Photography is a signifier of time, says our author, the anti-disciplinary artist, researcher and writer Sumugan Sivanesan. In his photo series on the 2019 edition of «The Long Now» – the thirty-hours closing event of the Berlin-based Maerz Musik festival – he emphasizes light by tracing the corporeal relations between performer, audience, and architecture.
The Long Now, the culmination of the MaerzMusik festival, occurred over thirty hours at Kraftwerk, Berlin, in cooperation with Berlin Atonal. Under the directorship of Berno Odo Polzer since 2015, Maerz Musik has developed from being a showcase of new compositional and avantgarde music to become a «festival for time issues» with an expanded program of lectures, workshops, screenings, panels and installations alongside concerts. Kraftwerk, a former power station for East Berlin built in the 1960s, was revived in 2006 as part of the Tresor club’s complex of venues and is renown for its atmosphere and acoustics.
From Dusk to Strobe
Bathing in textured sound at the 2019 The Long Now in late March 2019, I was struck how each act was enhanced by a specific lighting concept. Departing from the dusk-lit queue I entered Kraftwerk enchanted by the solo voice of Anne-Kathryn Olsen. Following her voice up the stairs, I found her performing in a corridor between rows of still empty camp beds, lit by spots which produced two shadows like a sundial. A school of synchronised spots rotated above turntable artist Shiva Feshareki, sweeping her audience in hues of blue, gold and green. Percussionist Eli Keszler was lit up in a circular array of clean white light, the audience appreciating his dexterous stick work which shuttered the gleam of drum kit chrome. Soprano singer Stine Janvin in collaboration with designer Morten Joh premiered a vocal and light performance. Obscured by fog, Janvin’s shrill processed voice ricocheted into the peaks and corners of the cavernous space. A powerful strobe blinded many of her audience who turned away dazed, while others peered through their smartphone screens.
A Space Lobster From Hell
Frederic Rzewski performed around lunchtime on the Sunday, which was lost on those of us who had stayed inside for the full program and had scrambled our circadian sense of time. At first the senior composer voiced his frustration at the incessant muffled throb from Tresor next door, which rumbled the walls is shared with Kraftwerk. Nevertheless he persevered in a virtuoso show, his black suit morphing with the black piano, his shock of silver hair glared under a single spot. Well into the Sunday afternoon local digital producer Xin, appearing as a «space lobster from hell» perched behind their laptop, let loose the first beats of the program, which rattled around the industrial sized cavern now pulsing in swollen-red light.
In the last hours of The Long Now, artist Liping Ting emerged from the shadows on Kraftwerk’s lower floor. Over a focused performance that lasted some hours and with a long piece of wood balanced on her head and rolling a feather between her lips, Ting drew in onlookers to hold her weight in thin strips of elastic which she stretched to their limits. She kept apace to the slow melting ice of Huang Tim’s sculptural installation, «Material Matano». Comprised of objects suspended in ice and hung like pendulums from ropes that dropped several floors from the former-factory’s roof, they dramatised the time of the event and the scale of the building.
Photography as a Signifier of Time
Although a long way from the durée of photochemical exposure, development and printing, photography remains a signifier of time. Arguably, digital pictures are representative of the ubiquitous and instantaneous production of images nearing the speed of light, as they traverse the planet along fibre-optic cables; expanding photo-alchemy as a world-wide communications infrastructure. While this selection of images also inevitably frames time, they emphasise light, tracing the corporeal relations between performer, audience, and architecture.