Architecture and performance art seem to fall at opposite, even opposing ends of the creative spectrum–physical permanence versus fleeting creative gestures. But Alex Schweder‘s interactive inventions occupy the unique middle ground between the two: “complicating the distinction between occupying subjects and occupied objects,” as he explains.
He’s tackled everything from inflatable doorways to melting bleacher seats, and “The Rise and Fall”, presented as part of last year’s Marrakech Biennale, is a prime example of his style. The curators became familiar with Schweder’s previous work during a visit to his Berlin studio and invited the artist to make immersive magic with a site-specific piece at the Theatre Royale–a grand monument built in the late 1970s, directly inspired by the Parisian Garnier Opera House. “Given the colonial history between France and Morocco, importing a form of performance that does not have a history of popular appreciation in Marrakech struck me as a kind of culturally colonial decision,” Schweder tells Co.Design. “This, coupled with the political shifts occurring in the region at the moment, led me to make a work that involved negotiation between people.”
Following a recon visit to the city to check out local crafts and fabrication methods, Schweder embarked on the complex process to bring his installation to life (development took about six weeks, construction two). The result was a latticed wooden frame that appeared to balance precariously over a wall that separates the stage from the orchestra pit; a thick swath of red fabric cascaded from above, performing in conjunction with a pivoting steel structure that was concealed and attached to the wall below.
Brave visitors were invited to step onboard. Their movements controlled the shifting incline of “The Rise and Fall “–a bit like an oversize see-saw–as well as the onsite soundtrack. Composer Tamara Friebel made two original pieces of music inspired by local soundscapes, and each was placed in a record player on either end of the platform; these were controlled by the position of the slope.
So how did it feel to actually become a part of the show? To feel the earth move under their feet, towering above terra firma? “Participants who were scared of heights did not enter the piece,” Schweder says. “But those who did reported that they became hyper aware of where each part of their bodies were.”