Ulla von Brandenburg
Gleich Gleich Gleich
15.02.13 – 14.04.13
In Gleich Gleich Gleich, Ulla von Brandenburg (1974, Karlsruhe) brings together a number of characteristic aspects of her work in the exhibition space of KIOSK. The works on display combine to form a theatrical landscape where media such as film, theatre, sculpture and installation flow over into each other and play with the boundaries between reality and fiction. This game is embedded within a complex network of narratives that refer to contemporary popular culture, traditional forms of representation, and historical and socio- cultural points of reference such as Baroque theatre, German Romanticism, literature, carnival, magic, psychoanalysis and play.
The exhibition aims to beguile the visitor while also making him aware of its own artificial nature. It looks upon reality as an indeterminate sequence of visual illusions. This accounts for von Brandenburg’s fascination with the power of fiction and its extensive use of visual strategies – mirroring, symmetry, trompe-l’oeil and repetition – that engage this power. The show’s title invokes both the idea of identical repetition and the aspect of time drawing near, as if the spectacle is about to start any moment now.
For this occasion, Ulla von Brandenburg brings together two video pieces that she embeds in an entirely new context by incorporating them in a newly conceived installation. The central exhibition space’s past as an anatomical theatre is restaged in a circular wooden stand of tiered seats. This spatial intervention functions as a framing device for the screening of Shadowplay (2012). The characters in this filmed shadow play question their dualistic role as actors before taking to the stage. While staging a puppet play within the play, put on make-up and get dressed in burlesque, precise motions, they sing of the existential inner life. Their play refers to the traditions of the tableau vivant and the Chinese puppet shadow plays that were popular in nineteenth-century France. The musical composition resounds throughout the rooms like a medieval German ballad, and emphasizes the indefinable nature of the timeless, colorless tale. We too, spectators seated on the other side of the screen, are staged here, and our roles questioned: in which of the two worlds am I moving about; in reality, or in the mise en abyme of the fictional frame that is staged?
The exposure of artificial mechanisms and staged behaviour through theatre is further explored in the second video piece, Spiegellied (Mirrorsong) (2012). In this dual-channel video the action from the first screen is re-enacted on the second, resulting in an apparent mirror image. The duplicated actions of the characters in the mirror refer to the redoubled projection of the film itself and to the confrontation between reality and representation. Playing their game of cards and performing their mime act to the sound of a single female voice, the characters simultaneously emphasize and undermine the fictional nature of their Singspiel.
Against a symmetric backdrop of bleached theatre curtains to the left and right of the cabinet rooms, a collage of sculptural objects stands out. The vertical, illusive prints on the curtains and carnival garlands relate to the slender fishing rods, just as the abstract circular quilt of white shirts and ties mirrors the rosette in the dome, and the video Spiegellied I (Mirrorsong I) corresponds to Spiegellied II (Mirrorsong II). The principles of montage and association also return in Nr. 6(2013), a newspaper edition newly conceived for this exhibition. This selection of sculptural objects is the result of a continuous process of abstraction and filtering from one medium to another, and shows a timeless portrait of ritual acts, universal emotions and archetypical images. Von Brandenburg guides the visitor through an immersive field of tensions between past and present, dark and light, silence and song, life and death, subject and object. Once again, the question arises: when exactly did the spectacle begin? And for how long has the boundary between exhibition space and stage been fading?