Tianzhuo ChenTRANCE

Sonic Acts and Hartwig Art Foundation present: TRANCE

TRANCE (2023), photo CG Watkins
Tianzhuo ChenTRANCESonic Acts Biennial23 Feb. 2024

TRANCE is a 12-hour-long performance by contemporary artist Tianzhuo Chen that lies between a rock concert, an underground rave, an immersive theatre production, and an otherworldly cinematic experiment.

Taking place at a former church, now pop-podium Paradiso, TRANCE is a synthesis of Chen’s work from the past decade. Throughout the piece, Chen includes a sprawling ensemble cast of international musicians and performers such as ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U, Dis Fig, KIM KHAN, Ylva Falk, Kasimyn and Ican Harem (Gabber Modus Operandi).

Featuring Chen’s vibrant, spooky, tentacular, and lavish animations, the multidisciplinary performance incorporates live music, dance, installation, DJ sets, and audiovisual components, including an enormous sculpture of a micro-animal called a tardigrade suspended from the Paradiso ceiling. ​​​​Underneath the stained glass window, the floor will be covered in a layer of real grass, tropical plants, and water features, metaphorising the church into a living, breathing organism. Offering a remarkable return to the inner workings of the body, time and space, the stage becomes a symbiotic entity that allows an ecstatic assemblage to take place.

Over the course of six chapters, a web of narrations evolves; cultural codes are chewed up and then spat out again. Flowing through the stretched reality of TRANCE, critical beings with (or without) their identities reach psychedelic, transcendental states, experiencing a meticulous slowness that moves at the speed of light. These trembling bodies are prolonged, expanded, electrified, meditated, deformed, rendered, and then reactivated by the prehistoric memories stored in their biological cells, coming once again into the multiplicity.


In his eclectic and multidisciplinary practice, Tianzhuo Chen (CN) incorporates performance, installation, video, photography, and works on paper, elements that are often seamlessly integrated into complex, all-encompassing performances that blur the boundaries between exhibition and theatre. Much like scrolling through the vast informational landscape online, within his work are fragmented symbols and images derived from disparate sources such as electronic music culture, religion, cartoons, and Butoh dance. These constantly shifting visuals come together in a hypnotic collage that persistently reflects on the absurdity of life and death. Selected solo exhibitions to date include Illuminated Spirits at TANK Shanghai, The Shepherd at Kyoto Experiment and Trance at M Woods Museum in Beijing. Following a delay of several years, his ambitious 12-hour theatrical piece TRANCE – realised with an international ensemble – has premiered at leading performance venues worldwide, including at the Sonic Acts Biennial 2024. 



Artistic Director, Director, Stage Design, Videos: Tianzhuo Chen
Concept: Tianzhuo Chen, Petra Poelzl, Johannes Maile
Dramaturgy & Research: Petra Poelzl
Live Music & Performers: Ylva Falk, Ndoho Ange, Gabber Modus Operandi (GMO), Siko Setyanto, OMI, Lavinia Vago, Léa Djyl, Felix-Florian Tödtloff, City, KIM KHAN, ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U, Dis Fig
Visuals: Tianzhuo Chen, Guang Yang, Kim Laughton, Guo Fengyi
Costumes: Tianzhuo Chen, Chenting Yu
Text: Yiou Peng
Lighting: Akihiko Tanada
Sound Design: Martin Ortiz
Assistant Production & Stage Management: Diane Esnault
Production Management: partner in crime

TRANCE is a production of partner in crime and Kampnagel, in co-production with Komische Oper Berlin / Schall&Rausch and Dark Mofo.

TRANCE is co-presented by Sonic Acts and Hartwig Art Foundation.