Who owns and controls the development of cities? How has the relation between public and private space shifted over the years? The play Modellsimulation mit Pfau (Model Simulation with Peacock) by Austrian playwright Anna Gschnitzer deals with the complex problems of public and private space in Stuttgart, which oscillates between investors and creatives, consumption and art.
Marte Kräher: Anna, what is the play Modellsimulation mit Pfau about?
Anna Gschnitzer: It’s about the inseparable tie between power and space (specifically urban space), a tie formed by territorial strategies and concepts of authority that compete for influence, representation and expression. Cityscapes are modeled to transmit a certain image of a community and ideology that, however, never corresponds to reality and the complexity of a human being. I tried to deal with some model-like places in Stuttgart, for example the Weißenhofsiedlung and the Europaviertel, both very different projects of urban development from two completely different epochs. The Weißenhofsiedlung was built in the 1920s, whereas the Europaviertel is still under construction. However, the play is not meant to be a disquisition on the history of urban development. I wanted to somehow evoke these places, to find out which models, forms of representation, and ideologies take effect, and how people move and inscribe themselves in them.
MK: Are you referring to the model of residential communities in particular?
AG: In many German cities – as well as the rest of Europe – you can observe a trend towards »gated communities.« I’m talking about closed spaces that refuse an opening – a concept that is definitely transferable to Europe in general. Claudia Irro, the play’s stage designer, contrasts these phenomena with a beautiful image: an almost organic, transparent, kind of single-family house right in the middle of the Calwer Passage. It’s an object which blurs the borders of inside and outside by its own materiality, somehow an analogy of the interplay between body and architecture.
MK: The piece features bagel stations, bike shops, investors, young attractive people on racing bikes, celebrities … – would you agree that you depict quite a spooky image of a city?
AG: Of course the play is an exaggeration. By reducing some of these phenomena to absurdity, you make them visible. It’s the same case with the play’s characters; they should not be perceived as real historical personalities. They are »labels« or »entrepreneurs« that work with these kinds of superficialities. Scarlett Johansson, Joseph Beyus, John Cage or Josephine Baker are basically all models that can be built to stock and illustrate the process of capitalization. Yes, you’re right: It is quite a spooky image.
MK: The play will not be shown in a traditional theater but in a public space right in Stuttgart’s city center. Can you tell me why you’ve chosen the Calwer Passage?
AG: We decided against the Weißenhofsiedlung and the Europaviertel or the protected space of the theater. We wanted to perform downtown, right in the heart of the city, in order to deal with discourses on location. The Calwer Passage points out the complex problems of strategies for temporary use as well as public and private space in Stuttgart. It’s a privatized public space that has been empty for quite a while, and nobody knew what was happening to it. For a time, it was used as a temporary art space. In the end, different companies moved in and are now using abstract concepts that derive from a temporary artistic usage, or at least from artistic fields in a capitalist way. This special form of capitalism creates value through creative but also artistic production. Modellsimulation mit Pfau joins the exploitation chain; it moves on the thin red line between subversion and affirmation.
MK: Throughout the rehearsals you hosted public talks in the Theater Rampe once a week. To what extent did the talks contribute to the final play?
AG: These talks were neither about discussing the play nor about integrating the »results« into the play. They were meant to be an open platform for the heterogeneous discourse about the topic »city.« We invited the city’s inhabitants to get in touch with artists and city-experts who have dealt with this topic.
MK: Modellsimulation mit Pfau is your third production with the collective tk-bureau – what did your work with the collective mean to you as the author of the play and what interests you the most in this way of working?
AG: For me, theater is a place of community where conflicts and heterogeneity become visible. Therefore, I see it as a logical consequence for myself as an author to work in a collaborative way. In this particular case, I wrote the text for Modellsimulation mit Pfau and revised it together with the director (Marie Bues), the dramaturge (Martina Grohmann) and the actors (Katharina Behrens, Barbara Berendt, Patrick Heppt, Monika Wiedemer). I don’t consider my texts as set and done, but rather as a basis to be questioned and part of a working process. There still was a division of work, but due to our close method of working together, we also had plenty of important discussions, arguments and differing opinions. I don’t think it’s helpful to work in perfect harmony. This work was certainly more exhausting than developing and writing a piece on my own, but also far more enriching.
Modellsimulation mit Pfau (Model Simulation with Peacock) premiers in cooperation with Theater Rampe on March 7, 2015, at Fluxus in the Calwer Passage, Stuttgart.