||| coming next: Dhellemmes/Reardon in Einbaumöbel, Vienna | 10 May 2018 |||

Dancing on Ashes (Kalifornia)

Dancing on Ashes (Kalifornia) is a video installation by Ines Birkhan and Bertram Dhellemmes, combining a video and a narrative text printed on a poster. It is part of the long-term transmedia Angel Meat project. The video has a duration of 10 minutes and is looped. It must be presented on a wide flat LCD screen hanged on the wall next to the poster; the sound is preferably played at mid volume but can be performed through headphones. Seats can be proposed to the audience.

The video introduces characters of the fictional cabaret Dancing on Ashes, who appear also in the story told on the poster (see text below). Angel Meat is a transmedia project developing an extended field of literature, via its confrontation with different medias, such as stage performance, visual arts and new medias. It creates a universe in which the artistic underground is a mythical zone that will give birth to the heroes of a mythology to come. The characters interpret a pop song turned into a dark requiem by sound and video treatments that are a tongue-in-cheek reference to early video art pioneers.

You will find lower the video, a sketch of the installation, a picture of the poster (without frame), the text of the poster, a technical rider and credits. You can find complementary information about the whole project on www.angelmeat.com.

Poster text
When Yu comes to the Lumpenkabarett the next day for the audition, she somehow manages to arrive one hour too early, takes this as a bad omen, and decides to give up the whole thing and to leave. She walks down Warmoesstraat in a dumb state, but when she reaches the Dam, she changes her mind again, goes back to the theatre, dives down the stairs in the dark and sits at the bar to wait for the manager.  

On stage, a loose rehearsal is going on, or maybe the performers are having a break, because they’ve just been casually talking for the last ten minutes. It’s quite odd to see them in full costume but in non-performance mode – it has somehow more impact than when they are dancing or playing music! The front woman in expressionist black and white make-up is wearing thigh high boots with twelve centimeter heels, opera gloves, a leather choker and not much more. She seems to suffer from backache since she keeps twisting her spine and stretching with painful grins, locking her arms behind her head, or leaning frontwards completely – like dancers do –, still talking. 

The tall musician – wearing similar but rougher make-up, and a black suit – just stands there looking in the void, answering with few words, and seems absorbed in intricate and somber thoughts – though this might just as well be an impression due to his make-up. Then he slowly puts down his guitar on its stand, walks to the black curtains that he tears open and rolls a wheeled mirror to the centre of the stage. He then undergoes an astonishing transformation: in a few gestures, he opens his black shirt, unbuckles his trousers that drop on his boots, messes up his long hair, twists his upper body like a hunchback and distorts his face in a grotesque grimace. It's as if he conjured out of nowhere an obscene, hellish clown with a toothless and drooling mouth wide open, bulging eyes turned white, twisted fingers writhing with crustacean movements, the whole body seemingly moved by a slow cramp resolving in a silent scream, like in horror of seeing itself in the mirror…

Then, as suddenly as he had turned into this misshapen freak, the musician straightens up, quickly puts his clothes back on with a sulky pout  – but here again it’s hard to tell – and a clearly skeptical sniff, and mumbles: ‘I’m really not sure’. The woman is now hanging upside down from a rail fixed on the upstage wall, loosening her sore backbone – she asks: ‘So, can we work on the new Johanna sketch, now?’ Since he doesn’t answer, she goes on: ‘Did you watch this YouTube video I e-mailed you yesterday? Johanna on some Austrian TV show, just baffling!’

At the sound of heavy steps des-cending the stairs, Yu switches from the stage to the forthcoming meeting, quickly recalling the pitch she prepared for the cabaret manager. It’s hard to tell if she belongs here, but at least she has to try. 

Technical  rider

Wide flat HD screen
Digital player (we prefer to avoid the loss of quality caused by DVD compression)
Headphones if needed

The poster is A0 format, displayed in a 95 x 130 cm frame. To reduce transportation cost, the poster can be sent as a PDF file and printed on location, presented in a new frame or glued directly on the wall. A smaller version is also an option (A1 / 70 x 95 cm frame).


Conception, direction, text, performance: Ines BirkhanBertram Dhellemmes
video and sound effects: Bertram Dhellemmes
Premiered in Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, November 2010

Dancing on Ashes (Kalifornia) © Ines Birkhan - Bertram Dhellemmes | press photo