A promotional image for Dead Cat Bounce. A black wax seal depicting a finger pushing a button. Around the image are the letters D C and A. This is presented on a mint green background.
Somerset House Studios

Dead Cat Bounce

An Oratorio about Finance and Catastrophe

Thu 14 Jul
Doors 19.30
£12 / £8 concessions
Lancaster Rooms
New Wing

A collaborative performance work by Somerset House Studios resident Gary Zhexi Zhang and Waste Paper Opera (Klara Kofen and James Oldham), telling tales of time, money and the unmaking of reality in the wake of catastrophe. 

The piece unfolds over five vignettes, blurring the lines between capitalism and ritual, finance and nature, belief and manifestation.

In China, five hitmen arrive in court to discover that they have each subcontracted another to kill the same real estate developer.

In Geneva, thirty virgins are having their teeth checked in order to secure the mounting debts of Louis XVI.

In Miami, an insurance broker drafts a contract for apartments already halfway underwater.

In Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah is weeping, again.

In earthquake-struck Edo, workers pay tribute to the namazu, the catfish deity, as they survey the sunlit ruins of the city.  

The original score merges the Baroque music of Niccolò Jommelli and Johann Sebastian Bach with mimetic improvisation, choral rounds, synthpop and the textures of public speaking. Dead Cat Bounce takes the form of an oratorio, a medium of vocal performance used to deliver a sacred narrative.

About the artists

Gary Zhexi Zhang

Gary Zhexi Zhang’s current projects explore financial fictions and weird temporalities in the time of catastrophe. A recent body of work, Cycle 25, documented events that shape the boundaries between speculative beliefs and material realities, like natural disasters, scam nations and cosmic economies. As an artist and researcher, he has undertaken fellowships at the Berggruen Institute in L.A. and Sakiya - Art Science Agriculture in Ramallah. He is a co-founder of collaborative studio Foreign Objects, which was incubated at NEW INC and received a Mozilla Creative Media Award. As a writer, his work has appeared in ArtReview, Art Papers, Frieze, and others; he is the co-author and editor of Catastrophe Time! (Strange Attractor Press, forthcoming).

Waste Paper Opera

Waste Paper Opera is an experimental music theatre collective, run by composer, researcher and performer James Oldham, and artist, writer and designer Klara Kofen. Recent works include ‘Syrup Tracing’ (2020), an Ideas of Noise commission that reimagined Cyrano de Bergerac’s 1657 science-fiction tract Voyage sur la Lune, using DNA sequences of a newly discovered dictyostelium as the basis for dramaturgy and musical material. Their first collaboration with Gary Zhexi Zhang was a Medical Research Council funded project that explored the life-cycle of parasites, which culminated in a performance entitled ‘Vorephilia’ in spring 2018 at the Cambridge Junction. For ‘‘i’-the opera’ (Tête à Tête 2017, Glasgow International 2018), they collaborated with programmer Janelle Shane on a neural network libretto. WPO has hosted workshops at Central Saint Martins (OurHaus Festival – 100 Years of Bauhaus, Oct. 2019), and Limehouse Townhall (L (AI) BOUR, ‘useless l(ai)bour’, Nov.2019) and curated the interdisciplinary performance series Whole Punch at the Rosemary Branch Theatre. WPO collaborates with performers, artists, researchers and makers to create multimedia performances. Their interest centres around the potential of opera as a form of interdisciplinary making to convey and transform knowledge, and connect between fields, practices and ideas. 


Gabriella Liandu - Mezzo-soprano 
Meili Li – Countertenor 
Geoff Clapham – Baritone 
Aaron Diaz - Trumpet, Sousaphone 
Louis D’Heurdieres - Synths, Electronics, guitar 
Sarah Farmer – Violin 
Chihiro Ono – Viola 
Choir - Waste Paper Opera chorus

Dead Cat Bounce was commissioned by Arts Catalyst, with support from Medialab-Matadero. Its development was supported by Wysing Arts Centre and London Performance Studio .