City provides an epic score for stunning, slow-motion documentation of some of the movement from Tianzhuo Chen’s 12-hour performance ritual, Trance.
Over the course of the 12-hour duration of Tianzhuo Chen’s latest performance work, Trance, the artist captures the movements of the performers and musicians gathered on the stage in order to document physical and emotional changes that occur over time. As the performance ritual continues he plays back this hyper-detailed footage in slow motion, allowing the audience to shift their perspective of the work in both time and space. These small, self-contained moments of audiovisual time travel open new portals into the work, opportunities to dive deeper into the ritual and experience the intimacy and ecstasy of those in the trance.
Musicians Dis Fig, Ican Harem of Gabber Modus Operandi, City, ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U and Felix-Florian Todtloff are joined by choreographer Ylva Falk, rapper KHNG KHAN and a host of professional and self-taught performers, including Bidjé de Rosa, Lavinia Vago, Lisette Ros, Ndoho Ange, Omid Tabari and Siko Setyanto. Inhabiting different characters during each of the performance’s six chapters, our focus shifts between the performers, who take turns leading the ceremony, guiding the group in the transformative process of the ritual.
In the above behind the scenes footage, Chen weaves together this slow-motion documentation in a sustained study of physical experimentation and exploration. Returning full circle from The Dust, a work that considers what ritual and ceremony looks like in the absence of the body, Chen strips away everything but the corporeal, presenting Trance as it plays out across the bodies of his cast.
The movement in Trance was borne out of a series of workshops that took place prior to the performance and brought together the entire cast, most of whom were discovered by Chen on Instagram. Familiarising themselves with each other’s unique styles, some meeting each other for the first time, each performer took turns to lead the others in their own session, allowing the entire cast to absorb each other’s individual energies. Working in close collaboration with dramaturge Petra Poelzl and choreographer Ylva Falk, the cast developed a hybrid style touching on improvisation and highly structured movement, drawing together the wide variety of the performers’ experiences.
The music featured in Trance was also devised in these sessions, with Chen bringing together an experimental supergroup to jam alongside the other performers. Both Dis Fig and KNG KHAN deliver solo performances as part of the work, the latter transforming lines from Delog Dawa Drolma’s Delog: Journey to Realms Beyond Death into mystic hip-hop. Gabber Modus Operandi’s Ican Harem wields gloves with green lasers attached to each finger like weapons, strikes cymbals with heavy chains and dons angel wings and a mirrorball skull, while ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U oversees proceedings from the DJ booth and producer Will Ballantyne, aka City, shreds amid the madness.
Some of the compositions recorded in those initial sessions by City can be heard in the above documentation. Punctuated by moments of silence, the melodic core of Chen’s work is highlighted in this slow-motion sequence, the visual component of the work taking on an elongated, ambient quality, leaving space for the monolithic theatricality of City’s score. Moments of surging percussion and grandiose synths swirl into dense banks of noise before fading away, ceding space to melancholic drones and gentle, effects-heavy guitar.
There is a profound sense of catharsis in the movements of these performers as they bend and contort to primal rhythms. Rage, fear, pain and pleasure surge through their bodies, exorcised in group and solo routines that flicker from tender sensuality to violent confrontation. “Eroticism is the ritual Chen’s performative bodies generate when depicting the unseen, the hidden, and the forbidden,” writes Oxi Pëng. “It reveals the limits of anthropocentric culture and crosses these limits, simultaneously transposing it back to its spiritual and mythical Gaian origin.”
It is this transgressive physicality that Tianzhuo Chen creates a space for, a movement practice that tests the limits of the human body while at the same time preparing it as a vessel for the manifestation of the immaterial power of his wide-ranging philosophical, religious and cultural influences. It is through movement that Antonin Artaud’s apocalyptic prophecies and Delog Dawa Drolma’s experiences in the afterlife are channelled and answered, transformed over the course of Trance into an urgent response to the chaos and disorder of the present. In this way, Trance becomes a feverish call-to-arms for the anthropocene, as well as a desperate cry to whatever might come next.
Director – Tianzhuo Chen
Dramaturgy – Petra Poelzl
Choreography – Ylva Falk
Performance & Music – Bidjé de Rosa, Ican Harem, Khng Khan, Lavinia Vago, Lisette Ros, Ndoho Ange, Omid Tabari, Siko Setyanto, Ylva Falk, City, Dis Fig, Felix-Florian Todtloff, ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U
Production Management – Partner In Crime
Costume – Windowsen, Yusuke Washimi
Light – Akihiko Tanida
Sound – Sho Moriyama
Studio Management & Assistance – Ren Xingxing, Xiao Xiaxi