Signs of Invasion

Billy Bultheel


Percussion Alex Iezzi
Tuba Janni Struzyk
Trumpet Louis Laurain

Accompanying text Miloš Trakilović

Organized by Thomas Butler

Room E-10 27 is pleased to present Signs of Invasion, a site-specific composition by Billy Bultheel for tuba, trumpet, drums, and electronics. The performance takes place in a former office space set within the Ku’damm Karree complex.


Miloš Trakilović
: Are you OK?

I’d like to say yes but OK can mean many things. It rarely signals something good. There are probably even more stories about the origin of the word than there are uses for it. A quick search tells me it derives from ‘oll korreckt’ a misspelling of ‘all correct;’ a kind of satisfactory or acceptable quality suggesting things are alright. However, in common vernacular it carries connotations of something rather nondescript, we tend to use it to signify quite the opposite; a state of desolate dasein. The more interesting but less probable explanation tells me it derives from Civil War soldiers carrying signs for "zero killed” upon returning from battle, making it a misreading of 0 K. Presumably bearing no causalities, returning troops would surface from the distance signalling a heroic victory with fluttering flags that spelled "0 K.” on the horizon. Their gallant gallop invades my mind and my thoughts easily wander off to join the crusade.
At first there is darkness. A speck of light unfolds a line into a surface, the surface lends itself as an actionable space between two ends. Their relation spells out a political dimension that sets a potential for conflict in motion. The board of the game is now laid down and strategy, skill, chance and luck will continue to choreograph and twist the fate of its players. Each new march into battle stomps the surface further into a sphere; every defeat leaves a battlefield behind and with it a future frontline is projected closer towards the horizon. These are basic mechanisms of quest and conquest. Paradoxically, as such the line projected in the distance remains unconquerable: approach it and it will evade you. This is partly due to the earth’s curvature and rotation but also because the horizon is a shared imaginary, a borrowed ground of fictitious firmness. No matter what position we assume, everything that lies beyond the horizon is eternally silent and forever sunk in gloom. But the human desire to articulate its surroundings will hold out to any threat and challenge every seeming impossibility. Tools and instruments were built to rival the muteness of what the eye cannot see. Extensions of the human voice enabled a technology of pipes, valves and bells to indicate power, launch invasions and trespass territory well beyond the limitations of our eyesight. The kick of the boot is now foreshadowed by the toot of a trumpet, the blow of a horn, and bang of a drum. As the impulse to map bloomed it made things appear distinguishable and in sight. Hence, vision was to become factual, strategies calculable and invasions probable. Such linear distribution of the sensible turned surfaces into sights, rebuilt sights into spaces, transformed spaces into barriers, reshuffled barriers into barricades and converted barricades into bulwarks that shape our borders. Further fortifications separated soldiers from citizens, sundered citizens from societies and splintered societies from formations coercing them into nations. Each time anew, we mistake depth for distance and the opposite of remembrance takes place.
It is hard to harbour depth and dimensionality on a timeline indexed on separation and endless fragmentation. The linear perspective is a subjective worldview that centres on the individual’s eyes; giving away the dangerously seductive illusion that the world belongs to the human, rather than the other way around. Since it’s also finite in its capacity and always already partial, the impulse to map and conquer will eventually reach full expansion and start moving upwards. Horizontal perspectives will stack further skyward to form grounds for ideologies, they’ll serve as rooftops for repressions, amalgamate into strata of strife and conflict, gradually towering into a thousand plateaus of ever-waning possibilities. The sky is narrowed down until it finally bends over it’s own weightiness, letting loose an elusive new paradigm of metric verticality we seem to inhabit today. The dominance of linear perspectives of orientation and visuality are now challenged by a technologized, disembodied regime of remote-controlled and omnipresent supervision from high up. With the implementation of satellite bird’s-eye-views and the ubiquitous rise of aerial tracking and surveillance devices, we have little choice but to surrender to the all-knowing gaze from above. Military, surveillance and entertainment technologies trespass the limits of our senses; fleeing is futile. Watchful skies now gauge the game, they twist the rules and bend the lines.
Frontlines no longer cut through the middle of societies, they now run through the middle of us; piercing us head to toe, up above and down below. Watch as the roof above your head becomes the floorboard for a new automated and unmanned technology that will make itself imperceptible to you. With it, a sense of shared horizon disintegrates into new augmented zones of targeted policing and individualized control. Former worldviews are yanked out; their axis dismantled, tilted and repurposed to fit a new panoptic paradigm of permanent capture. Age-old traditions are ripped apart and notions of sense making are flushed down the drain, unleashing a wave of uncertainty, disorientation, muteness and fear on the ground. Comprehension tumbles down and relinquishes into a point of absolute zero and no return. 0 K. now, if anything, stands for a thermodynamic state of immovable futures, complete stasis and frozen time.
From above life is territory; shared spaces become divisible, behaviours manageable and everything but the present -- predictable. Strata evaporate into data projecting new signs of invasion that are everywhere: alarming, absolute, boundless, worldwide and impossible to decipher. They take shape where we cannot see, go where the ear won’t hear and move in directions the tongue can’t twist. But invasions are not yet occupations. The bird’s eye also strips us from personhood, from the captivating constraints of subjectivity and its separations. For the bird that flocks in the sky, we are not just subjects on a surface, we are the surface and in so being, we are one.
War continues to soldier my mind -- but there is no need to go into that. The breeze brings a morning sky of endless blue. I narrow my eyes and tilt my head sideways to watch the daybreak and the birds fly by. With one ear down and one facing the sky, I prepare to greet more than meets the eye. : Yeah, I’m OK. Everything is going to be alright.

Billy Bultheel (b. 1987, Brussels) lives and works between Brussels and Berlin. He is a composer and performance artist. He graduated from the Institute of Sonology at the Royal Conservatory of The Netherlands and has an MA in Choreography and Performance from Justus-Liebig Universität, Germany. Most recently he composed the music for, and performed in, Faust by Anne Imhof, which received the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, 2017. He has also worked with Ari Benjamin Meyers, New Forms of Life, The Forsythe Company and other collaborative and exhibition projects. His work has been shown internationally at the Witte de With, Rotterdam; the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; the Kunsthalle Basel; BRUT, Vienna; PS1, New York; Kunstenfestival, Brussels, and the Athens Biennial.

The artist would like to thank the following people for their hard work and support: Miloš Trakilović, Enad Marouf, Christian Stemmler, Anne Imhof, Alex Iezzi, Louis Laurain, Janni Struzyk

With the kind support of State of The Art, Flanders

Photos: Spyros Rennt