The bread holds a distinct symbolic significance within the realm of art iconography. Often overlooked in museums or art history manuals, still-life paintings featuring bread allude to religious and social realms, evoking concepts of divine providence and communal sharing. In a broader sense, bread symbolizes a regenerative process and fosters a renewed connection with nature and others.

In the evocative performance titled Min Totala Njutning (My Total Pleasure), created by Elin Lundgren and Petter Petterson (known as the artist duo LILITH) in collaboration with poet Daniel Mårs and composer Philip Gleisner, the regenerative symbolic value of bread (in its fundamental form of water and flour dough) is explored and challenged by placing it in a dystopian setting. Initially conceived for Lilith Performance, the artists’ performance center established in the suburban area of Malmö in 2007 and recently presented at Orionteatern in Stockholm as part of Scenkonstbiennalen 2023, Min Totala Njutning immerses the audience in a complex and intricate environment crafted from a mixture of five tons of flour and water. The performance space’s floor, ceiling, and surfaces are entirely composed of this gooey substance, giving rise to an apocalyptic landscape. However, this colossal dough transcends mere structural elements; it becomes the primary medium through which the twenty-five performers interact. They gather, move, sprinkle, and knead it, blurring the boundaries between themselves and the dough.

MIN TOTALA NJUTNING Photo: Petter Pettersson / Lilith Performance Studio

The atmosphere is enigmatic and inscrutable for spectators embarking on this experience. Upon entering, one is instantly transported to a parallel dimension where something inexplicable has just occurred. The initial image that greets us is that of twenty-five human figures, resembling survivors of a cataclysmic event, clinging together, intertwined against a cliff-like wall with a sticky consistency. At first glance, they form a microcosm of society, representing diverse social backgrounds and life stages from youth to adulthood. Whispering and murmuring, they create an atmosphere of extraordinary tension, further intensified by the crescendo of the electroacoustic music. While the exact nature of the event remains unclear, the spectators grasp that a catastrophic occurrence has disrupted and subsequently intertwined the lives of these individuals, whose existence now hangs by a thread. Yet, amidst this oppression, a sense of solidarity and collective strength gradually emerges.

Slowly, each figure disentangles from the amorphous group and begins to interact with the shapeless mass of water and flour. Their focus intensifies, though the intention behind their actions remains ambiguous to us, the observers. At first, it may seem like they are engaging in purposeless work. However, as the performance unfolds, it becomes evident that their purpose lies in reconstructing that dystopian universe, striving to keep it alive. Like a unified entity, the twenty-five characters move in unison, supporting and naturally interacting with one another as if it were customary to be present and engaged in constructing or reconstructing this peculiar realm.

MIN TOTALA NJUTNING Photo: Petter Pettersson / Lilith Performance Studio

Min Totala Njutning is an immersive performance, albeit not in the conventional sense. As observers, we are not invited to interact with the performers or partake in executing this improbable situation. Instead, we find ourselves unwitting witnesses, allowed to navigate this lunar environment and move amidst the masses of water and flour. We seek the optimal perspective to comprehend the essential elements at play. Min Totala Njutning can only be described as emotionally immersive, for even though we remain unaware of the reasons behind this calamity, it is impossible not to feel the visceral tension. Our minds conjure images of Sisyphus, condemned by the gods to eternal punishment, perpetually pushing a colossal boulder uphill, only to watch it roll back down and be forced to repeat the task indefinitely. This myth often symbolizes the absurdity of the human condition, the eternal struggle against the inevitability of death, and the quest for meaning in life despite its inherent futility. However, the myth of Sisyphus also invites contemplation of the human condition and the significance of existence. Despite the senselessness of the situation, the difficulties, and the challenges, Sisyphus, like the twenty-five characters, perseveres in shaping and reshaping their universe, cultivating courage and resilience.

MIN TOTALA NJUTNING Photo: Petter Pettersson / Lilith Performance Studio

Min Totala Njutning captivates audiences for several compelling reasons, with the remarkable abilities of its twenty-five participants standing out. Although they are not professional actors (except for a few, such as Elin Lundgren), these ordinary individuals collaborated for approximately three years, finding a natural way to contribute to the performance alongside the two creators. Their mastery and unwavering focus throughout the performance defy the need for a background in the performing arts. While their choreography is entirely improvised, their seamless harmony creates a unified, continuous, and magnetic flow that captivates the observer.

MIN TOTALA NJUTNING Photo: Petter Pettersson / Lilith Performance Studio

Furthermore, Elin Lundgren and Petter Petterson’s accurate calibration of all the individual elements deserves recognition. Min Totala Njutning is a sophisticated blend of theatre, performance art, poetry, and operatic and electroacoustic music. From an aesthetic standpoint, the performance exudes the qualities of a series of paintings or living tableaux vivants, where chromatic relationships are thoughtfully distributed. The blue neon light redefines the plasticity of the figures, while subtle touches of red light emanating from LEDs integrated into modern sneakers and phosphorescent bracelets bring the tableaux to life. Like skilled brushstrokes, these red points of color on the “blue surface” activate the optical blending of colors, creating a vibrant violet vibration that undoubtedly influences the observer’s sense of attraction and repulsion.

Elin Lundgren and Petter Petterson deeply understand human perception, skillfully capturing and directing the viewer’s gaze. However, they employ this talent judiciously to enhance the observer’s experience, fostering intimacy, immersion in the present moment, and a profound connection with their inner selves. Min Totala Njutning is a testament to their ability to create an authentic and exploratory performance that leaves a lasting impact.

 

Idea and Concept: The artist duo LILITH in collaboration with the poet Daniel Mårs
Text: Daniel Mårs
Directing/Installation/Costume/Light: Konstnärsduon LILITH
Composer: Philip Gleisner
Opera Soloist: Paulina Pfeiffer
Choir: Soprano: Maja Lundmark Alto: Hanna-Maria Strand Tenor: Joar Sörensson Bass: Daniel Åberg
Pole dancer: Selma Kjesen

Participants: Daniel Mårs, Elin Lundgren, Erik Wall, Elisabet Stengård, Birgitta Hult, Lo Pettersson-Lundgren, Inna Pettersson-Lundgren, Vilma Linton, Selma Kjesen, Filip Jönsson, Axel Berger, Mikael Dahlqvist Fuchs, Olivia Klang, Thomas Hiljeborn, Faïka Ammar, Helena Ricci, Finon Alkabawi, Hanna Knutsson, Irene Stenberg, Louise Zurawski, Kaisa Malmborg, Joakim Carlsson, Alma Edvall Bons, Susanna Edvall Bons

Production: Lilith Performance Studio

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.

This post was written by Marilena Borriello.

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.