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The sofa that ate Berlin

In a dusty neon lit bar that hangs precariously above a busy Berlin overpass, two friends find themselves in a raging discussion about performance after having watched the Triangle of Sadness. It was the same bar they had been to for pre-movie drinks and they had both agreed that they wouldn’t be coming back yet both times everything else was too busy, so here they were again, slumping themselves back into a low standing couch where the pillows almost collapse at the weight of them. Smoke fog hangs thickly in the air, blurring the details of the bar yet seems to entirely miss the pair and so they slouch comfortably, arms threaded over the back of the sofa for fear it might entirely consume them. It is under the fluorescent glow of a neon spotlight, against this backdrop of smoke and muffled chatter, where the following takes place.

“Is there really such thing as interactive performance?” 

“What do you mean?” 

“Well isn’t all performance just interactive? We are always exchanging something! It makes no sense to specify interactive. It’s a redundant description.” 

“But what if theres no audience?”

“Well then it’s not a performance.”

“So for something to be considered performance there needs to be someone to perform to?”

“Mmm I guess so. But what if the performer is also the audience!”

“If a tree falls in a for-“

“Not this again.”

The beers in their hands start to gargle like a draining bath. Sluurrrrrrrp. The strange thing was that they slurped in opposite directions from each other.

What do we really want though when we talk about interactivity in performance? Maybe what we really want is intimacy. Because not all performance is intimate. Maybe we are using the wrong words.” 

Somewhere further down the street a bottle smashes on the road. A car swerves to avoid it. The light of the car cascades across the back wall of the bar for a brief moment. A woman notices it and it reminds her of the way the sun would crawl against the wall of her childhood bedroom everyday and she starts to cry. Her date thinks she is crying because she is having a bad time. There is no consoling her and she leaves. Her date is rather down in the dumps about this and buys a beer from the next-door spati, smashing it on the road before even finishing it. 

“When I talk about interactivity what I want is connection. I want performances that feel like no one is the performer and no one is the audience. What if a performance could make you forget it was a performance at all? A performance that suspends your sense of self, pulling you in the collective soup of experience.” 

“So you want no hierarchy?” 

“Yes maybe that’s it.” 

“But there is always a hierachy. This can shift moment to moment, so that if you were to judge the overall distribution of power, it would be balanced. But in any given moment, there is hierarchy. And in theatre, all tension is created through the attempt to disrupt or ease this imbalance.” 

“But what about right now. Me and you, sitting here talking. Is there a hierarchy?” 

“Yes probably.” 

“So I guess we first need to expose the hierarchies before we can dismantle them.” 

The studio audience laughs. There is something about the uniformity of it that makes everyone doubt if it’s genuine. They laugh again at the thought that somewhere somehow they had all rehearsed this laugh, preparing for this very moment. 

A hot couple enter the bar and sit in the front row of the audience, directly opposite the sofa that is trying to swallow the two friends. 

Maybe we need to lose our ego’s before we can truly have interactive performance.” 

“I think we need to lose our egos in general before we can truly have the quality of connection you talk about.” 

“Got any tips?” 

The hot couple across from the pair shake their head in unison regretfully. “No sorry.” 

“Fair enough” they reply. 

“If death is the loss of any identity and identity is any border we define around ourselves then death is any state that forces us to reconsider where the borders of ourselves lie.” 

“Like the border between a performer and the audience?”

“Yeah I guess so.” 

“Your definition of death sounds a lot like my definition of queerness.” 

“What is it?”

“Queerness is the experience of occupying continual transformation and change.” 

“That does sound very similar. So queerness is dying?” 

“How emo.” 

“What does this mean for performance? Is queer performance a performance that reconsiders the shape of the audience/performer hierarchy?” 

“Is the goal of interactive performance to stage many mini deaths?” 

The sun sets even though it does so everyday and a tiny pebble falls from space which very rarely happens, but on this day the two happen at the same time which is even more unusual. The pebble is not really a pebble but a piece of space debris from a satellite that was sent into orbit 3 years ago to capture the sound of space, but actually it turns out theres not much to hear so they discontinued the project after a few weeks and now this lonely telescope floats around earth, creating sound with no one to listen to it. But on this day, a tiny piece of it’s left fin breaks off, and falls to earth. It plummets through the troposphere, pierces the clouds, gaining velocity which each meter it cuts through and when it enters the atmosphere it is a huge burning ball of fire heading straight towards the dusty Berlin bar. It lands finally, leaving nothing of the city but a huge crater and in the middle of the crater is a sofa, still in tact. No one knows how or why, but they called it the sofa that ate all of Berlin. 


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