REMACHINE, Jefta Van Dinther ©Jubal Battisti

Re: Revolution

REMACHINE by Jefta van Dinther, showing at HAU Hebbel am Ufer/HAU1 from 29 February to 3 March 2024, fights to stake a claim for the mystical and the poetic within the grindingly mechanical.

An enormous, slowly spinning disc covers the entire stage. Seated on its edge, transported in endless circles, the five performers brace themselves stiffly against the constant rotation. Barely lit, the smooth, glassy turning motion of the platform is ominous rather than serene. Against this background, small unpredictable bodily tics and twitches become jarring acts of rebellion.

The performers start to sing, their soaring voices attempting to wrest control of the space from the irresistibly consistent machinery. They work the surface of the revolving platform with hands and elbows, as though they are tilling soil, or kneading dough. Their earthy clothes set them at odds with the brutalist landscape, where everything has been stripped away from the walls of the stage except singular rows of cold lights. Like innocents dropped into a steely metropolis, they must learn new rules, harden themselves against this unfamiliar, unyielding terrain.

Adapt or resist. Allow yourself to be carried passively along, or struggle just to stay in one place. Learn the physics of the thing: the circle moves fastest at the edge, straight lines are conceptually complicated and physically exhausting.    

The performers pull out cables attached to the middle of the disc, strap them around their waists and lean out, away from the centre. Paradoxically, they both constrain and liberate, allowing the performers to survive further away from a point on which they are now entirely dependent. Like an umbilical cord. Or a charging cable when your phone’s battery is at 7% but you need to leave.

Within the vastness of this muted, underground world, even the most simple of images are afforded the space and the time to expand into something more evocative. Car headlights streaking past. LED warnings glowing on a motherboard. Limp bodies hauled over slick pavements. A ritual performed in the hope that, when tomorrow comes, the gods will once again drag the sun across the sky.

Beneath it all, urgent, mournful voices. Voices formed from grit. Voices which rely on, and fight against, rhythmical, industrial clanking. Is it a swan song? A prayer? A call to arms?

There are few things which can provide me with a more direct line to humanity than singing voices. Yet all of a sudden I become aware of the system of microphones and speakers which amplify them, and long to be close enough to be directly caught in the air vibrated by straining lungs. The fully exposed rigging and walls of the stage, which at first seemed to open up the space, now become a container, hemming in from all sides. The revolving disc seems to reach out beyond the confines of the theatre, pulling even the city outside into its orbit.

Ultimately, that is what moves me most about REMACHINE; it draws my attention to something intrinsically human found swimming in a world of blue light and black glass. The voice becomes a haunting symbol of fragile resistance, the echoes of which last long after the performance is over. Like much good science fiction, it leaves me both melancholic and hopeful.  

REMACHINE by Jefta van Dinther, showing at HAU Hebbel am Ufer/HAU1 from 29 February to 3 March 2024. Tickets