Everything that Happened and Would Happen at the Park Avenue Armory immerses viewers in a world that both appears and disappears. The show had its U.S. premiere earlier this month.
The venue’s drill hall is the vast vessel that holds this multimedia production by Heiner Goebbels with Artangel, a London-based event production group. Everything that Happened and Would Happen combines moving images, sets, and live music with traditional and unusual instruments, as well as choreography that animates the sets. The title of the work comes from Patrik Ouředník’s book Europeana, which, along with John Cage’s opera Europeras 1&2, inspired this look at Europe from World War I to the present. Footage from Euronews’s No Comment, a program that presents the day’s news without interpretation, streams during the performance.
The performers erect and deconstruct the sets. They start out with various elements laid out in the drill hall: capitals, fabric scrims, columns, discs, and placards. Large scrims feature architectural elements like the inside of an opera house and a neoclassical facade, while others in the shape of trees and landscapes are furled and unfurled, draped and folded across the floor, then hung from moveable anchors. Silhouetted peaked-roof structures are rolled towards and away from the audience. Squared-off columns on wheels combine to form a trench, a colonnade, and projection screens. These projections depict M.C. Escher–like cubes across the ground, black-and-white stripes like a barcode that march across the floors and walls, and the panes of a window with draped curtains. Other sets include a series of archways made of vaporized smoky mist, bins with their interior wells illuminated and wheeled into various configurations in the pitch-dark space, and ornate rococo flaming archways.
It all adds up to a dense, rich experience that envelops and provokes.