Rimini Protokoll in Mannheim: looking at skyscrapers

Rimini Protokoll in Mannheim: looking at skyscrapers

“Urban Nature” by Rimini Protokoll in the Kunsthalle Mannheim looks at the city and the present social divisions.

Several bunk beds draped with clothing stand one behind the other in a narrow room

The setting of the homeless shelter in “Urban Nature” by Rimini Protokoll Photo: Alice Brazzit

5.9 billion people out of a total of 7.9 billion live in cities, as the environmental and economic historian Enric explains to us right at the beginning of the walk-in installation “Urban Nature”. He lives in Barcelona himself and thinks it’s great, after all, cities are the perfect way of life. Bad, however, are the suburban hells (urban sprawls), in which resources would be squandered because everyone there consumes more than in the city.

Enric is one of seven people providing information in Rimini Protokoll’s latest work. “Urban Nature”, which premiered a year ago at the Center de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, ​​can now be seen at the Kunsthalle Mannheim in cooperation with the National Theater there.

These seven operate as so-called experts of everyday life, who belong to the works of Rimini Protokoll like tall buildings to a city. They talk about their lives, their jobs, their everyday lives.

Watch it in Urban Nature Directing collective consisting of Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegie and Daniel Wetzel, from different perspectives on the urban space and makes a change of perspective possible. One of the experts is the young woman Siham. Her hunger for freedom drove her to the city. At the age of twelve, she left her home country of Morocco for Melilla, the Spanish enclave in North Africa that repeatedly made a name for itself with images of escape defenses.

Siham now lives on the streets of Barcelona, ​​initially staying in accommodation for the homeless. The stage designer Dominic Huber, who is responsible for the elaborate and lovingly accurate scenography, has built one in the exhibition space. A row of bunk beds with crumpled sheets and brightly colored covers stretches along the wall. The visitors: lounge on the lower floors and learn via video what Siham reports from their bleak everyday life in the city.

Sometimes a homeless person, sometimes a boss

The accommodation is one of the seven stations of the educational course “Urban Nature”. At the entrance you can decide whether you would rather just listen and watch or play along with a tablet in your hand. Then you get whispered instructions over headphones, play the part of a homeless woman, sometimes a boss, sometimes have to go here and there, slip into the role of the jailer and that of the businesswoman. One plays theatre, while the others embody the city society.

The variant with the tablets is well suited for digital natives and those who quickly get bored in the museum. Everyone else is well advised to take the course without a tablet. Either way, you move – divided into small groups – as if remotely controlled through the seven rooms and have almost no room for maneuver. Everything has an exact timing and runs like clockwork. You never forget that you are part of an exhibition or a piece, so immersive. Even lying in bed next to a strange visitor, you don’t dive into any other world.

But while watching Siham make a living, it can happen that one’s own privilege creeps into one’s bones like a contrast agent. The acting and speaking figures from Barcelona and previous visitors can be seen on screens at the individual stations. In the exhibition, they are joined by those who use the tablet to play the experts of everyday life. For example, the warden Christian, who is on duty in the “Quatre Camins” prison.

One learns that Spain has the highest number of prison inmates in relation to the number of inhabitants, which is why it was logical to devote a separate station to the subject in Barcelona. For Mannheim, however, it is not. The same applies to the domestic marijuana plantation of the single mother graphic designer Camila, because the Spanish cannabis culture cannot be compared to the German one. Just as Barcelona and Mannheim do not have much in common in terms of size alone, which is noticeable in every nook and corner of the Kunsthalle, even if general considerations, such as the future of the city and the development of smart cities, can be transferred.

Smash Hit “100% City”

The tour lasts around 70 minutes and may not be a stunning experience, but it does offer a good insight into the working methods and topics of the successful collective. The way “Urban Nature” takes a look at Barcelona from different angles is reminiscent of their smash hit “100 % Stadt”, which was played in many places and measures the respective society in an entertaining way. The city as a laboratory also shaped her theater truck ride “Do’s and Don’ts”.

The visit to the investment advisor is reminiscent of the legendary “General Meeting” of Daimler AG, which became the ready-made performance by Rimini Protokoll. And the coffin symbolizing the jailer’s second job in “Urban Nature” looks like a quote the play “Deadline” (2003), from which one could learn more about the subject of death and dying than anywhere else. Then, six years ago, Rimini Protokoll invited them to another museum, the Munich Glyptothek (“Top Secret”) for a kind of scavenger hunt on the topic of surveillance.

Social divisions remain a recurring theme of the group. At the conference table of the financial advisor Calamanda on the 12th floor, “Urban Nature” says that having a bird’s eye view, that is, an overview of the city, is a sign of power. After seven stations, the visitors sit down on stools and enjoy the panorama of Dominic Huber’s city in miniature with its cardboard skyscrapers. It is the view from above, the view of the privileged public.

But “Urban Nature” only unfolds its real potential outside, in the real city, where you suddenly find yourself strolling through a museum. Beggars who are otherwise routinely ignored suddenly deserve attention, passers-by act as if in a performance, and the old children’s question “Who owns the city?” burns under the asphalt. This is how Rimini Protokoll succeeded in sharpening our focus again this time. When public space becomes a stage, everything changes.

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