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Le milieu est bleu


Oven Projects presents an exhibition by Ulla von Brandenburg, showcasing the film work Le milieu est bleu the artist created for her exhibition at Palais de Tokyo, Paris in 2020. Along with the titular work, and the artist’s signature soft architecture that mirrors the theatrical environment in the film, is also a documentation of a rehearsal session at Palais de Tokyo, documented by von Brandenburg in collaboration with choreographer Loïc Touzé, revealing different temporal and spatial aspects of the ritualistic project.
Shot on 16mm colour film, Le milieu est bleu aims at transporting the audience into uncanny surroundings. They find themselves in the Théâtre du Peuple in Bussang, a theatre built on a mountainside in the Vosges at the end of the 19th century to host theatrical festivities for the people. It is within this space infused with humanist ideals that Ulla von Brandenburg sets her performers, who sing a text inspired by the 1930 play The Deep-Sea Fish (Der Tiefseefisch) by Marieluise Fleisser (1901-1974). They act out a ‘micro-society, as if it were the last of its kind’: a living community cut off from the outside world, with its own economy, rules, and values. Their daily life is suddenly interrupted when one of the group’s members breaks with the ritual and opens the doors of the décor. They reveal to the spectator the specificity of the Bussang theatre – the back of the stage opens up directly onto the forest – and at the same time reveal to their community the possibility of contact with the outside world. The film offers at once a variation on ideas of loss, abandonment and flight, and a tale that reflects upon the themes of transgression and individual responsibility within the collective.
At the end of the film, the members of the community disappear only to reappear within Palais de Tokyo; the objects they bring with them become the works of the exhibition. Ulla von Brandenburg thus reveals the illusory nature of theatre and, like the bear that unexpectedly appears in Le milieu est bleu, thrusts into the midst of our social organisation that which it strives to exclude: nature, and the unknown.
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