Terrestrial Transit, Cranky Bodies ©Michiel Keuper

Only Guests on Earth

The interdisciplinary evening Terrestrial Transit asks how we can embrace the earthly and finite transition of being as a way of life. With five performances at DOCK11 until December 9, 2023, the company Cranky Bodies concludes a nomadic project that began in Berlin and led via Brandenburg and the border town of Szczecin to the Baltic Sea.

It is an old topos that we as humans are only guests on earth. In conservative Christian narratives, which to this day continues to have at times (unfortunately) more or less explicit influence on human perspectives and policies, paradise beckons at the end of the earthly journey: a heaven of the redeemed, a place of ethereal beings who have overcome gravity. While the Mars and moon ambitions of an Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos perpetuate this utopian escapism, others recognise that it is time to free the transit spot Earth from its bus stop status.

This requires time, mutual care, responsibility and the courage to dare to make experiments that can lead to great things, or to fail. We experience this on several levels during the three-hour improvised performance. Firstly, there is the framework of a video work that stretches across two sides of the stage. It brings images of a journey into the space: an attic studio in Ponderosa in Brandenburg, a windy seashore, an unused road, a wood behind the industrial ruins of Szczecin. It shows people who are not here today, as well as earlier versions of the eleven performers who now refer to the projected images here with subtle gestures and actions. The third space that opens up speaks of the passing of time and the incalculable magic of memory, in which fortune and loss are inextricably intertwined.

The loops of time are not just imagined but cross over weighted bodies, yielding and resistant, of flesh and blood, of wood and coloured acrylic glass. Time and again, the action between the performers accelerates as they call, circle, shadow, feel, lift, catch and drop each other. Again and again it slows down even more, to linger quietly in difficult balancing acts or to sink completely to the ground, to lie down on the temporary home of earth. At some point, I too am invited to close my eyes. I am taken care of. I am allowed to let go of the task of watching, which I share not only with the other guests but also with the performers themselves. In complete peace, we listen to what one performer calls the “nothing” that was “produced” after an hour and a half.

The room is then gradually reorganised. A bright neon yellow rope is unrolled, stretched from one corner to the other and passed through the hands of the audience until it reaches the outside door. A guest leaves the performance and is hugged goodbye. It is a small but clear gesture in the large entanglement with everyone else. “We see that you are here,” says the gesture, “we welcome your coming and your going.” The rope jerks through the rows of seats, becomes a skipping rope and finally a hypnotic spiral that measures the distance between two bodies.

What becomes tangible for me in the Cranky Bodies’ improvisational practice which spans decades, is a sense of freedom that incorporates the material limits and conditions that make earthly life possible and give it form with curiosity and a willingness to negotiate. A freedom that embraces its limits with care.

English translation by Isabel Robson

Terrestrial Transit by Cranky Bodies a/company (Performance: Alexandra Borys, Anna Nowicka (Film), Alistair Watts (Film), Asaf Aharonson, Bjørn Ivan Ekemark/Ivanka Tramp, Caroline Neill Alexander, Eszter Gál, Ka Rustler (Film), Márcio Kerber Canabarro, Marysia Stokłosa, Mor Demer, Oliver Connew, Peter Pleyer) premiered on December 9, 2023. Further performances from December 7-9, 2023. Tickets: dock11-berlin.de.