Real and staged

Parallel Cities: The HAU theatre turns everyday locations into stages

By Patrick Wildermann,

19.09.2010 / Tagesspiegel

Place 71 is good to work at, Nancy feels. She doesn’t need to deal with complicated hoses in this production line but with four screws that are to be placed to the beat of the conveyer belt, and after 6pm, you’re allowed to listen to music. Nancy likes techno, but many, she says, prefer audio books. An electrifying thought. Under what influence are engines manufactured here, at the Mercedes-Benz factory in Marienfelde? „I’m off then“ by Hape Kerkeling? Or maybe Herbert Marcuse: „One-Dimensional Man“? It’s not disclosed. You learn a lot, however, about the procedures in this factory. And even more about some of the people who work there and lead you through their offices and production halls as experts of the daily production routine. The divide that separates professional and private life is temporarily lifted. We get to know a man who drives construction parts to the various manufacturing sections and passionately devotes himself to South American competition ballroom dancing in his leisure time. He needs to keep working, of course, while relating this. God forbid that art were to get in the way of the production.

„La Fábrica – The Factory“ is the title Argentinean performer Gerardo Naumann gave this production in a real industrial backdrop. It is part of the „Ciudades Paralelas – Parallel Cities“ project Rimini Protokoll director Stefan Kaegi and Buenos Aires artist Lola Arias curated for the HAU. Three different tours guide us to eight locations that exist with the same function in all metropolises around the globe: subway station, library, hotel room, shopping mall. True to the motto „think global, act local“, the artists temporarily turn them into urban space stages. The visitor may chose whether he enters as observer or participant, oftentimes with audio guidance – headphone theatre for transit people.

Tim Etchells and Ant Hampton place two participants together at a table inside the big reading hall of Humboldt University where they, equipped with iPods, are thrown back onto their own situation as intruders in this space for the ones thirsty for knowledge: „Here you sit with no open book in front of you and feeling pretty exposed...“. But inside the notebook on top of the book stack in front of them, the first sentence reads like a salvation: In the end, you do read.

The Hamburg located performance group Ligna, on the other hand, sends their participants into a Berlin shopping mall as agents of consumption, its name remaining undisclosed here for conspiratorial reasons. Equipped with radio receivers that must be kept hidden from the security service of the house, they take part in the „First Internationale of Shopping Malls“. A gaily-subversive event reminding of Harun Farocki’s documentation „Die Schöpfer der Einkaufswelten“ („The Creators of Shopping Worlds“) that inspires to reflect on the architectural quotation of the shopping centre and the fetish of merchandise according to Marx and that eventually asks for behaviour hardly compliant. If you like, you may of course do your shopping as well.

In this remarkable tour of exchangeable locations, „Ciudades Paralelas“ not least reflects the situation of the performers themselves – who may, as service providers of the urban art market, execute their urban interventions anywhere. Consequently, the project will travel on to Buenos Aires and Zurich.

Some of the best installations - just like Matthias Lilienthal’s format „X-Wohnungen“ (X apartments), likewise touring the globe – play with the thrill of the authentic, with a viewing pleasure aiming aggressively into a privacy uniting both artist and viewer. Dominic Huber makes six living room windows at Mehringplatz into a simultaneous panorama for theatre voyeurs. And at the Ibis-Hotel on Anhalter Straße, Lola Arias makes ghosts talk.

You enter uniform rooms in which the invisibles, male and female room service personnel, the cleaning troupe of all countries of the world, describe their personal stories and professional routine by means of letter or video. These are people who have stopped counting how many condoms they put away and who know the two items most often left behind in hotels: mobile phone chargers and dildos. In most instances, the owners of the former later request them to be sent home. One of them, Gaston from Cameroun, finally invites us to see ghosts: „If you happen to see me in the hotel corridor one day, touch your ear so I know you heard my story.“


Ciudades Paralelas - Parallel Cities