Conceived as a 30-minute dance-film performance within the larger production context of the "From the Border" festival at Northwstern University's Theatre Center in 1993, "AlienNation" tells the story of a bureaucrat, the man in the elevator, who is ordered to meet his boss to be given task that has to be carried out. The spoken and sung narrative of this "ride" in the elevator is based on Heiner Müller's surreal monologue "Man in the Elevator", while the stage performance is transformed into a trio, Birringer performing the Man in the presence of two women, Catalan dancer Imma Sarries-Zgonc and Anglo-American painter Tara Peters, whose roles constitute dream-like apparitions or revenging angels commenting on and undermining the task that has to be carried out - and which is not understood by the functionary.
The performance turns into a grim parody on the revolutionary failure to create the newly reunited East-West German "couple" (after the fall of the Berlin wall), and the stage parody of the functionary (stuck in the elevator which seems to move outside of historical time in a strange zone of indeterminacy) is mixed with allusions to the "angel of history (described by Walter Benjamin and dramatized in Wim Wenders' film Engel über Berlin/Wings of Desire). The projected films mix scenes from the fall of the Berlin Wall with scenes of the East German revolution and locations that reconstitute the memory of World War II and the Holocaust in Berlin (Topographie des Terrors), locations that were closed off at the time Wenders shot his film with his two white, benevolent voyeuristic angels. While the lyrics of the music drift between german, english and portuguese, the "angel-dance" sends up the often unacknowledged banal and unself-concsious whiteness of the European avant-garde and its modernist conception of a universal history of revolution. The male European role in "defining" history, no longer in center stage, is reframed and distorted in this performance by the two parallel, emergent female narratives dance by Imma and Tara.
European Premiere: Mach 20, 1994, Friedrich Wolf Theater, Eisenhuettenstadt
March 21, 1994 Kleist Theater, Frankfurt/Oder
Original US premiere: May 1993, Josephine Louis Theatre, Northwestern University
Latin American premiere: December 16, 1994, Gran Teatro de La Habana, Cuba
photo credit: Mary Hanlon, Johannes Birringer, M.T. Drewal, Christian Schnur