Subtext and thoughts

I am walking down the stairs to a cellar to watch SUBTEXT – a performance by Colin Self. The building, which used to be the Czech Cultural Center in East Germany, is now housing the Julia Stoschek Collection. While entering the cellar I feel a strong, familiar smell. It’s the smell of shelters, a smell I can’t forget though luckily I haven’t smelled for a very long time, which reminds me of my childhood (like guava, or swimming pool chlorine). But instead of a sound of an alarm, that usually accompanies this smell, the beautiful voices of the performers chanting harmoniously filled the dark hall. What a relief. A one hour performance started, in which around 80 spectators and myself were guided by the performers through the multiple cellar rooms in low light, or complete darkness, while they were weaving together text, songs and movement playfully. I felt disorientated but others assisted me, we all looked after each others, as Self guided us before the performance started. At times the spectators were invited to engage in the process. It was a feast of queerness, sounds and philosophic ideas that even though I haven’t always fully comprehended, composed a unique and evoking experience.

Colin Self, Siblings (Elation VI), 2018, Live -Performance MoMA PS1. New York. photo: Maria Barranova. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

Voice, music and movement are such powerful tools of expression. It always has an immense effect, often allows the spectators to lose themselves in this multi layered situation. I thought about An Occupation Of Loss – the extraordinary performance by Taryn Simon I was so lucky to watch one year ago in an underground secret location in London. The performance gathered professional mourners from 15 different countries, who sang simultaneously their traditional mourn. I was left speechless and overwhelmed, so did the other. (Can someone please bring it to Berlin already? Johann König maybe? I think it might work great in the scenery of St. Agnes church).
Another performance involving music and movement is Aggregate by the Romanian artist and choreographer Alexandra Pirici. It was first shown at the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein and its new version will be presented during Art Basel in 10 days. And of course the Lithuanian Pavilion at the Venice Biennial, showing Sun & Sea (Marina) – an opera performance dealing with serious topics such as climate change, which won the Golden Lion for best pavilion this year.

Colin Self (born 1987) is an artist, composer and choreographer, working between NY and Berlin. He is what we call multidisciplinary artist. His works were already presented at the PS1 MoMa NY, the Martin-Gropius-Bau and more. His performance SUBTEXT is the first part of a new performances series created by him, produced specifically for the Julia Stoschek Collection. It is based on the Siblings Compendium, a collection of writings and quotes that inspired his recent released album, the futuristic opera Siblings.

This performance is part of “horizontal vertigo“, a year long program curated by Lisa Long at the Julia Stoschek collection in Düsseldorf and Berlin. Julia Stocheck is one of the biggest collectors and supporters of time-based art. She started collecting this genre many years ago, when it was still not as fashionable as nowadays. Her program is always bold and inspiring. Chapeau, can’t wait to see what the two of them prepare for us in the future.

Julia Stoschek Collection – Leipziger Straße 60, 10117 Berlin (entrance: Jerusalemer Straße).