In the Early days of the First World War, not long before the opening of the legendary Cabaret Voltaire, Hugo Ball wrote that during such political perturbations, "All living art will be irrational, primitive, and complex; it will speak a secret language and leave behind documents not of edification, but of paradox."
Touching on a wide range of important social and professional issues that concern the artists involved, Techno-Poetry's phantasmagorical video vaudeville Let There Be an Apocalypse! is imbued with the spirit of Ball's "living art"—and contains formal references to dada cabaret practices.
The choice of vaudeville—the satirical genre where musical and dance performances and topical sketches play an important part—makes perfect sense within Techno-Poetry's practice, which encompasses activism along with art projects residing in the domain of utopian imagination and self-mockery, yet focused on real issues. The variety of formats they work in includes performances, performative talks and workshops, video, as well as manifesto songs (Let There Be an Apocalypse! features tracks from their recent album of the same name).
The vaudeville begins with four queer travesty characters meeting to discuss current issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic and its social, political, and psychological repercussions. In particular, they are interested in the question of social distancing, which they approach in the spirit of Giorgio Agamben's critical comments on the quarantine as a directive power procedure that disconnects people within society. The scene ends on an unanswered question. "Where do we seek refuge?" Offering their answers are invited "agents of the future"—today's activists speaking as their doubles from the future worlds made possible through their work in the present. Parallel to that, the storyline develops as a series of "redemption" exercises: conspirological discussions, magic rituals, and interactive healing practices, in which the audience is invited to take part.
In the closing scene, the characters that open the performance reappear to announce the unhappy conclusion: let there be an Apocalypse! Whether this prophecy will come true—or, in Agamben's temporality of the "time that begins to end," whether it will continue to come true in the present—depends, Techno-Poetry believes, on our activities in the present.