Axel Andersson on Unannounced

”Unannounced” was born unannounced ten minutes after eight 29 March 2019. Or, rather, the birth was made public slowly and carefully, indeed so slowly and so carefully that the news of the birth overlapped the period of the performance’s first steps. At the same time, it had all been foretold. The audience knew, if they had read the announcement on the website of the theater, that the performance would begin in the foyer and continue not on stage. And that the audience after that was going to be divided into small groups and then showed around the backstage rooms of the theatre. It was in a sense as predictable as that a baby will at some time take the first steps. This predictability did, just as in the case of the baby, in no way undercut the miraculous nature of the event when it did occur.

Before heading into the maturity of the backstage exploration, “Unannounced” spent what can be termed a happy, if mellow, childhood in the aforementioned foyer. It contained much more than had been predicted and certainly much more than will be remembered. The performers handed out post-card-sized cards with David Shrigley-esque drawings (by Orfee Schuijt). This “handing out” took the shape of various showings and placings. The foyer was without haste turned into an exhibition space, with the audience often on the same footing as walls (the art was also put on us). Children are often megalomaniac in this way, and “Unannounced” was no different. But worth noticing is that the key ingredients that would characterize the entire span of the performance’s existence were already present. They consisted of what seemed to be engagements with the art historical concept of line and field, and the juxtaposition of the two. If the nineteenth century debate between Ingres and Delacroix had been moved to the twenty-first century choreography it would look like this. “Unannounced” was uninterested as to what side it should argue for. It supported both and was romantically happy to exist with that paradox. The sensibility was close to the comic earnestness of Picasso’s line/field-experiments. 

Adolescence is a pivotal time. It is now decisions are taken. “Unannounced” followed its juvenile acceptance of paradox and took the decision to pose other questions rather than to identify with existing answers. It did, as promised, divide the audience into smaller groups. We were showed around in the areas of the theatre where the audience is otherwise not allowed. I was with two others with Yukiko Shinozaki (who had created “Unannounced” together with Heine Avdal). The four of us made it to the performers dressing room. The mood was still careful. And mute as it had been in the foyer. It was now becoming clear that this muteness was something that belonged entirely to the character of “Unannounced”. The performance liked to communicate in all other ways other than spoken words. 

Shinozaki projected, with a hand-held projector, words on different surfaces in the dressing room and the subsequent rooms we traversed. There was a story there, or not. Mostly it seemed to draw the attention to the very act of drawing attention to surfaces. A post-conceptual rendering of the vibrant reds of Delacroix. 

Sometimes we passed other small groups, walking in another story, or maybe the same – it was impossible to say. Also, in adolescence “Unannounced” stayed on a common pattern of development. A lot of different and mutually exclusive paths embarked upon. The audience was denied its ontological status as audience and became more like participants like in many similar performances that try too hard to engage with the audience. All that was needed was that we were split up. There was grace and care in both the act of splitting up and in the intimate meeting with the performer. As an adolescent, “Unannounced” was almost more of a therapist than someone in need of therapy. It seemed perfectly natural that other performances would be sent to this one in order to find themselves. 

It was maybe somewhat of a disappointment that “Unannounced” would in some formal ways return to a certain predictability and re-fuse the audience in one – standing  on the stage where we ended up and where the performance would continue until old age. Sure, there were a thousand things that happened in this career of the adult “Unannounced”. It did interesting and accomplished things, with both lines and field. It presented a score that would come to extreme precision in terms of a hip-focused crawling. The hip was of course a well-found analogy. Here the line of the body bent, but it was also here that it seemed to take on a weight and meaning that could never be captured by lines, however precise. A hip is always an argument about gravity. But however well this material worked, it could never really rescue itself from being a bit too smart. The same went for the music, the jumping chairs, the projections, the darkness and the many other things that took place. 

At the climax of the career an extremely rhythmic drum solo played that made the moment feel like a celebration of a success. It was, as most such celebrations, somewhat empty. Here, by showing that if could handle so much this accomplished and thorough work at times ran the risk of seeming like a circus. The glitches and the small mistakes were conspicuously absent, just as the verbal communication. 

Just before death, “Unannounced” did find its way back to its childhood in a fascinating and powerful twist. It became dark and the performers held a long phosphorescent line forming a type of inversion of the black drawing on white surfaces handed out in the foyer. They moved with this almost blindingly lit line. The audience who had been one, was now yet again broken up by the force of the darkness and the threat of being hit by someone else. We all had to try to take care to move out of the way of the line and at the same time not to step on someone else. There was a concentration now, re-found. Simplicity and risk coinhabited in the space. 

“Unannounced” died close to nine thirty and is missed by its immediate family. It is remembered and forgotten by its audiences. The meeting of line and field will survive both groups, and it will do so with a little contribution from “Unannounced” that was most poignant in the performance’s early and late life. The rest is silence, Hamlet says at his death. The remainder is nothing. In “Unannounced” it was more some of the vibrant periods of the middle that tended towards this emptiness.