Continuing our insight into this view into electronic music performance and art through the lens of BodyControlled in Berlin, we’re joined by guest writer Kristin Trethewey. Kristin, a Canadian-born video artist and curator, takes another look at LEAP and BodyControlled, on the eve of its second installment. She gets straight at the question of what “BodyControlled” means, and what it can mean for sonic performance and creation. And I wanted to make sure to subtract myself from this write-up, seeing as I was playing – but see the excellent timelapse of the evening, above. -Ed.

LEAP is one of these spectacular Berlin venues you’ve been hearing so much about. It’s a huge, raw space with a view of Berlin’s landmark TV tower, hosting interesting art events with cheap drinks and the potential for a late-night party. But it’s unique, too, in its focus on electronic arts. And unlike other media arts centers, it’s not filled with computers and half-finished electronic projects. I’ve truly gotten lost trying to find this place (it’s tucked away in a mall), so I would recommend watching the timelapse video LEAP shot that guides you to the entrance before attempting to go there. Tonight is the second edition of BodyControlled, a new bimonthly performance series at the space. This installment, called “matter incompatible,” is held in conjunction with the Transmediale Festival under the satellite program, Vorspiel.

Robert Henke at BodyControlled, somewhere deep into a 12-hour performance. Image courtesy LEAP.

BodyControlled is a series focused on the intersection of performance and electronics. You can expect future programming to focus around ideas of “feedback” and “bio” related electronic performances. In its first installment back in November, a packed LEAP gallery witnessed performances by Robert Henke, Peter Kirn [editor of this site], Stephen Cornford, and Paul Whitty. The event was called “Other Spaces” and took the physical architecture of the gallery as a point of departure. Having the space filled with people made for a secondary concern of space: its use. In a series whose title mentions the body, I witnessed one performance engaging the bodies that were filling the space. Robert Henke’s twelve-hour set activated interactions between the audience, performer, and environment. He moved around, listened and mingled with the audience, even though he had this amazing, souped-up control station complete with ambient lighting.

CDM’s Peter Kirn (neverheardofhim) at BodyControlled in November. Photo courtesy LEAP.

Other artists put more emphasis on the manipulation and dislocation of space through the use and abuse of electronics. Kirn worked with a custom rig with tablet-controlled original software built in open-source software Pure Data (Pd), controlled by a tablet running Konkreet Performer. Excerpt:

Excerpt – LEAP Gallery Berlin, 26.11 by peterkirn

Electronic autopsy: Whitty and Cornford at work. Photo courtesy LEAP.

Whitty and Cornford actively deconstructed electronics in front of the audience:
it pays my way and it corrodes my soul (2011)

Stephen Cornford & Paul Whitty’s performance “it pays my way and it corrodes my soul” seeks out musical material by physically dismembering playback equipment. A reel-to-reel tape recorder is switched on and its mechanism amplified with a variety of microphones while it is taken to pieces. The sounds produced are then fed through an array of pedals: the machine’s belts, gears, switches and casing becoming an instrument subjected to a live audio autopsy

Excerpt: Stephen Cornford & Paul Whitty, LEAP Berlin, 26 November by cdm

Cornford was also interviewed by LEAP for his installation work, featuring repurposed tape machines:

As João Pais, co-curator of the event with LEAP’s Daniel Franke, puts it:

“BodyControlled means the main direction of the series, to present performance and installation works that have a strong, corporal identity. This can be manifested in many ways, not only implying a “moving performer”. The purpose is to avoid the extreme of abstract performances made by a laptop-er, sitting down as if writing emails. In the first event, this idea was shown by interpreting/filling the space of LEAP through a sound-performance (Kirn, Henke), or an installation (Cornford, Mathy, Oliver).”

See also my write-up for ARTSCARDS from last month:
Other Spaces Generates New Spaces Through Sound at LEAP

The second event, “matter incompatible,” draws reference to the Transmediale theme: In/compatible, acknowledging the less clear, even dark forces at play in the artistic and political climate today. Matter Controlled questions the idea of the object or anti-object within sonification. See CDM’s write-up from yesterday:

Watch Artists Talk About Making Sound From Matter; Thursday Event and Stream in Transmediale Prelude

From the Transmediale podcast, some explanations of the theme of the larger festival:

Jacob Lillemose on the exhibition Dark Drives: Uneasy Energies in Technological Times by transmediale

Kristoffer Gansing elaborates on the festival theme in/compatible, as well as the in/compatible symposium: systems | publics | aesthetics.
Tatiana Bazzichelli is the curator for out new project reSource of transmedial culture and speaks about its concept.
Jacob Lillemose speaks about exhibition Dark Drives: Uneasy Energies in Technological Times which he is curating for transmediale 2012 in/compatible.
Sandra Naumann is the curator for this year’s performance programme The Ghosts in the Maschine, which she explains a bit more in detail.
And Marcel Schwierin tells us about his concept for the video programme he is curating for transmediale 2012 in/compatible.

Performances by Echo Ho, Mario De Vega, Alex Nowitz and Ignaz Schick will investigate this blurry region between the immaterial and material. I am curious to see what objects they will bring to play with. As they potentially seek liberation from the physical objects, by reimagining their sonification, I wonder how they are also reliant and maybe even drawn towards their objectification. Bringing these disparate emotions into play is at the heart of tonights investigation. In today’s climate fractures exist between so many aspects of our lives. These performances seek to bring some of them together, compatible or incompatible as we might discover.

You can watch the proceedings via live Internet stream, for the majority of you not in Berlin for the live show.

More Photos

About the Author

Kristin Trethewey is a Canadian video artist, cinema performer, and curator. She holds an MFA from Brooklyn College in Performance and Interactive Media. A multi-disciplinary curator and artist for the past ten years, she has recently completed a residency at the Node Center for Curatorial Arts, was co-Director/co-Curator of the INDEX Festival. She currently lives in Berlin.