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I think I was never there

How do we store, as the poet Carolyn Forché calls it, "a memory through which one has never lived"? Undead & Delicious, a production at HAU3, attempted to explore just that.

Image for I think I was never there
Photo by Andre Wunstorf

Where were we during the construction of the Ishtar gate? Where, on September 11, 2001? And do we recall Marilyn Monroe’s white dress, billowing over the air duct like dove’s wings? How do we store, as the poet Carolyn Forché calls it, “a memory through which one has never lived”?

In Undead & Delicious, performer and philosopher Dennis Deter, dancer Anja Müller, and dance choreographer Lea Martini endeavor to track the physical impact of events they have never personally experienced. Interested in how these collective memories affect the body, the work cites iconic images and scenes that have left an indelible mark on our collective conscious: the twin-towers collapse, Monroe’s dress, and even the Titanic-pose by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. In dance-based sequences of mix-up and play back, the performers challenge the markers of what we’ve come to accept as the visual evidence of our lives.

Staged in a black-box, white-floor space, the under one-hour production is a roller-coaster of images not suited for the faint of heart. Dressed as ‘everymen’ in simple t-shirts and slacks, hurling their bodies at the stage floor, the performers are in one moment ridiculous and comedic, and in the next grotesque, unnerving, and downright spooky – a mercurial physical range. Yet, at times the intellectual strings behind the production threaten to rob moments of their delight, leaving the viewer feeling unsuccessfully manipulated. Pauses between sequences carry on too long, breaking the tension and boring the audience. The opening sound riffs are also far too loud (levels check, please). And the overall length could be extended, deepening the conversations, especially from the mid-point to the end.

Still, this piece is a fascinating work that asks if, and to what extent, we inhabit the image of our societal icons. A liminal concept perhaps, but in a city like Berlin, where impressions of a burning Reichstag are stacked against the jubilant sounds of car horns and carousing down Ku’Damm after the World Cup, it is also eternally present and relevant.