In this month’s residency, Berlin-based performance duo LABOUR chase transformation and transcendence in two of their major works.
The question at the heart of the practice of Berlin-based performance duo LABOUR is one that remains resolutely ontological. Farahnaz Hatam and Colin Hacklander combine their respective backgrounds in molecular biology, sound art, avant-garde percussion and post-tonal theory to create immense multidisciplinary works that interrogate the physical, emotional and spiritual forces that govern our existence.
As Hacklander explains, with these audiovisual works LABOUR are “trying to create a space within the music that we can create the possibility to reach into another place and perhaps ask the question: what is the nature of being?”. In the first two chapters of their estrangement series, ‘next time, die consciously (بیگانگی)’ and ‘nine-sum sorcery’, Hatam and Hacklander explore the concept of radical material heteronomy, the understanding that the action of the individual is influenced by forces outside of itself. By investigating and interrogating these power structures, LABOUR have developed a creative methodology predicated on the understanding that the self is innately constructed, and therefore eminently de-constructible.
In ‘next time, die consciously (بیگانگی)’, this ontological investigation is conducted via a diverse set of methods, including microsound synthesis, rhythmic cycles, percussion, reverberation and esoteric imagery. For the 2018 edition of Berlin Atonal, LABOUR filled every level of Berlin’s monolithic Kraftwerk space with a battalion of drummers, as well as ingenious lighting design from former Fact resident MFO and Fredrik Olofsson, who distributed self-made, wirelessly controlled LED stands throughout the audience, all the while conducting the multi-sensory experience through feverish percussive performance and mind-altering electronic composition.
Conceived of as in part “an ode to the space itself”, ‘next time, die consciously (بیگانگی)’ sees Hatam and Hacklander taking full advantage of every inch of Kraftwerk, probing the depths of the former power station with “specific sonic instances of reverberation” to fully translate the scale of the building into sound. It is this sense of scale that is magnified by the floor-to-ceiling projections, featuring imagery from Evelyn Bencicova, assisted by Jakub Gavalier and Jakub Kubica, depicting contrasting images of life, death, organic material, synthetic assemblages and aesthetic artifice.
It is by activating such an imposing space that LABOUR are able to transform their exploratory art practice into a performance that is at once cerebral and somatic, channeling the rigour and scope of their thought into sounds and images that can in some way transform the space around an audience, providing them with a place in which they, too, can experience their own transformation.
For ‘next time, die consciously (بیگانگی)’, Farahnaz Hatam and Colin Hacklander were joined by Yoni Silver on bass clarinet and Masaya Hijikata on drums.
Watch next: Fact Residency – Sam Rolfes