Amelie Björck on Unannounced

This is a tribute to the passing of a richly composed being, leaving behind, I believe, a substantial crowd of friends and followers full of wonder and excitement the order of things. In fact this obituary, like any other, must take the shape of a reflection over life rather than over death. Unannounced itself, descendant of the old Dance and Theatre tribes, but up until its final hour spearheading the prosperous Performance family, appeared to me as embodying a counter language to the thought itself of death and stillness. Its whole existence seemed to want to tell me: everything is alive, there is no death but only agency in different forms – all you have to do to embrace this is to follow the leads and open your senses to the hidden dimensions.

To missionize this to the crowds Unannounced took the form of a multi bodied and multi tech being, using the creators Heine Avdal and Yukiko Shinuzaki as primary vessels. This also meant a radical break with the conservative conventions of its ancient relatives. Theatre and to some extent Dance have always been occupied by understanding the Human, focusing on human relations and human bodies. While for instance Visual Art has explored abstraction and Music has long been working in a less anthropocentric space, Theatre and Dance has clung to the idea of human exceptionalism, orienting the human gaze only to the human and human interests.

Unannounced wanted to show us something different. By exposing intriguing signs and leads to us ignorants Unannounced lured us to engage in a journey through the insides of its temporal place of hosting, MDT. During the way these signs, first presented as fine drawings on white cards in forms reminding of fruit, letters, ladders, strings, human bodies and more, transformed themselves into projections and/or concrete objects – appearances in different forms and levels of “reality” and with different kinds of agency. 

We are used to seeing letters and words as abstract symbols created by humans. Here, by the help of projection technology, it was suggested (as in the poetic tradition of concrete poetry) that letters and language also lead a life of their own, a viral life detached from us. In small groups we followed lit up words and sentences, straying over the walls of the dark internal spaces of the MDT – its dressing rooms, coffee rooms and office spaces – words commenting on objects, textures and our apprehension of them, making both language and objects uncannily come to life. 

In the black box the groups were reunited, our bodies, just as the bodies of the numerous performers, becoming choreographic entities among other agents which we normally name as “things”. The whole black box became alive and making noise: rows of chairs scraping, spotlights ticking and flickering its lights, beats and squirks coming from near and far, as from a haunted house finally showing its nightly, hidden persona. 

And here were the signs again, which we initially saw in the form of ink on cards, now revived and materialized. The ladder against a wall, the fruits attached to control boards and loudspeakers making music, and the projected words and sentences transforming into linear shapes in the room, forcing our bodies to quietly move around on the floor not to be in the way.

Of course, the Unannounced master mind was behind this extravagant show, using human agents and high tech in a composed rhetoric to prove its points. Of course, you could deconstruct the whole event, analyzing its dramaturgy and choreography, its work with rhythm, temperament and bombastic effects. Still, for me it was an important journey and experience. It was like being inside posthumanist theory of non-human agency, living it as an embodied practice. Perplexing and humbling.

Unannounced made an unusual imprint and will long be remembered.