Galerie Mezzanin

The Radio City Music Hall, which served as the foreground for Mandla Reuter’s simultaneous exhibitions in 1822 Forum and rraum, is an exemplary site of the new mechanical magic. For seventy years, up to 5933 viewers per show have been able to experience how showgirls and entire orchestras have ascended from a secret chamber under the stage or equally elegantly and mysteriously vanished back into its depths, as if led by some magical hand. Dramatic rain showers sweep over the performers, vapour crawls out of the corners, or the desperate hero’s hair is rumpled by gusts of wind.

Everything exists at the push of a button. The worlds that one experiences in the Radio City Music Hall, like the movie theatre and the theme park are artificial in their sensual communication….


The term “entertainment” has become in the meantime too short for this world design, where the corresponding industry pieces together more and more disparate informational spaces. Stage and film worlds become more than simulations, and compose a differentiated intersection between fiction and reality, which was coined “hyperreality” by Baudrillard in the 1980’s. In hyper real spaces

(i.e. Disneyland or Las Vegas) reality and representation become one. Indeed, I find the reproach of the pessimistic cultural critic who is often connected to these settings unwarranted. The viewer is in the biggest illusion, the most captivating synthetic world, and is never the unknowing idiot that countless theoreticians and authors deem him. The consumer of the fictive entertainment world is perfectly aware of the artificiality of the character of his experience, and directly through this deviation is the experience of fiction first and foremost an enjoyable one. Our reception of fictional work is by all means a conscious reception — the question of viewing a copy or a simulation—but we first do this in a process of a “willing suspension of disbelief” that was already observed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge at the end of the 19th century, and later illustrated by Umberto Eco with his picture / outline of “Fictional Conventions”. The rules of these conventions are simply elementary. One sits in a viewing room, the artificial sun of Radio City Music Hall dims, the stage lights beam, stories and images play back and forth that on the one hand one recognises as staged - nobody jumps out of the audience to rescue the princess, nobody jumps on the stage to dance with the Rockettes - and so we accept this staging as “Quasi Real”. We respond emotionally to what happens and then subsequently, discuss what happened, or, through a so-called parasocial interaction we fall in love with the main actor of the film or the show.

With the most different mediums, Mandla Reuter produces a clear, skeletal model of the uncountable processes of show business. He frees the industrial magic from narrative contents; for these contents are ultimately arbitrary and the basic observation of industry entertainment shows that they are downright restricting. In the planning process of parks like Disneyland, one alludes to the “theming” of some attraction, and it is “theming”, or the theme of the attraction (Jungle, Space Travel, Fantasy World) that is one of the most variable points: an Indiana Jones roller coaster, a Western roller coaster, or a Spaceship roller coaster are by the fundamental process of their respective experiences closely related, just as an Indiana Jones, a Western, or a Science Fiction film are from human perception first similarly absorbed and processed. Mandla Reuter situates the assimilation of “fabricated pleasures” in the psychic and social system under a microscope.

How can one now detach oneself from “theming” and dissect the processes that make the experience of fictive worlds always something special? There are currently a series of archetypes in industry entertainment that clearly show how something (something that everyone exactly knows) has eternally functioned as an emotional trigger. Despite everyone’s knowledge of the usability of such archetypes, they simply continue to function. Emotional archetypes are indestructible. Clichés are clichés because they function quickly and simply, again and again. One of the classic archetypes of this kind is the dramatic sunset.

The red glow of the setting sun stands not only for the beginning and ending of the day but

simultaneously symbolises the end of a life phase and the respective new orientation of the life of a character. How many cowboys have ridden off into the sunset? How many pirate ships have sailed into new horizons toward a glowing semi-circle? Not to mention all the pairs of lovers who symbolically pass over to their new life together. Pure yearning. Images of sunsets produce emotion and find themselves in a degree of abstraction: Radio City Music Hall’s stage is virtually bordered by a sunset that has become architectural, and the theatre’s lighting system imitates the rising and setting of the sun.


For the work 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (2006), Mandla Reuter commissioned a Hollywood photographer to make a series of photos of sunsets. Irrespective of the simultaneous doubling and invalidation of the meaning of “Hollywood” and “Sunset”, this series of photos is equivalent to a sort of partitioned time loop of the moment of a sunset. This eternally repeating image of symbolic light change is similarly evoked several times a day in the Radio City Music Hall, and through the light installation On and On (2006) by Mandla Reuter, which emblematically discriminates between staging and everyday experience.

The repeated use of an overexciting cliché image (a setting sun) and the continual repetition of changing light in the exhibition space set the communicative power of these elements free. In the meantime, these elements become stereotypical signs in themselves. The exhibition spaces are located in a continual “Now it’s starting, Now it’s stopping” just like the artificial sun in the Radio City Music hall, only there is no “it” to speak of. The exhibition itself is also repeated: both 1822 Forum and rraum feature the same concept, yet they don’t deal with an alleged copy (the question would then be: what copies what?) but with the socioeconomic fortitude of the spectacle, the extravagance of the show, which is always a part of the show itself.


Similar to the world tour of a pop star, with tons of equipment, huge stage sets, LED displays, sound and lighting, and mobile living quarters that are transported once around the world to produce the same set for each performance, in isolated human particles floating weightlessly through a magnetic field of fabricated pleasure, occasionally colliding the complete apartment furnishings from rraum curators Meike Behm and Peter Lütje were transported by a moving company to the back room of 1822 Forum. The empty apartment establishes a firm parallel to the 1822 forum installation when the effort and expenditure of constructed and controlled situations like large-scale concerts or shows are isolated as a sign.  The outcome of the exhibitions’ concurrence is a sort of “tour concept”

overfulfillment similar to Michael Jackson’s sadly cancelled Millennium Concerts (1999/2000), where the pop star was supposed to perform two consecutive New Year’s concerts in Sydney and Honolulu, complete with countdowns, by flying over the international dateline in a Concorde jet. Here, I would like to consciously recapitulate an archetype, as thousands have before me, and quote Andy Warhol as he expressed his love for hyper reality so precisely with “The most beautiful thing in Tokyo is McDonalds. The most beautiful thing in Florence is McDonalds. The most beautiful thing in Stockholm is McDonalds. Peking and Moscow don’t have anything beautiful yet”. This quote has been found for years on museum store postcards, and one could say that a dramatic sunset isn’t any less effective.


In Mandla Reuter’s works, the codes that promise another world are always current, and like protection against their suggestive powers, they are always broken. For example, in Babylon (2005), an audio mix recorded in a theatre from a recent blockbuster film, the emotional interface to the film story is extinguished by the factoring out of visual information and the additional ambient noise of neighbouring theatre goers listening to the predictably new-and-improved film sound illusion (Dolby Surround, the dinosaur is trampling towards us “from behind”, etc.). On the one hand, the way the sound is played back in the space suggests quite in terms of of a demonstration, (there is a film playing “somewhere”), and on the other hand it precisely deconstructs the elements that the illusion machinery of films uses to enable ones “immersion” into the film world.

Just as image and sound bring a film to its whole, by connecting the parallel exhibitions, there is something to experience that is more than just the sum of its parts.


Translation by Shannon Bool