Review: Saturday 16.07.11
A creative hub that exudes energy, Mica Moca’s factory headquarters is making a name for itself as one of this summer’s hottest destinations and, glancing around, it is easy to see why this space has become so popular from within Berlin’s cutting edge contemporary art scene: its impressive size and ramshackle feel, a mass of seemingly endless rooms opening out onto a vast enclosed courtyard area, offers up the perfect venue for any artist in need of both a practical and aesthetically interesting space to showcase their work.
Situated in Wedding, this is a building that appears adaptable enough to house art of any discipline, as tonight’s programme demonstrated: an immersive, impromptu performance event comprised of a series of musical, theatrical and visual pieces, the audience were led throughout the night from one room to the next by musicians playfully improvising along the way like a troupe of deranged pied-pipers. Despite the evening’s distinctly offbeat nature, they did well to tame the lively audience, a mixture of creative types of all ages, to an attentive hush. Once gathered together in a long factory room with bare brick walls, the performers weaved their way amongst the crowd, some reading aloud from sheets of paper, others adopting more theatrical roles and gesturing to the audience members directly. Musicians dotted around the room underscored the vocal confusion of noise with their own musical experiments: one performer I was positioned next to unfolded a whole bag full of implements which he used to create a variety of dissonant sounds on his snare drum.
Without any conventional sense of linear progression in terms of content, the resulting effect was that of an ever shifting soundscape in which the audience were immersed; a dynamic exploration of spacial and musical boundaries. One dominant motif remained the confusion of spoken word and improvised music, often combined in a conversational, humorous manner, performers and musicians taking turns to read aloud or musically interpret written text as though in dialogue with one another. There were distinct shifts in tone and style, from the contemplative and haunting, to the feverish and clown-like; a duet between a grand piano and a powerful soprano that filled a cavernous room immediately followed by the hair rising riffs of an electric guitar. Combined with spoken word, projection and performance, it felt a bit like chaos, at least initially. Throughout, the musicians played with utter abandonment and a contagious energy, producing what I can only describe as the musical equivalent of abstract art. That said, the overall performance was not without form or structure. Repeated gestures and motifs seemed to continue after the audience were encouraged to move on in the manner of miniature encores. In this manner, without pause or hesitation each piece appeared to melt into the next, putting off any definitive sense of closure until its very end during which most of the performers congregated together for one final send off.
There were, in fact, too many performances throughout the evening to list here, let alone justify in words alone. What I can say, however, is how much I enjoyed the experience as a whole due to three outstanding factors: the first was its structural relationship with the building itself. This vast and imposing space cannot help but become a part of whatever artwork is presented, and the site-specific form of the piece meant that it had been specifically tailored for the location, the audience organising itself according to the limitations of each room. As one spectator remarked to me, "this is a powerful space that speaks for itself". Second was the attention the piece consistently paid to the individual, delivering a unique experience to each spectator depending on, by chance or will, where they were positioned in the room. Audience members could follow the performers closely and experience something highly intimate, or drift around casually at a distance; there were no rules, formalities or obligations, and its refusal at times to point out any single focal point demanded from the audience an active engagement. Furthermore, it was a night full of interesting moments of contradiction and surprise. At times I couldn’t help but think how oddly cinematic I found this dissonant and jarring performance to be, particularly during its closing section, underscored by a piece of performance poetry which read like the shooting script for a non-existent film: ‘Noon. And it’s winter on a beach in Holland. A man sitting with his eyes closed...’ Though the event’s main driving force was its celebratory confusion of sound, the effect was in some ways, paradoxically perhaps, highly visual.
This style of performance is certainly an acquired taste yet that didn’t prevent a sizeable audience from attending. Whilst spectators were free to mingle and visit the bar, the musicians continued to punch out their syncopated rhythms into the night, silenced only when the night finally came to a close after an impressive duration of almost 3 hours. If you haven’t already checked out Mica Moca, I would thoroughly recommend you do before it closes its doors at the end of September. It is a project with only a short life span and sadly, only to be caught this summer. Grab a beer at the bar, lounge in the sunny courtyard and be sure not to miss its eclectic programme.
Recommendations for the next few days:
22nd and 23rd: Alarum, a two-night festival of short performances from Cambridge.
Starting time: 19:00. Entrance fee: one night 7 euros (5 concessions)
Two nights 10 euros (8 concessions)
23rd: Sharpen your pencils for *Life Drawing Berlin's bi-monthly afternoon of Life Drawing (every 2nd & 4th Saturday of the month).
24th: DAdA-NETnet: Berlin greets San Fransisco.
Photos: Jack Howard