These Magnificent Bodies

Format: Performance
14 Nov 2019
theater wrede +, Oldenburg; Freies Werkstatt Theater, Cologne
65 min

Direction, text, performance, design: Chris Gylee & Aslan
Artistic support, voiceover:
Lea Martini
Sound support:
Elie Gregory
Make up (Film insert):
Kysy Fischer
Translation support:
Lea Martini, Benedikt Wyss, Antje Prust

Funded by: A production from ONCE WE WERE ISLANDS in flausen + coproduction with Werk3 and theater wrede +

To view the documentation film of These Magnificent Bodies, please email us.

The problem, of course, with throwing people away is that they don’t go away. They stay in the society that turned its back on them. And whether that society likes it or not, they find all sorts of things to do.

Octavia Butler, A Conversation with Octavia E Butler, 1999, in The Parable of the Talents

We are facing a future where more and more jobs will be carried out by machines. In this new world of mass unemployment, what will the ‘worthless body’ do to survive? With the performance These Magnificent Bodies, ONCE WE WERE ISLANDS challenges the late-capitalist notion that only the productive body has worth. On a darkened stage, lit by searchlights, Chris Gylee and Aslan follow choreographed movement pathways inspired by the video archive Labour in a Single Shot, (Harun Farocki / Antje Ehmann), and the documentary film Workingman's Death (Michael Glawogger). 
Their repetitive work tasks are interrupted by a raw meditative state. Tools fall to the floor as the body is overwhelmed by a series of neurological impulses. Wild emotions flicker across the face as the vulnerable body struggles to free itself. The audience is dramaturgically guided by a continuous soundscape composed from interviews and excerpts from documentaries, focussing on work and worklessness.

Interwoven into it are science-fiction narratives taken from the texts of Ursula K. Le Guin, Cixin Liu, and Cory Doctorow, where the value of the body is calculated differently. Scenography and sound-design evoke works of science-fiction cinema, including 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick), Bladerunner (Scott), Bladerunner 2049 (Villeneuve), and Under the Skin (Glazer). This striking setting, unconstrained by realism, creates a multi-layered experience that engages not only the mind, but also the body and emotions. In a world dominated by populist narratives that reduce complex social and political issues to crude ‘them vs. us’ conflicts, the aim of this work is to open the imagination to the diverse possibilities for rethinking how we value our bodies, ourselves, and each other.

The above images include photographs by Stephan Walzl.

These Magnificent Bodies is a ONCE WE WERE ISLANDS production in flausen+ coproduction with Werk3 and theater wrede +

The initial research stages for this project were supported by the flausen + young artists in residence programme, and made together with the artists Ana Berkenhoff and Alexander Carrillo.