Left behind: What happens after a failed atomic experiment?


The starting point of each of performance by Berlin is located in a city or a region somewhere on the planet. A characteristic feature of its approach is its documentary and interdisciplinary work methods. Focusing on a specific research question, it engages different media depending on the content of the project.

Bart Baele and Yves Degryse founded Berlin in 2003 with Caroline Rochlitz. They started the series Holocene (the Holocene is the current geological era) with the performances Jerusalem, Iqaluit, Bonanza, Moscow and Zvizdal. Besides that, Berlin started a new cycle Horror Vacui (the fear of emptiness) of which Tagfish, Land’s End and Perhaps All The Dragons are the first two episodes.

Berlin is currently working on new performances in both cycles. The number of projects has not been defined, but the Holocene cycle will end in Berlin with the creation of a fiction-documentary project with different residents from cities that have previously featured in the cycle.

In 2012 Berlin performed for the first time in Great Britain at the Brighton Festival. The encounter with the British audience was a success, and so it was repeated in 2014 and 2016. It is with great pleasure and curiosity that we are coming to SICK! Festival for an encounter with the Manchester audience!

Our latest performance Zvizdal, is a filmic portrait about two people, living in a ghost town. 1986. Pétro and Nadia, a married couple of 60-year-olds who were born and raised in Zvizdal, refuse to be evacuated after the failure of an atomic experiment.  They prefer to stay put in their old village, in their own house. All their acquaintances have left, their plundered houses bear witness to better days. Petrified places, overgrown by nature.

Between 2011 and 2016 Berlin follows Pétro and Nadia in an effort to portray the evolution of their story over the years. How does one bear years of isolation? There is the lack of electricity, of running water and heating. There are the superstitions, there is the vodka, the muttering, the cursing and praying and singing, the toothaches, the ailments of old age, the 20-km walk to the nearest shop, the wait for someone from civilization.

Zvizdal draws a portrait of solitude, survival, poverty, hope and love between two elderly people surrounded by colourless, odourless but omnipresent radiation.

Written by Laura Fierens. Zvizdal is presented as part of SICK! Festival on Wed 22 & Thu 23 March at The Lowry.