Between hysteria, lust and melancholy
Performance art through site-specific theatre installations
Carina Reich and Bogdan Szyber, alias Kulturmaskin, form a Swedish/Polish performance art duo based in Stockholm. They have worked together for fifteen years and develop their work from their own ongoing dialogue. In addition to producing theatre installations such as the acclaimed “A Perfect Conversation” they also run courses and hold seminars.
In describing their own particular brand of performance art Reich and Szyber comment “however different our performances may appear, a common thread in our work is that we always create from the special place and the particular context where the work shall be performed”
But that is not all which makes each piece Reich and Szyber – alias Kulturmaskin (Culture machine) – unique. They also work with all the media at their disposal, including film, music, radio, internet, mannequins and human actors. Through the combination of a number of different arts media in any one installation, they attempt to produce – in their own words - “staged paintings where the public can participate in the scenography.”
An excellent example of this approach is Kulturmaskin’s 1998 installation “A Perfect Conversation”. Displayed in the window of Stockholm’s high class department store NK ( the Swedish equivalent of Harrods) it formed part of the “Window Dressing Sunday” project, staged in conjunction with Stockholm as Europe’s Cultural Capital ’98.
Five mannequins in designer clothes were placed in the window. Each was linked to a compressor, a pot of wallpaper paste and a computer. During the “party’s” conversation the participants spat paste at one another at computer-generated intervals. In one of each of the mannequin’s eyes was a digital camera linked to the internet. Thus anyone accessing the website could see what the mannequins saw – ie the public’s reaction.
Critique for this piece was highly positive. One Swedish newspaper described it as “a sublime madness, a frame of mind between hysteria, lust and melancholy.” Another newspaper commented “it is a confession of the lips; they do with their mouths what they are thinking.”
It is a mark of the respect Reich and Szyber have earned as artists that a store as prestigious as NK should allow such a provocative piece to be installed in its window.
Other installations have made use of other media. In the run-up to the millennium Kulturmaskin became involved in the “Rituals” project. In 1999 eleven Swedish cities each developed a daily ritual by which they could mark the count-down to the year 2000. Kulturmaskin’s contribution was a sculpture located in the entrance hall to Stockholm’s Central Station. It consisted of a 24sq.m. copper sheet with texts and images summarising the project etched on to it. In two corners were placed blue “shields” which contained a ship’s bell. The bell sounded the hour every hour, while a computer controlled spotlight played constantly over the surface.
Other notable performances include “Kaffe med Dopp” (coffee with dip) which incorporated actors, live mice, and a pool of lukewarm coffee around which the public could sit and drink hot coffee from the thermos flasks provided, and eat buns!
(“Dopp”, or dip, is a play on words. In Swedish “dopp” means a quick swim or something sweet to dip in your coffee!)
In Nattvakten (nightwatchman) the audience was taken on a night-time boat trip. Actors ensured all were safe and warm while they listened to a prose poetry piece read to music. The darkness of the night sky reflected in the calm water provided an ideal setting for an “inner sightseeing”.
Kulturmaskin has also worked with film. The three minute piece “The Hidden” formed a short support to “Scream” in Stockholm, and was also shown at Arvika Rock Festival and the New York film Festival.
Kulturmaskin’s work is based on the ongoing dialogue between its two members, and builds upon the particular environment where the performance will take place. But Reich and Szyber also look to other artists for inspiration, including the following: film – Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, art – the Pre-Raphaelites, music – Led Zeppelin and house, techno and “fuck-up jazz”, dance and theatre – Prina Bausch and Margaret Åsberg. They are currently linking examples of their inspirers work to their website.
As well as producing theatrical installations Kulturmaskin runs course and seminars. The seminars vary from 1 1/2 hours to two weeks in length. The courses are based on Reich and Szyber’s experience as artists and project leaders, and with the roller coaster of the creative process. In the longer courses the participants are guided through that process, from original idea to final result. Reich and Szyber have regularly led seminars at, among others, the college of Architecture, the college of Dance and the Royal college of Technology in Stockholm.
Although Stockholm based, Kulturmaskin has also done performance tours in England, France and New Zealand, and is currently working with the Russian performance group Akhe and the Gulbenkian museum in Lisbon.
To quote Danstidning (Dance Journal):
“Reich and Szyber belong to an extremely small group of artists who, during the present period of standardisation, keep alive the hope for an entirely different type of theatre….we shall be thankful as long as their creative will triumphs over common sense.”
Bari (SEAS Project)
Production / Performance,
Carina Reich and Bogdan Szyber are authors of the soundscape for the SEAS dance performance BARI. The soundscape is based on the artists´ artistic exploration (SEAS Date) in the Italian town Bari. It was integrated into the dance performance Bari, directed by Slovenian choreographer Matjaz Faric and performed by dancers from his ensemble Flota.
BARI was part of SEAS Events 2004 and was presented at the SEAS Events in Lithiania, Latvia, Kaliningrad (Russia), Poland and Slovenia.
Dying for Love
Production / Performance,
World premiere at the Grande Auditorio Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, Portugal September 26th 10pm.Dying for Love is a collaboration with 7 local female opera singers, working with famous death arias.
The horrors of the ice
"The horrors of the ice", an audiopiece commissioned by The Swedish National Radio. Freely based on the diaries of the Imperial Austrian-Hungarian North PoleExpedition, 1872-74. Voice and parts of music Stina Nordenstam. Concept and direction: B. Szyber & C. Reich. Final mix March and to be transmitted May 2003, in the program series "White nights". Length ca 30 min.
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
(01 December 01 - 30 September 05)