In order to enter Ulla von Brandenberg’s newest exhibition one must pass through a twelve-meter-high stage curtain. The fading on the curtain suggests that it has been hung in a window too long with the sun having faded its velvet red colouring. The only protection given to the original colour was from the bold square lines of the window’s muntin bars. About two thirds of the way along the curtain is hitched up, just enough to invoke curiosity as to what lies on the other side.
“Normally in theatre [the] curtain is separating the performers and the spectators, so it’s up for you to choose what is your role…”, von Brandenberg told a gathering at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) which celebrated her new exhibition titled, It has a Golden Yellow Sun and Elderly Grey Moon.
Themes of audience, performance, and mirroring are common throughout the exhibition, and when viewing you could be forgiven for thinking you were part of the instalment.
This is particularly prevalent when you enter one room that is empty with the exception of the black, bold shadows of a forest printed upon a curved wall. Walking into the room feels as though you’re walking onto a theatre set and that everyone around is watching your every move. This brings with it a sense of fear, perhaps partially caused by stage fright, but perhaps also invoked by the forest itself.
You next find yourself in von Brandenberg’s newest piece, which was commissioned by ACCA, and is in part a film, along with a constructed set of stairs that were built to mirror the scene of the film. While the actors and dancers play out their roles the audience sits or stands on the same stairs blurring the concept of the fourth wall.
“The other idea was to explore the stairs as an architectural element, which is of course putting two spaces together, but also, it’s a kind of furniture of representational form because…as somebody would walk down or up, of course, there is meaning.”
The difference between this commission and von Brandenberg’s previous pieces is her use of colour in film. According to curator Hannah Matthews this is the first film where von Brandenberg has featured colour, and it is also the first time she has worked with dancers.
“The idea…of this film was to take colour really consciously into the work, so it’s a lot about colour…The colours are really important; I use a lot of different kinds of colour theories…”, von Brandenberg said.
Von Bradanberg’s previous films, many of which are also on display, remove colour as a focus, but instead draw attention to nostalgic and historical references. While these references, according to Matthews were often out of place, von Brandenberg noted their intention is to create a link to time, or at least a period of time, while still creating something that is timeless: “[The intention] was not to put it (her previous films) in the past, but to put it somewhere where you don’t know when it was done.”
However, the precise nature of time is represented in the fact that all of von Brandenberg’s films are completed in one shot.
Von Brandenberg notes that it takes the same amount of time to watch her films as it did to film them.
While von Brandenberg draws inspiration from many eras and forms of art, the themes raised when viewing her exhibition are overwhelmingly relevant to modern society. It is difficult not to draw parallels between her work and this digital, connected age. When even something as innocuous as showing appreciation for a friend’s photograph online can also be considered as a public performance, exposing audiences to the concept of being both audience and performer at the same time is very pertinent.