Angst is an opera in three acts that stretch temporally and spatially over three stations: Kunsthalle Basel, Berlin’s Nationalgalerie – Hamburger Bahnhof and La Biennale de Montréal are presenting three exhibitions with the work of Anne Imhof in 2016 that, like three acts, are linked to one another. A first act was presented by the artist in June 2016 at Kunsthalle Basel. Angst II in Berlin forms the climax and turning point of this work complex. Anne Imhof will conclude the series of works with a third part that she will develop for La Biennale de Montréal. At Hamburger Bahnhof, the artist will present a pictorial composition for a limited time for ten days, consisting of music, text, sculptural elements and actors, falcons, and controlled drones that will form an overall picture.
Angst II divides the historic hall of Hamburger Bahnhof with a tightrope and a dense fog makes the architecture blur. The music of the piece embraces the entire exhibition space and subjects the painting to its own rhythm. While in the act at Kunsthalle Basel songs appeared as arias in a rather temporal order and the march, waltz, and ballad took on a role, the musical composition at Hamburger Bahnhof is played over individual systems. These spatial sound elements evoke memories of the stage set up of a rock concert or the house PA system. The pieces of music in Angst II were written especially for this act and support the work sometimes in a violently surrealist, comical way, sometimes very quietly. The compositions are primarily written for chorus, yet they are not sung by voices. They are segmented in their single tracks, played using the mobile telephones of the dancers, their sound is amplified by microphones that the dancers wear, and combine through the movements of the actors to form an orchestral whole. A tightrope walker crosses the semi-dark space like a clock that ticks and provides the pulse of the piece.
Cally Spooner developed And You Were Wonderful, On Stage, a peripatetic musical (music composition: Peter Joslyn), over the course of two years. The piece was delivered by a chorus line of women, gossiping about celebrities, athletes and politicians who have outsourced their performances to a technology, with examples including Beyoncé’s lip-syncing scandal during the presidential inauguration, Lance Armstrong’s Oprah-mediated apology for his use of doping, and speechwriter Jon Favreau’s departure from the White House in pursuit of a career as a Hollywood scriptwriter. The chorus’ libretto was based on meeting notes from an advertising agency, on how to extract personally disclosed stories and aspirations from employees and repackage them to better reflect the voice of their corporation as a tv-commercials.
Distinct groups of performers seem oblivious to one another: an opera singer announces five scenes in the guise of television hosts, a chorus line generate soundtrack at static microphones, dancers -governed by in-ear sound systems produce a repetitive image of movement while technical crew follow shot-lists, which most often privilege empty space and apparatus. As floor managers assemble, dis-assemble then re-assemble uninhabited stage-sets, the production team call cuts to pre-recorded commercial breaks, from a distant control room.
In the installation at the Stedelijk Museum, filmic composition becomes a by-product of a process; where these several well-rehearsed units of performers produce a forty-six minute non-stop motion, which sometimes creates coherency, and at other times does not. The six camera feeds are presented on five screens, with their chronology and technical mishaps left untouched, in an installation that has more in common with a live choreographic event, than cinema.