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Presse

A cake and a map

Donnerstag 30 Mai 2015 / Bergens Tidende Lørdag

(Translated from Norwegian)

 

A cake and a map

by Nicholas Møllerhaug

Europe became a close and personal place this afternoon in this living room in Høyden, Bergen. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I, like many of the others sitting around this table in Høyden, have travelled across Europe. And like the other 12 participants I did my history homework back in the day and crammed historical dates related to the EC, EEA and EEC. These were dates that usually had to do with treaties and agreements, dates often concerning events that Norway was not a part of. But not anymore, because Rimini Protokoll’s hyper-interactive performance piece Home Visit Europe completely transforms this.

 

And the effects this Berlin-ensemble uses are deep and simple. A spacious table plays the main role, serving as a reflection of all the tables that made foundations for the agreements that restored Europe after the war. The gigantic, noble wood tables where treaties about the EC and EU were signed. A large hand-drawn map, with 13 colour pens surrounding it, covers the table in this apartment. One pen for each of the participants, and placed in the middle is something they call the pacemaker. This is a high-tech gadget with low-fi speakers that you’ve probably never seen anything like before. It’s a home-wired box with a display, filled with chords, and it’s all held together by tape inside a glass box. Two buttons are placed centrally on this box: one red and one green.

 

It’s the moment when the host presses the green button that changes my relationship to Europe forever. Yes, in this little living room in Høyden. Faint sounds escapes the box and a long note with many words makes its way out. The opening text is the introduction to the first level of the game. Every new level is then presented by a big political event in the history of Europe, an agreement and the life surrounding this agreement. In the room next door the artists behind Rimini Protokoll sits and pulls the levers. They let the machine lead us with commands, instructions, stories, myths and questions: ‘Those of you who have been involved in a physical conflict in the last ten years, please raise your hand.’ ‘Can those of you who are afraid of the future please raise your hand?’ ‘Can you tell us something about your grandparents and how they met?’

 

During the game a number of choices and evaluations are to be made. We make decisions as a collective that have consequences for the individual. It all happens as we move through new levels of the game. These levels become extraordinary through the soundscape that streams out of the pacemaker on the table, drones based on the very symbol of the unification of Europe, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It takes a while before you notice, but it is a genius touch, contrasted by a long line of nice low-fi sound images.

 

I can do nothing but recommend this performance. Coffee is even provided, and in the end there is cake. It is namely the points you collect during the course of the game that tell you how big your share of the cake will be. As we are sitting gathered around the large table and the map, there is a cake baking in the oven. A cake decorated with Europe in icing sugar on the top.