Laboratory Life,which was created specifically for Münster, is based on the interplay between moving pictures and scientific experimental set-ups. In these films, Bunte removes everyday occurences—like the rotation of a car-wash brush on a windscreen, a plastic bag flapping in the wind, or someone operating a slot machine—from their original context and places them in a laboratory-like setting under video surveillance. Bunte’s films enable viewers to observe isolated processes in a new light, specifically using ‘motion capture, where the performance of an everyday activity is reduced to an abstract dance of points and lines in front of a black background, or human limbs are replaced by robot arms. By means of QR codes that have been printed on posters and hung up around Münster, these everyday choreographies can be watched on viewers’ phones. In other words, the films will not be screened in interior spaces but can be activated on any standard smartphone by scanning the QR codes. The film posters, which resemble advertising for blockbuster movies or concerts, have been pasted straight onto the architectural surface of the city. In this way, the video surveillance under lab conditions unfolds in a direct encounter with actual everyday life in Münster. With the help of our constant companion, the portal we call the phone, Bunte’s Laboratory Life opens a brief cinematic window for us through which to view an urban environment.

Bunte’s interest in scientific research films and the lab as a production site for films can be traced back to his three-year research project on Göttingen’s IWF (Institute for Scientific Film). This research institute, which was active from 1957 to 2010, sought to disengage time-based phenomena from their original context and conserve them as moving pictures in the neutral environment of a laboratory. In addition to recording these processes, Bunte’s films document the embedding of film production in the reality of a lab and examine the extent to which a lab can ever be a place of neutral observation. He also sees the everyday actions and processes reproduced there as time-based ready-mades, where it remains uncertain who is the actual protagonist of a particular event. Objects often seem strangely animated, whereas human actions are dominated by limited opportunities of interaction. At the same time, questions are raised about the correct way of performing the actions: What options are suggested by a car door or a metal detector, especially when these actions are only performed for the sake of video documentation?

Nico Anklam

The app Laboratory Life to scan the QR codes and stream the films can be downloaded at: