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Urban Nature

“Urban Nature” is a performance installation in which seven ways of living, working and use found in the city are juxtaposed.

“A city is a place where values are not merely consumed, but also created.”

Prof. Hubert Klumpner - Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) – ETH Zürich

“Urban Nature” is a three-dimensional narrative space, a kind of walkthrough movie in which visitors become participants. In this performance installation, conceived by the collective of theatre writers and directors Rimini Protokoll, seven ways of living, working, use and protesting found in the city are juxtaposed, all against a background of coexistence or interrelation.

In 2008, for the first time in the history of humankind, there were more people worldwide living in cities than in the countryside. And in the year 2050, this proportion will increase to 68%. Throughout the 20th century, industrialisation concentrated populations around factories in ever more densely populated settlements, shifting industry away from cities themselves in the process. In fact, the age of post-Fordist globalisation has seen industry move ever further from its context. The work now done in cities is mainly digital, focused on creating value – including for a constantly growing property market. An apartment in Berlin, Barcelona or Brisbane is no longer simply a place to live; it is now first and foremost an investment.

But with COVID-19 this value is changing. Property prices have been reassessed and offices have dropped in value. Sections of private homes have been converted into offices. Even if the option of living in the countryside with a good internet connection seems increasingly more appealing, from an ecological point of view, concentrating populations in large cities makes all the sense in the world. But what population density are we willing to live with? At what point does proximity become dangerous? And to what degree do we see other cultures as enriching our own? How do the different economic models relate to one another? How much inequality are we willing to tolerate around us? Cities are the microscopes that allow us to see the extremes within society.

During their visit, members of the public take on different roles. These include a financial adviser at a private bank, looking to diversify investments in excess of €2 million, or a prison worker who, in a reconstruction of a cell within the exhibition space, explains how many of the inmates earn more in the prison than when free.

In “Urban Nature”, Rimini Protokoll recycle their original technique of simultaneous performance. This involves temporary architecture, painstakingly pieced together, in which each visitor, almost in passing, becomes an actor for the others present in the space. Unlike traditional theatrical formats, this art form is intensely immersive: it invites the public to put themselves in the skin of others, to trade places, to acquire experiences in a new way through diverse points of view and backstories.

Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi and Daniel Wetzel founded the theatre group in the year 2000. Since then, from one project to the next, they have expanded theatrical media in order to create new perspectives on reality, broadening the horizons of the post-dramatic space. In 2017, as part of the exhibition “After the end of the world”, Rimini Protokoll collaborated with the CCCB on the interactive installation win > < win, focusing on the jellyfish and its ability to survive in increasingly challenging natural circumstances. In “Urban Nature” the CCCB has tasked Rimini Protokoll and the set designer Dominic Huber with a new project which reimagines interaction with the public and the use of digital elements in the exhibition rooms, and which reinforces the highly performative nature of the exhibitions.

Theatres and museums are typically used in opposing ways. Whereas theatre audiences are normally immobile for one or two hours as the performance takes place on the stage before them, in museums the public moves through the exhibition. “Urban Nature” blends these two modes of reception: while some visitors follow life stories individually as active spectators with a tactile tablet device, others experience the exhibition as a group. All are able to observe how others take on different perspectives, but they are also challenged to look at themselves in the mirror and experience dependence between different positions and their freedom for personal action.

Concept / Text / Direction: Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi, Daniel Wetzel
Scenography: Dominic Huber

A production of CCCB and Rimini Apparat. In coproduction with Grec 2021 Festival de Barcelona, Kunsthalle Mannheim and Nationaltheater Mannheim. Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media and the Senate Department for Culture and Europe. In collaboration with Mediapro, Institut del Teatre and Universitat Pompeu Fabra - UPF.

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