Venice Biennale: Ulla von Brandenburg

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Upon entrance into Ulla von Brandenburg’s colorful installation entitled Singspiel, one is confronted with a sensation of curious exploration coupled with the particular anxiety of entering the unknown. The labyrinthine structure is made up of a series of solid colored fabrics forming an intervention in space and architecture. These colors refer to the color scale of Swiss Psychoanalyst Max Luscher, who in the 1950s conceived a model for personality types based on specific color preferences. At the end of this vivid and modestly Constructivist structure is a film projected onto the soft fabric wall. The guests–an eerie sense of “being expected” surfaces at this moment–are invited to sit and watch the film. Much like the physical journey of the viewer, the film depicts a slower, black and white journey through an architectural space. Filmed at Swiss architect Le Corbusier‘s famous building Villa Savoye, the voyage of the viewer continues through the historic ramps, partitions, and rooms of the Villa.

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Like most of von Brandenburg’s work, Singspiel explores aspects of theater, performance, and psychological states and in this case, takes the form of a somber and still film. As the film travels through the Villa, a series of players appear and disappear, conjoin and separate upon the camera’s direction. The modernist imagery is juxtaposed with classical elements and mechanics of theater and performance, with much emphasis on the fundamentals of Brecht’s Epic Theatre. The transitions among the characters occur through song and the singer’s voice is high-pitched and peculiar, adding another layer to von Brandenburg’s tale. Sensations of melancholy and mystery are present in the film’s final scene which takes place in the house’s garden where the characters appear to be attending a performance of sorts (not coincidentally, they are sitting in stools that are identical stools of the viewer). A pronounced Brechtian curtain is drawn to reveal the players of this story in a sort of meta-situation–a play inside the play.

Von Brandenburg is a German-born artist who lives and works in Paris. Besides film and installation, she works in a wide variety of media including drawing, painting, and live performance.