Künstliche Paradiese
three 16mm films, four image panels, text panel, wood construction

Künstliche Paradiese is a convolute of research materials and fragmentary movie sketches tracing an arc from 19th century iron construction via art nouveau architecture to the beginnings of radio in the 20th century. The collection’s starting point was a note on art nouveau in the appendix of the Arcades Project by Walter Benjamin:

'When we have to get up early on a day of departure, it can sometimes happen that, unwilling to tear ourselves away from sleep, we dream that we are out of bed and getting dressed. Such a dream was dreamed in Jugentstil by the bourgeoisie, fifteen years before history woke them with a bang.'
(Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, Convolute S)

'Künstliche Paradiese' affords an insight into the research that grew out of this. The display consists of a wooden trellis whose uniform modules sequentially link the exhibition spaces, support panels and projection surfaces.
The multifarious roots and strants of the research material remain visible, and are neither edited to provide a linear narrative nor focused towards a thesis. It remains a fragment whose various elements can be kaleidoscopicly reassembled into ever new patterns of meaning.

'Film 1 (Maison Horta)' shows a series of interior views of a house Jugendstil architect Victor Horta designed for his own use in the late 1890s. Each of the iron elements, used for the very first time in a domestic environment here, is a unique piece in itself whose artificial material has been elaborately shaped into arabesques and plant ornaments. A glass ceiling only allows the exterior to intrude in form of a milky light, thus contributing to the other-worldly atmosphere of the interiors. Using these modern construction materials in an interior veils their industrial origin and contradicts their serial applicability in transparent constructions. Instead they become part of a symbolist dreamscape that tries to evade the impositions of the modern world. Analogue double exposure merges the self-contained cosmos of Maison Horta with buildings from the industrialized exterior world they deny, but also with the tropical illusory domain of 19th century conservatories, into a type of 'third architecture', a hybrid space oscillating between the poles of public and private, interior and exterior, the rational and the fantastic.

'Film 2 (Eisenbauten)' presents footage which partly reappears in the cross-fades of 'Film 1 (Maison Horta)'. That the moving images originate from book pages, photocopies, postcards or computer animation remains visible, as would be the case when documenting a mere collection of materials.
This picture collection is expanded, provisionally classified by titles and captioned on display boards. It opens up a vista of reproductions illustrating 19th century architectural engineering, including Crystal Palace, greenhouses, railway stations and exhibition halls, train compartments or the transmitter masts of the very first radio stations in the early 20th century.

The new construction material iron was considered revolutionary and meant to lead to a radically new architecture and aestheticism. The new construction style relying on industrially manufactured iron and glass modules that seem to eliminate the separation between the interior and exterior manifested itself in the conservatories, representative exhibition halls or shopping arcades of the 19th century. But by providing protective envelopes for exotic cultivated landscapes or a world of goods that had been detached from the conditions of their production and put on show, the iron buildings simultaneously also represent artificial loci of spectacle that are sequestered from everyday reality. A related topic running through the varied pictorial material concerns the dialectic evolving between the rational and functional character of the industrial age’s iron architecture and the escapist aspects of its actual societal function.

One of the very first radio broadcast was transmitted by Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden on Holy Night 1906. According to his own report he gave a short speech, played a Christmas song on a violin and read out a bible verse. This event, only documented by Fessenden himself, is staged in the third short entitled 'Film 3 (Stimmen aus Strom)'. Shot in 16 mm, like the other films without sound or colour, this fictitious re-enactment takes on the character of historic documentary footage.

With this new radio technology the exterior world intrudes into the bourgeois interior by way of the 'ether' at the beginning of the 20th century. Pupation and masking strategies are consigned to obsolescence by this admission of a technicized and medialized world. At the same time the radio provides a new means of escapism, substituting a medially transmitted reality for real experience.