The innovative, electronic meanderings of the radical production outfit were taken through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole at Berlin’s Kraftwerk.
Never ones for conformity, Amnesia Scanner brought a performance troupe with them to Berlin’s most prestigious of industrial theatres. Joining them on stage were technicolour vocalist Lalita as a raved-out Alice, James Kelly (aka WIFE) dressed as a gothic, Slash-like figure on shredding duties and a top-hatted circus master, who led the proceedings through some psychedelic poetry. Not to mention there was the ever-present Oracle, a disembodied, AI machine voice that spouted artificially summoned thoughts throughout the show.
Performed on two blocks of ever-alternating video screens in the middle of the crowd, the pair’s new show, Anesthesia Scammer, was set out as a sequel to 2014’s audio play Angels Rig Hook, further exploring “millenarian anxieties and digital deities” through visual theatrics, poetry and performance. The guide on this rave-tinged quest appeared throughout the show between musical interludes, leading the audience through a dreamlike maze, providing options to turn left, or right back to safety.
The sense of reality unravelled as the performance progressed. Colours on stage became brasher; the percussive, electronic narrative became heavier. The journey to Wonderland was complete. A few songs in and Lalita was introduced to the sound of AC Acá, wearing a Cheshire Cat smile and near-luminescent make-up, maniacally dancing to dizzying strobes. Kelly stepped in during several songs, long hair flowing, his distorted, crunching riffs rippling over Amnesia Scanner’s soundtrack.
Staged as part of the wider LAS+ programme at Kraftwerk – which was dominated by the grandiose installation piece by Refik Anadol; an immersive, deep-learning-equipped wall of murals, that uses lasers and complex algorithms to contort everyday landscapes – Amnesia Scanner’s theatrical debut was right at home, blending together dynamic visuals with costume changes and animatronics to conjure up a carnival of interpretive techno.
In previous interviews, Amnesia Scanner have admitted that the project has always been aesthetically driven, an ambition realised in full at Kraftwerk. Yet beyond its bizarre aesthetic, Anesthesia Scammer managed to be subversive and compelling. Its scale marked the duo out as being far more radical than their peers, particularly with the complex character play and storytelling. And for those who missed the show, they have left behind the Oracle as part of the LAS+ installation, so that visitors can still listen to its daily, out-of-the-ordinary prophecies.