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Psychedelic experiences: Martin Eder and Michael Rauter

For their next trick, artist/hypnotist Eder and Rauter’s ensemble turn the border between life and death into an altered state. Tune in, turn on and sit down for "Black Hole" Feb 25-28 at Sophiensaele.

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Martin Eder

For their next trick, artist/hypnotist Martin Eder and Michael Rauter’s Solistenensemble Kaleideskop turn the border between life and death into an altered state.

Previous collaborations between Eder and Kaleideskop have been, well, weird, even for Berlin: think avant-garde strings with grinding heavy metal, performers with masks of thick, dripping black tar, an artist book with sheaves of fat, ash and blood. Premiering February 25 at Sophiensaele, Black Hole is a re-imagining of the requiem not only as a musical form, but as a ritual that helps a community collectively experience grief and healing. And that’s where Eder comes in: though he’s best known as a painter of unsettling images, he’s also a trained hypnotist. He’ll be guiding the audience through the stages of grief, from the realisation of loss through the process of letting go.

Where did the idea for the project come from?

MICHAEL RAUTER: I had this idea to start from this musical form, the requiem, and to rethink the death rituals that are behind it. And so to make an experience for the audience where they can enter the experience… in a more intense way than just playing an existing requiem composition in concert. We use hypnotism as an aspect that can make the physical and mental experience stronger for the audience to help them go deeper.

So will the audience actually be hypnotised?

MARTIN EDER: Oh yeah, sure! There will be lots of hypnotism in the show. Not in a traditional stage-hypnosis sense where people are made ridiculous. It’s deeper: showing people the power of their subconscious. Hypnosis is a complete state of awareness. You’re not out of your body. You’re not a slave to somebody else. The hypnotist can’t do things against someone’s will: you can’t get somebody naked, for example, if he or she doesn’t want to be naked.

Is Black Hole about creating a kind of altered consciousness, then?

ME: Right. It happens all the time. Think about when you’re driving on the highway late at night or sitting in a café reading. You are already in certain states of trance, more or less, without realising that you are in a trance. We create an atmosphere where you can fall into a trance. It doesn’t mean you’re foaming at the mouth. It just means you’re totally deeply rooted in your own consciousness.

MR: The invitation to take part is not even expressly said. It’s more like standing in front of a painting and looking at it for so long that you’re drawn into it: you don’t see the painting from outside anymore because you’re a part of it.

ME: It’s going to be a psychedelic experience.

So what does all this actually look like on stage?

ME: I’m trying to create an atmosphere that doesn’t look highly designed. It won’t be like a stage with an inverted cross on it or something. There will be a lot of mist and fog. It’s all very ephemeral: gauze hanging down, things that you’re not sure whether you see or don’t see.

MR: It’s an in-between state that we’re looking for, because the whole topic of life and death is kind of untouchable. So we have to stay in between, too. If we want people to enter a sensitive state, we need to be very careful of that. The shocking part might be more the tenderness of it.

And the piece itself?

MR: It’s not there yet! We’re still rehearsing! There are many things we don’t know. And it’s not really possible just to write the music first and then create the experience with the hypnosis. All the musicians are doing hypnosis training as part of the rehearsal process. And then we need to see how that ritual fits to the music. So it’s changing all the time. We’ve tried to find existing music that can create a trance-like atmosphere: Renaissance music, contemporary music…

In Berlin so much of the language about altered states has to do with clubs and techno. Are you responding to that?

ME: Yeah.

MR: But we don’t have techno.

ME: If you go to a club and stay for 24 hours in a row, you have to be in a trance state. Maybe it’s because of drugs, or it’s natural, but no normal person would stand it for that long. It’s an altered perception of reality.

BLACK HOLE Feb 25-28, 20:00 | Sophiensaele, Sophienstr. 18, Mitte, U-Bhf Weinmeisterstr.