A chance discovery of a 1960s East German-manufactured vacuum cleaner at a flea market in Berlin led to a creative vision for an immersive and visceral sonic art installation co-created by theatre director Mark Espiner and musician and sound artist Chris Umney. The space-age looking object provoked discussions around the idea of utopia relating to the formerly communist East Germany that quickly led on to wider ideas of utopia and the rapidly changing contemporary political landscape.
The DDR – East Germany – was a dream. It was a dream of what the future could be. Now it is the past. For some who lived in the country that no longer exists, the DDR was a nightmare of repression. For others it remains a cosy, rose-tinted memory. But the DDR had its own dreams too. Dreams of the future. A possible, perfect future that never arrived. A space-age atomic vision that was embedded in its architecture and theory, its art and storytelling, its politics and sport, its everyday mundane objects and modes of transport. When the Berlin wall came down that imagined future became the past. But just because the DDR dream never arrived, did it die? Is it possible to visit the destination the DDR never reached, to experience it, to feel it?
Our vision is for a time-based art piece which is simultaneously a homage to a lost future and a searching inquiry into idealism and ideas of utopia. It’s artistic aim is to transport its audience to another plane of existence where a possible future lies dormant – or is still being dreamt – and to provoke thinking about political landscapes. The quincentenary of Thomas More’s Utopia in 2016, and the seismic political events that same year, have given our inquiry contemporary resonance. It is a specific aim of the project to promote discussion about ideas of utopia, and how it relates, as a political idea, to Europe and the world we live in today.
Mark Espiner is co-founder and co-artistic director of Sound & Fury (soundandfury.org.uk). As as director of company’s critically acclaimed output over the past 10 years he has extensively explored sound in narrative performance. Sound & Fury’s hit show Kursk was described by The Guardian as “wholly original” and The Times as “Lonely, vast, beautiful”. It played to acclaim at the Sydney Opera House in October 2011. Going Dark, “an exceptional event” (The Guardian) with Sound & Fury was staged at London’s Young Vic and went on national tour.