Performances

Last update: 4 November, 2014.

It took me some time to realize that reclamation needs to be taken literally: it has at least as much to do with laying new claims to the landscape as it does with replanting, infrastructure, or architecture. The point was brought home to me in June 2010 when I found myself invited to so many events that I had little time left for the contemplative landscape photography that I had planned to do. This felt distracting at first, but it soon became obvious that the events belong to the story. The images here are from five events that were part of IBA's final year celebrations.

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The first few frames are from a stroll with a small group of people through the landscape art world of Pritzen, a tiny village located on an isolated strip of land that protrudes into an enormous former mining pit. The invitation had mentioned only an informal discussion on the efforts of the past decade to establish an art community here. The performance art and music came as a wonderful surprise and a reminder of the power that situated art can have.

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The second group of frames offer a glimpse of the piece What is Energy? produced by Jürg Montalta from Switzerland and Tommaso Lana from Italy. The piece unfolds in the mining town of Welzow and takes the audience through a series of stages where Welzow residents share their experiences of living with the mines. The stories are highly condensed, poignant, and very moving. To tell them takes courage.

The piece is but one example of local resources combining to great effect with an aesthetic impulse from the outside. It is this kind of synergy that, according to IBA's Ten Principles Concerning the Treatment of Post-Mining Landscapes, is essential for successful reclamation work.

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The inauguration of the new lake, as well as eight hundred years of documented history, were cause for celebration in Schlabendorf. The village had been put on notice in the early 1960s. For the next three decades, its residents “sat on their packed suitcases” in houses they were forbidden to repair, ready to decamp at a moment's notice. They began moving their forebears' remains from the church yard to a new cemetery. Then the GDR collapsed and the excavators that were already grinding away the outskirts could be stopped.

The celebration of the Secret of Schlabendorf involved more than two hundred participants, among them more than one hundred musicians. Some had to be recruited from neighboring villages because Schlabendorf has only about three hundred residents. The first half was contemplative music and plays in different locations - the old inn, a barn, the church -, the second half was steel drumming, a brass parade down main street, a concert at the new marina, followed by the obligatory food and drink. (The food, incidentally, was very good and Greek, perhaps a nod to European solidarity a few weeks after the Greek budget crisis had nearly brought down the Euro.)

The performance conjured up many ghosts from the past, mean and friendly alike, and dispatched them with dissonant as well as more conciliatory chords. The music, with distorted quotations from official GDR fare, was composed for the occasion by jazz professor Hazel Leach. Jürg Montalta developed the performance concept in close collaboration with Schlabendorf's residents.

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In something of a riposte to the Son et Lumière spectacles at French châteaux, a percussion event marked the test run for a newly installed illumination system at the former waste water cleaning towers in Lauchhammer. Billed as The Silence of the Drums, the event did have its silent moments, but for the most part gut shaking would be a more apt descriptor (you have to crank up the volume of the audio sampler all the way to appreciate this). Under expert guidance, young and old discovered their inner percussionists, ate grilled pork, drank beer, and enjoyed a silent film about the history of the towers compiled from astonishing archival material. The calmer, tone-painterly passages in the audio sampler are from the band's accompaniment of the film.

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The most extravagant production of IBA's final year, dreamed up as well by Jürg Montalta, was the communal creation of an enormous sound and light sculpture. It was to celebrate the people's taking possession of the new Sedlitz lake. On an unseasonably cold and windy evening in June 2010, about 4000 intrepid visitors, equipped with blankets, flashlights, and instruction sheets, fanned out around the lake. The show began after dark with a red flare rising from the middle of the lake where there had once been a village. Flashlights were turned on or off or waved in synchronized response to different color flares, while the sound from 500 fanfare players and drummers (whipped into shape by Marcel Friedrich) wafted across the water. The music opened with traditional fare, then drifted into organized chaos, and finally reunited in celebratory (and rather un-Germanic) samba rhythms.

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In a slightly wistful nod to the IBA, we close with two numbers by the Potsdam Tango Trio from a Vattenfall-sponsered dance event in June 2011, less than a hundred yards from the steep dropoff into the Welzow mine:

Surprise appearance Scaling art Swamp percussion Matthias Bauer & Maria Lucchese Jazz in the art barn Nazis out City planning From Santiago de Chile to Welzow Mayor Kolbe at the site of her former village Personal history refracting political history Indispensable: refreshments Brand new lake Audience I, Schlabendorf Audience II, Schlabendorf Music and WWII memories About  protestantism under communism Three generations Not your grandparents' idea of folk music Audience III, Schlabendorf Volunteer fire brigade Procession I Procession II Procession III Harbor concert Synchronized tacking After hours After hours The Silence of the Drums (Das Schweigen der Trommeln) I The Silence of the Drums The Silence of the Drums The Silence of the Drums Thousands of flashlights across Sedlitz lake After a shower Tango on the edge of the Welzow mine - I Tango on the edge of the Welzow mine - II Tango on the edge of the Welzow mine - III