Ulla von Brandenburg makes drawings, videos, performances, and installations that focus on the theme of theater as a fictional construct. In her installations, von Brandenburg often screens her video works within constructed architectural environments that reference the dramatic arts, such as Harlequin-patterned tents or cascading red curtains. Her videos often resemble tableaux vivants, a popular form of entertainment in nineteenth-century Europe. By employing the theatrical vocabulary of fin-de-siècle Europe and infusing it with romantic angst, von Brandenburg creates a critical commentary of the anxieties and uncertainties of contemporary society through the lens of history.
For the High Line, von Brandenburg presents her video Shadowplay. The black-and-white work depicts a shadow theater, featuring two men and a woman in nineteenth-century costume that move behind a screen. Rather than speak or act, they lip-synch to the singing of an off-stage choir, producing a feeling of remove and alienation. The poetic song lacks narrative progression, yet is infused with melancholic subtext. Shadowplay diverges from traditional shadow puppetry in that the silhouetted characters are actually real actors. Screened in the semi-enclosed 14th Street Passage, Shadowplay emphasizes the threshold between reality and fiction.
Photos by Timothy Schenck, courtesy of Friends of the High Line.