeling there is nothing we can grab onto.

We concertgoers don't usually spend energy understanding the actual mechanisms used to create sounds: rain pipes, long swinging wires, tin sheets, nails pulled across the piano strings. But here the visual and auditory elements were all we had to connect with. Unlike in other concerts, we listened not to the story the music was telling us, not to the sensual sounds we were bathing in, but to what created the sounds.

Stifters Dinge: zum Vergrößern klicken / click to enlarge

Ultimately, the effects lingering longest after the performance were two combinations of different elements: Stifter's repetitive, circular text about branches crackling and breaking unpredictably under the weight of an ice storm with a Dutch painting of swamp trees from 1660 projected on the back wall and the pianos; and the combined keyboards—the keys themselves moving to create sounds, the "bridge" construction on which the instruments were placed sliding towards us and then receding.

At the end, the audience was slightly uncertain how to react. Convention dictates that we recognize stage artists with applause, maybe cheers, and they return the appreciation with bows and smiles. But without anyone on stage we had no such interaction in this work, so the applause was not very warm. From the mood as the audience stood up, it was clear we had all enjoyed the evening.



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