Bodies in Urban Spaces


28 Monday 28th March 2011

People of urban spaces, keep a lookout for mysterious figures in brightly coloured hoodies occupying corners you never knew your city had. We spoke to art director Willi Dorner who has been arranging faceless people in public places for seven years now.

What is Bodies in Urban Spaces?

BIUS started as a photo-project in July 2004. I got a residency in a residential building in Vienna for six weeks and I worked there on several ideas in this newly built apartment. One of them was this photo series. I was interested in the dimensions of apartments and had discovered the idea of "Modulor" by Le Corbusier (an anthropomorphic system of measurement bridging imperial & metric). I worked in empty apartments, but then some of the tenants that had moved in allowed me to see the furnished apartments and I was shocked how little space was left and so I started to fill up the spaces in between, the space that was left over. In 2006 I was invited as a guest choreographer at the Polytechnical University in Barcelona and a dance festival in Barcelona.

They offered me a card blanche. So I decided to work with 12 performers/dancers to transfer the idea of BIUS into the street. Even the 20 minute performance was a big success and the festival director of 'Quartier d ète' in Paris commissioned the premiere of BIUS the year after in Paris in July 2007. BIUS was born and it was a great sucess in Paris.

Who gets involved?

People on the street, passers by, pedestrians and the performers.

How do you decide where to go? Do you decide which spaces to occupy ahead of time, or when you get there?

I always go there ahead of time before I start working on the installations. I walk the city and decide then the route which is usually about a one-hour walk through different 'urban landscapes'. The people [running the] festivals of course make suggestions to me and in reverse I ask them questions about the city to find out about specific places in town, .e.g. which places in town people don't like to go, where are places that undergo a change.

How do people react when they see you?

Well, this is quite a wide range of reactions, from 'wow' and surprise, laughing, smiling to the other end of the spectrum provoking anger, aggression.

What do you want people to take away from the experience of seeing Bodies in Urban Spaces? 

The bodies help them to see their own city again, I want them to take time and to contemplate the environment they live in. Usually you run from point A to B, when you are in your hometown. But I want to invite them for a walk, to take time and see their city.

What's up next?

Of course BIUS performances, also performances of my last creation "above under inbetween", But I start working on a new creation, commissioned by the Philly Live Arts Festival in Philadelphia / US. premiere in the beginning of September 2011.

For more inappropriately placed bodies, see Willi Dorner's website

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