Dramaturgy for an urban symphony ::.LIMINAL by Gabriel Vallecillo 2021/2022

I accompanied Gabriel Vallecillo Márquez’s creative-research artwork: LIMINAL from its conception in 2020. The new media artist invited me to revisit an experimental video mapping project he had realized in 2018 for Salamanca, Spain (Festival Luz y Vanguardias), with the idea to rethink it from the context of what we were all experiencing during the COVID-19 Pandemic. He wanted to make connections between physical body, liminal space and the city. Meditating on the null area between two boarders (liminality), I took Gabriel in several bike rides through the city establishing a correlative dialogue between individual post-pandemic experiences of confinement and site specific locations in Berlin with a symbolic weight. Vallecillo’s project approached Berlin’s architecture as a second skin, and this urban dramaturgy became a monumental public canvas for 6 videomapping events (2021) where a frieze of bodies took over the city, “opening a dramaturgic door of emotions and stages: desperation, calm, disbelief, confusion, struggle, acceptance”. This was the result of a collaboration with dancers/performers: Julia B. Leperrière, Rodrigo García-Alves, Sonia Noya, Peter PleyerLola Rubio and Dominique Tegho. To arrive at this cast, Gabriel counted with the advice of Silke Bake & Diego Agulló; the three of us are founding members of neue häute e.V. artists-curators collective, and our NGO was cooperation partner for his successful application to NPN Joint Adventures. Astrid Rostaing made this production possible acquiring all the permits for public display.

In 2022 Gabriel had the idea to take the documentation of ::.LIMINAL and expand it into a cinematic experience. Here he mixed the format of a “projection-road movie“, an expressionist film and a documentary with the interviews he had made to the dancers/performers about their experiences of pandemic confinement one year before. By now the city moved from a secondary role to a protagonist one, and in this short-film the city became a choreography on itself. The conceptual framework Gabriel proposed for this part of the project was highly poetic: he wanted to convey the (platonic) idea of “the city on the projected city”, as a resignification, as if it would be trapped in its own palimpsest self.
The process of assisting the script writing and making a second site-specific curation of locations to add more narrative layers to his film was extremely beautiful. We talked a lot and shared references on the aesthetics of phantasmagoria, as he was wondering about the projector’s ability to reveal the “unmanifested”. Since the video mapping can happen merely at night, Gabriel and Daniel Serrano Minar embarked on a silent poetic guerrilla on the summer nights of 2022, recording images during the day and revealing them through projections under the eyelids of the city scape. This was both conceptually and technically an onirical transposition of memories, creating an infinite dialogue between a system of screens/skins/mirrors. These sequences where locations become portals, with different rhythms, pulsations and planes of immanences added a particular syncretic, collapsed and collaged rhythm to the editing of the movie, carefully assembled by Rodrigo Vázquez to compose this new symphony of a (great) city [Walter Ruttman an unavoidable reference for this urban choreography]. Dancer Julia B.Leperrière performed a series of solo dances as a connecting role between the places and their histories. The short movie was later re-mapped into some of the original locations and new ones, composing yet another live artwork in November 2022.

Project website: https://liminal-space.art


Synopsis: ::.LIMINAL is a dance/performance based art film experience that uses Berlin’s architecture as a second skin to create a visual choreography of the contemporary experience of liminality and the need of becoming in our current historic moment.

Performances by: Julia B. Laperrière, Rodrigo García Alves, Lempira Jaén, Sonia Noya, Isadora Paz, Peter Pleyer, Lola Rubio, and Dominique Tegho.

Production team: Written, directed and videomapped – Gabriel Vallecillo Márquez | Production management – Astrid Rostaing | Editor and script advisor – Rodrigo Vázquez | Director of photography – Daniel Serrano Minar | Site-specific curator and script consultant – Paz Ponce Pérez-Bustamante | Choreographic advice – Diego Agulló | Music – Ángel Sánchez Borges | Sound recording – Diane Barbé | Sound – Jeremy Woodruff | Making of – Arturo Alejandro | Technical support – Andreas Harder | Set construction – Jan Romer | Graphic Design – Designsby.Coco

Other links:
The Artist website: https://www.gabrielvallecillo.com
The Artist original project for Spain: https://www.gabrielvallecillo.com/liminal
The Project instagram: https://www.instagram.com/liminal_space.art/
The cooperation partners: https://neuehaeute.org/

Presentations 2021 | 2022

To watch the experimental short film, please contact us for private screenings and festivals.

::.LIMINAL-Making of, by Arturo Alejandro

Urban dramaturgy notes for ::.LIMINAL, by Paz Ponce

Anhalter Bahnhof | Location | Performer: Lola Rubio (ES)

Photos by Arturo Alejandro

Berlin, first half of the 19th Century. The German rail network expands and its steel arms stretch and come knocking at the City’s new gateway to the South: Anhalter Tor.
Rome, Naples, Athens; these names illuminated far away promises for nationwide cartels. 

Four zinc eyes guard the monumental entrance “Day & Night”, gazing into the distance, laying their backs at either sides of the clock above the façade. The sculpture duo by Ludwig Brunow (1843-1913, today at the German Museum of Technology), together with the forever disappeared sculpture “The International Traffic” by Emil Hundrieser (1846-1911) responded to an industrialization iconography that conveyed the fascination with mobility and connection via technology. A 24h / 7 days a week society, which is the heartbeat of the western’ capitalist idea of “developed societies”. But is precisely this site what reminds us of the consequences of that hyperproductivity model, the efficient deportation/extermination of a minority population (the European Jewish population). From Anhalter Bahnhof, 9,600 Jews left in groups of 50 to 100 at a time using 116 trains. Is like the nightmare of reason that presents its skeleton here, in this ruin of a portal that was once a customs office: is a frontier, a border that reads you, assigns you a value or discards you as invaluable. An arrival or an exit, an opportunity or an opportunism. A graffiti today stands today as an epilogue of all these invisible tales of forced migration — “Time travel”, it says.

Perhaps would be good to select two of the blind arches and the column in between as the projection area, and have one performer mirrored in both sides. At the end of the day all these issues related to otherness are based on projections of collective fears on bodies that could be ours, is just a matter of randomness that you are in one or another side of that border to have one fate or another one.

Golda-Meir Steg | Location | Performer: Sonia Noya (CH/ES)

Photos by Arturo Alejandro

This location speaks directly into the concept of displacement and erased frontiers. It is testament of rapacious capitalistic takeovers, invasion, destruction, commodification: A river divides, west and east. A river runs through it: time, memory. In the background we see the voracious rhythm of capitalist takeover and transformation… no human in sight, just development for development sake. What is being erased, whitewashed, commodified and for whom? Who gains, who is erased?

Another topic is “planned emptiness”, and represents very much the history of urban planning in Berlin after the fall of the wall and the reunification. As we well know, the river Spree was taken as the liquid wall which divided the city into the Eastern and Western post war regimes. As a border and security area during the 30 years that lasted the division of the city, the entire river bank remained aside from the reconstruction plans of both cities after the II World War. Some would say it remained “empty”. After reunification this “empty” space became a priority in the urbanism plans of the newly unified city, and the new quarter to be planned would receive the name of “Europa City”. In other words: flesh in the city’s corpse laid open for immobilien investor vultures. To this date, if we look at Berlin from a bird’s eye view, we will always be able to locate the river Spree because it is the axis in the city that has more construction cranes around it. Like giant surgical needles desperately trying to suture the urban wound and dig on its past to accelerate forgetting.

Invalidenpark | Location | Performer: Rodrigo García Alves (BR)

Photos by Arturo Alejandro

So much of this part of Berlin speaks of pride, and its twin: injury. In the 18th Century it was the backyard of the Invalidenhaus: a (crowded) residence for injured soldiers in the then raising military power of Prussia. By the turn of the 19th Century redesigned as a park by Peter Joseph Lenné, stood in its center a Column in honor of the Prussian soldiers fallen in the German-Danish War (1848-1851), and next to it the Prussians built a Church of Grace, in memory of Empress Augusta. This column and this church didn’t survive the third wave of national pride (an absence of god), and the area was massively devastated in the Second World War. Following the partition of the city this area was absorbed by the Eastern Regime and nearby the Berlin Wall was erected. The River Spree (Spandauer Kanal) became a liquid division between Berliners, and is this memory that the French landscape architect Christophe Girot monumentalized in this place, turned into a transition area between a park and urban square. “The sinking wall” (Sinkende Mauer) as it is referred among Berliners, is a granite wall at the heart of a basin which doubles itself through the reflections by night, generating a liquid twin. This confined space was chosen by Gabriel Vallecillo to reflect with performer Rodrigo García Alves on the interspaces of memory, and their (in)visible scars.

Geschichtspark Ehemaliges Zellengefängnis | Location | Performer: Dominique Tegho (LB)

Photos by Arturo Alejandro

A prison, conceptually & materially, renders visible the definition of Liminality: a null area between 2 borders, a space of ambiguity & transition where one loses context and is suspended in a void unable to grasp one reality or the other. This space for ambiguity can be traced from the typology of the building in itself, a heavy enclosed architecture highlights the border: the mechanism of exclusion, the space of not belonging, rendering visible that division between what we don’t want to see. The uncivic, the dead, the sick, the elderly, the mad, the refugees, even the animals: we have built enclosures in our western society to keep these bodies together, to not alter the functionalistic rhythm of our lives driven by work and leisure. They are behind this walls, but: are they gone?

Notes by Gabriel Vallecillo: How do we deal with freedom? How do we deal with confinement? Where is the border between the two? Does such border really exist or are they just illusions we make ourselves believe? Do we put ourselves voluntarily or do we take ourselves voluntarily out from those spaces? Are we -as Sartre stated- condemned to be free? In Domique Tegho’s performance we are able to appreciate various stages of this confrontation with the binary concept of freedom and confinement. From a discovery phase of being “thrown” into a new reality, to confusion, vulnerability, rebellion, breakage and out of body “experiences” looking for freedom and flowing in it until exhaustion.

Traumschiff (Dream boat) | Location | Dancer: Peter Player and Lempira Jaén

Photos by Arturo Alejandro

Rummelsburg Bay in Berlin has offered refuge for many years to a community of renegades of the real estate bubble. This open air collection of liquid alternatives to the privatization of the land and the rent speculation that has sunken so many households since 2010 shrinks rapidly, as the margins of the river are been cemented in a redesign of post-gentrified promenades along the hood. One of the residents of this floating resistance, offered the body of his house as a canvas for a Liminal videotaping event.

Notes by Gabriel Vallecillo: “An exploration of fluctuating emotions, ever changing states of being, finding oneself and losing oneself in immediate expansions of time”. 

Mäusebunker | Location | Performer: Julia B. Laperrière (CA)

Photos by Arturo Alejandro

Once dubbed as “the scariest building in German post-war history”, the ‘70ss monstrous Mouse Bunker (Mäusebunker) is the popular nickname for the Central Animal Laboratories of the Freie Universität in Berlin, reconverted in 2003 by Charité into “Research Insititutes for Experimental Medicine”. This concrete-clad laboratory facilities by the Teltow Canal have been viewed as controversial from its very beginning, built for the purpose of live animal testing as a high performing infrastructure for the development and application of new medicine and vaccines, mostly on mice “with an emphasis on transgenic models for disease research.” The pyramid-like shape building, with its solid concrete outer shell, prominent blue ventilation pipes and triangular bay windows on long slanted facades were erected to provide a maximum amount of control and sterile conditions, adding an overall defensiveness which inspired its “bunker” renaming.This sinister construction, both in shape and function, became more and more popular over the years among friends of brutalist architecture, and after Charité announced its demolition plans in 2020 a petition to save the building was initiated by activist architects, and art historians. The building will now be reviewed to explore reuse options, but the future of this mad looking structure is contested between the memory of protests when the facility was in the throng of its fevered activities and its long history of torment in the name of science, from the death of ca. 220.000 rodents a year, to the genetically modified depression of zebra fish treated with Valium and Prozac, to those of some technicians by cancer after being exposed to asbestos. Shouldn’t we collective let go of this concrete capitalist nightmare dreaming with restless efficiency of a 24/7 world, representing a time of indifference, insensibility and amnesia? What other futures can this structure defend, beyond this schizo-phrenic system populated by “passionate” doers depleted by burnout who survive by way of medication?

Krematorium Baumschulenweg | Location | Performers: all

Humboldthöhe | Location | Dancer: Julia B. Leperrière

Stills from the short-film (Daniel Serrano Minar)& the making off (Arturo Alejandro)

The urban dermis of this part of Berlin-Mitte is particularly sensitive to historical f(r)ictions. This neighbourhood has been witnessing the gradual redevelopment of its four hectares of grassy parkland, erected in 1869 as an open-air botanical garden for working-class children. A green lung in the heart of Red-Wedding framed the boundaries of a globalised nature as a city spectacle, with walking paths bordered by avenues, ponds and hills transformed into icy skating rinks in winter. Geological walls with cross-sections of Central European rocks, nurseries with native amphibians and reptiles, and “exotic” (neobiotic) tree species with corresponding labels, including 70 woody plants from Japan and China that delighted visitors by flowering for long periods of time at different times of the year. During the National Socialist era (1940s), the southern area was added to the AEG factory grounds, and the greenhouse and palm house and the community garden were lost. With the outbreak of World War II, the park was converted into a military zone, and within a year (with the participation of numerous forced labourers), an anti-aircraft tower designed as a high-rise bunker and a radar tower were erected. In the last days of the Battle of Berlin (April 1945), the remnants of the Wehrmacht were pushed towards the two towers, concentrating 1,000 German combat troops who were ordered to blow up the facilities and abandon the park, which was destroyed in the post-war period. In 1948, in the East Block, with the help of emergency workers from Wedding, reconstruction began, and new hills formed from the rubble once again raised the evanescent geography of this ever-changing park to the horizon. Today, parts of the Humboldt Heights Tower (Humboldthöhe) are being exhibited by an association of amateur archaeologists (Berliner Unterwelten), another part has been handed over to the German Alpine Association (DAV) and the third bat hibernation reserve in Berlin is located inside it. And in between, several house and techno clubs have opened and closed under the clandestine cement eyelids of Berlin’s nightlife.

In this location we asked ourselves about the ruins of the past, to become aware of the editing gesture behind the decision to monumentalize them. Because they build narrative layers we share collectively. This constant editing gesture, incurring in (historical) repetitions and the carrousel feeling of going backwards and forwards in time were the main threads guiding Leperrière performance.

Nature Park Schöneberger Südgelände | Location | Dancer: Julia B. Leperrière

Stills from the short-film (Daniel Serrano Minar)& the making off (Arturo Alejandro)

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