In many of his works, Lüschen tries to pull spectators out of the straitjacket of the built environment. But in the participatory performance Anticipating the Thunder (2022), he tightens the reins, to the extreme, on citizens. In this collaboration with fellow scenographer Wietske Flederus for Over het IJ Festival, participants are invited on a tour at the NDSM-wharf in Amsterdam. Their guides (Lüschen and Flederus) – indicated as ‘Performer A’ and ‘Performer B’ by their T-shirts – give them instructions via headphones. Everyone is directed to walk across a white road-marker, look from left to right, or point towards a lamppost. Enhanced by a soundscape played during moments of joint action, their synchronised movements form a dance that seems to erase the participants' individuality.
Halfway through the performance, participants are escorted into a shed containing a single standard kitchen unit, its table covered by a layer of gravel on which are two construction-fence feet. It is a scene that visitors might recognise: the digital duplication of these elements is shown to waiting participants on a monitor outside as a visual form of queue music. As the tube lights are dimmed, Lüschen and Flederus employ the darkness to make conspicuous, via an inspection lamp, the stony materiality of the gravel and the fence feet.
When the attendees are instructed to perform a rotational gesture with their wrists, the fence feet join in with their circular movements so that an unusual connection is forged between humans and the built environment. The slightly absurd performance ends with an instruction video teaching everyone the proper intonations of the phrase ‘That’s interesting’. Even the reactions to the experience of an out-of-the-ordinary performance are thus controlled and standardised. This ritual may point participants to become aware of the disciplinary nature of cityscapes or being them face to face with its fundamental signs; they might be brought to question the lengths they will go in following instructions.