Terminal: A Miracle Play with Popular Music from the End of the World
Terminal: A Miracle Play with Popular Music from the End of the World is a film and live performance project exploring the politics of post-apocalyptic fiction. A theatrical staging of a morality play for end times and future folk music, it recasts eschatology, or the study of the end of history, as a foundational myth for a future society. Post-apocalyptic writing and cinema are grounded in an ethos of survivalism. Invoking Rousseau’s state of nature, or time before government, these fictions propose violent scenarios in which nuclear holocaust, environmental catastrophe and other disasters generate an individualistic politics of pure pragmatism, negating the possibility of democratic deliberation. Terminal narrates this familiar scenario, but at the same time questions its validity. The film, shot on black and white VHS at Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbarn in Cumbria, dramatises a series of conversations between future-historical archetypes about the needs and pressures of the situation in which they find themselves at the end of the world. The performers then gather to play worshipful songs about acid rain, radiation sickness and eating the dog, using a mix of conventional, obscure and makeshift instruments. In the tradition of books such as Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker and Walter M. Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Liebowitz, Terminal imagines artistic expression and new folk traditions for a world to come after the apocalypse. If, as Slavoj Žižek would have it, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to think of the end of capitalism, the project juxtaposes these two endpoints to test out how alternative scenarios might emerge from the collaborative practice of making theatre and music against a setting of social collapse.
Read a review of Terminal here.
Listen to a discussion of the project on NTS Live's Filmosophy Studies here.
The project was supported by Merz Barn Project and Arts Council England. The performance was co-commissioned by Electra for Drugo More and HKD Teatar, Croatia and toured to Trade, Nottingham, Experimentica 13 at Chapter, Cardiff and The Nines, London with The Performance Studio.
You can watch live documentation here.