© Ula Sickle © Almuth Habacher © Almuth Habacher © Almuth Habacher © Almuth Habacher © Ula Sickle


Text / Press / Video

6 hour performance/installation

Nuit Blanche Brussels, October 6 2018
Wiener Festwochen, May 11 & 13, 2019 + Unplugged May 16 & 29
and other dates (see tour)

A black flag floats in continuous motion. Its movement and the flapping of the fabric become both choreography and sound. Presented as a single continuous action, Relay draws its inspiration from the many recent protests taking place around the globe, the mass marches in Poland, in defense of women’s rights, called “Czarny Protest” (Black Protest). The black flag cannot be linked to one particular battle and hence defies easy interpretation. The Polish Canadian choreographer Ula Sickle and a diverse group of performers relay one another in a fascinating test of endurance. Their movements pass back and forth between inertia and hope, resistance and powerlessness. They each individually take on the responsibility to keep the flag moving, but it is the collective effort required that makes Relay such a powerful symbol.

In an unplugged version of the performance, presented out-of-doors, the performers partner with the wind to keep the flag afloat.

"In light of the heritage of May ’68, the worldwide shift to the right leaves a bitter taste. In 1968 we asked for so much more than we got, but what we got back then is still more than what we have left today, says political theorist Chantal Mouffe. (...) Conservatism and racism are soaring, neoliberalism has depleted the welfare state and climate change is spiraling out of control… Regarding these historical evolutions, Sickle also wants to raise the bigger question of how resistance is still possible in a system that has managed to incorporate every form of opposition. Which individual and collective agency are we left with?"

Charlotte de Somviele

Concept, performance, choreography: Ula Sickle
Sound design: Yann Leguay
Original Cast: Popol Amisi, Liza Baliasnaja, Sidney Barnes, Amanda Barrio Charmelo,  Mavi Veloso, Mohamed Toukabri, Nathan Ooms,

Also performed with: Cherish Menzo, Wei-Da Chen (Vienna), Ashley Ho, Edward Lloyd (Amsterdam), Assana Buaro, Catarina Marcos, Ana Isabel Castro, Jorge Goncalves (Porto)

Executive Production: Caravan Production, with the support of Nuit Blanche 2018 & Kunstenwerkplaats Pianofabriek

Since 2021, the unplugged version of Relay is part of the art collection of the Flemish Community (Collectie Vlaamse Gemeenschap)

In Nuit Blanche, Sickle turns the gesture of waving a flag into an ongoing installation. The black flag, which cannot be linked to one particular battle thanks to its colour and hence defies easy interpretation, is kept in motion by several performers for six hours on end. Conflicting meanings and connotations slide on top of each other.

The diverse group of dancers that the choreographer assembled for Relay – all approach Sickle’s question with their own history in mind. They each individually take on the responsibility to keep the flag moving, but it’s the collective effort required to do so for six hours on end that makes the installation such a powerful symbol.

It’s a symbol with a material presence in the space as well, with a certain auditive and visual impact. Thanks to the minimalist input of sound designer Yann Leguay, a frequent collaborator of Sickle’s, the flag-waving becomes an incantation that sharpens your senses.

Charlotte de Somviele, Nuit Blanche Brussels October 2018