Immersive exhibition: “Urban Nature” – Culture

Immersive exhibition: "Urban Nature" - Culture

The price per gram: three euros. If the harvest is good, the young woman earns a monthly income of 6,000 euros. And the harvest is good, thanks to spotlights and ventilation equipment in her apartment, which the single mother bought because she no longer wanted to advertise pointless products as a graphic designer. Now she delights people with cannabis. She draws electricity from the street lamp, the son believes that mum grows medicinal plants – and the little family has a peaceful existence.

Who knows what their own neighbors are up to and all the other billions of people who together form the organism of the city. The urban space with its actors can hardly be grasped, “Rimini Protokoll” has nevertheless tried to make the polyphonic juxtaposition physically tangible: “Urban Nature” is the name of the largest and undoubtedly complicated exhibition project by the theater collective, for which there is one in the Kunsthalle Mannheim has staged a parcours through different living environments. The result is an ambitious video walk clocked to the second, in which the server ensures that the movements of the audience, projections and sounds mesh perfectly with one another.

In the visual art immersive exhibitions have long been popular, they create the illusion of physically immersing oneself in paintings. In the Kunsthalle Mannheim, on the other hand, the audience walks through a complex network of stage sets and video projections, with constant references being made between the scenes. The special thing about it: the audience becomes the actor itself. Wherever you go, whether you’re sitting at the workbench in jail or at the counter in the bar – everyone is a permanent protagonist in the play of the other.

exhibition "Urban nature" in Mannheim: The perspectives of city dwellers are as individual as they are interchangeable: "Urban Natures" in Mannheim.

The perspectives of city dwellers are as individual as they are interchangeable: “Urban Natures” in Mannheim.

(Photo: Christian Kleiner/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022)

If you like, you can even take on small tasks as a soloist and recreate scenes from the lives of those whom Rimini Protokoll has consulted this time as “experts from reality”. In “Urban Nature” seven townsfolk tell their stories, including a very rich investment advisor and a pompous tech entrepreneur. A child and the same graphic artist who spends her days tending cannabis plants and – wrong world – basically living the life of a farmer, as she says, in the middle of the big city. “I have adapted to the rhythm of nature.”

There are by no means anonymous powers at work in cities, we construct reality together

“Urban Nature” was conceived for the Center de Cultura Contemporània in Barcelona and has now been translated for Mannheim and modified for the thousand square meter exhibition area so that it doesn’t matter that these seven city dwellers are Spanish. Their perspectives are as individual as they are interchangeable, because the couriers from Lieferando and Co. have long been cycling in all major cities. Miguel is enthusiastic about them. “Traffic will be drastically reduced,” he says euphorically, “and the city will become more and more sustainable as a result.”

There, where the vernacular leads the word, you have to reckon with narrowed perspectives, but in total there are different aspects of this unusual experiment theatre, film and installation nevertheless emerge from different economic perspectives. “Urban Nature” is particularly stimulating where questions pop up: Are there more dangers from homogeneous or from heterogeneous groups? And is this Enrico, an economic historian, right that city life is more sustainable than country life because you can share the infrastructure in urban areas?

And yet the project is reaching its limits. Because even if you sit at a station in a private bank at the noble wooden table, you don’t necessarily feel like a customer who has just invested two million. Above all, the co-actors from the audience are hopelessly left behind next to the pre-produced videos because they only duplicate the action in an amateurish way. And yet there is a message worth considering in the sophisticated game with permanent role changes: In cities, anonymous powers are by no means at work, but we construct reality together. As a result, everyone is ultimately responsible “that adults build cities,” as it was once said, “that are too dangerous for their own children.”

URBAN NATURE by Rimini Protokoll (Haug / Huber / Kaegi / Wetzel), Kunsthalle Mannheim, until October 16

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