• Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

KlangHaus: the company making worlds we do not imagine

ByOlivia Fischer

Aug 31, 2023
Woman with instrument in small decorated roomKlangHaus

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Its one of the first few days of Fringe. I’ve just run a few blocks to get to Summerhall because another show ran late. I’m out of breath, slightly sweating, and I’m greeted by a man whose calm energy washes over me. I may be a stranger to him, but I’d seen him in this same venue a few days ago performing a different gig entirely. He leads me down the stairs and puts me in chair in a corner. I’m fed a few instructions from a recording. “You will be in complete darkness… there is a button next to you… please don’t get up from the chair.” The same man leads me into the same room I was in previously. I sink into a big armchair. He shows me the button for the light, if I need it, which he tells me he thinks I won’t need. I don’t entirely believe him, and I steel myself to be engulfed by the darkness. 

KlangHaus took Summerhall by storm in 2014 with their gig performance, InHaus, that inhabited the Small Animal Hospital. The collective met almost 25 years ago, starting with The Neutrinos, Karen, Jon, and Mark, who form the musical component of the group. The visuals come from Sal Pittman, whose practice has always used music as the catalyst for her work. They collaborated on multiple projects, but it was in 2010 on a project at the FunkHaus in Berlin where they began to explore art, music, and its ever-evolving potential. The project was called The Butcher of Common Sense, and it instigated the full immersion into what Karen detailed as “history, ghosts, feel, stories, colour, resonance” of the defunct GDR radio station, FunkHaus. In this way, the work can be described as site-responsive, as it is the venue’s architecture to inform the development of the work. “What had begun as an album making process became one embracing, music, sound design, a book, and the beginnings of a range of approaches that would enable us to develop further.” 

Nearly 10 years later, KlangHaus returned to Edinburgh Fringe this year with not only the original InHaus but also with a new project, entitled Dark Room. These two works are site-specific as they are “in imaginary but immediate worlds” that break beyond the bounds of more traditional performance spaces. InHaus is a gig that invites the audience to exist amongst the other audience members and the musicians themselves (at times I felt as if I was inside the drums) as they played through their set list. Darkroom is much more intimate, as you are the singular audience member. InHaus creates a world in which you can get lost and found again, whereas DarkRoom is a world that is yours alone to interpret and imagine. Both play with their senses, at times comforting and at others, unsettling. What is constant is that there is no right way to encounter KlangHaus’s work, there is only being. 

What they achieve in their collective experiments is what I can only describe as expansion. Everything is heightened: the silence is screaming, your brain is vibrating against your skull, you are so utterly and deeply connected that you are more inside yourself, and the others around you, than ever before.  Karen said that “Through our sense of inhabiting spaces and making them our own during our residencies, they always feel like home. And home – whatever that may mean to each individual is what we hope will be the feeling evoked.” The immersive worlds KlangHaus creates are so far removed to what I ever conceived as a home, and yet, within their careful and trusting hands, you are held, and you are home. 

Image courtesy of KlangHaus, provided to The Student as press material