Müller and Dietl have collaborated over the last 12 months to produce a multi-layered triplet of new work especially for BE that questions the ubiquitous need to define and defend borders. Developed in four different moments they have built their project as a response to the city of Birmingham and the festival’s proposed theme. Their trilogy considers the inner and invisible boundaries of each individual as a consequence of political or geographical borders. The duo’s surreal vis-à-vis ‘situations’ invite us to leave our comfort zones and reflect on our patterns of perception and behaviour. Audiences are invited to consider how they make sense of changing cultural identities across the continent, and reflect on the parallel narratives that have become so prominent and seem likely to burn brightly for years to come. As the artists themselves say: “let’s rip it up and start again”.
Dialogue lies at the heart of Müller and Dietl’s work and via moving images, sound, textile art, painting, performance and DIY strategies, the duo encourage festival goers to interact with the world around them. Can we be persuaded to question our daily routines?
Part of a buzzing collective of artists and activists in their hometown of Munich, Dietl and Müller are known for their interactive live performances, sound installations and film projects. Müller also plays drums, modified typewriters, umbrellas and sewing machines in performance art duo/band beißpony (signed to Munich’s famed feminist Chicks On Speed Records and RagRec). Dietl, when not painting or producing sound installations and film projects that sample and recalibrate elements of daily media coverage, directs music videos and live visuals.
At last year’s Alternative Village Fete Dietl & Müller offered a pop-up performance clinic with their piece Protection Shields To Go. Equipped with a sewing machine and modified doctors’ prescriptions, the artists asked the people of Birmingham to share their insecurities as the artists transformed these fears into pieces of art. This year the duo brings back Protection Shields… in a remixed form: Protection Shields to cuddle up with, which takes the form of a mobile pharmacy. “We propose a dispensary on wheels, equipped with a series of handmade “protection shields”, says Dietl. “On first sight they may seem like devices you can use to cut yourself off from the world – but have a closer look, and you’ll see they invite the wearer to concentrate and exchange with others, enabling users to actually remove their blinkers, leave reality and rest, refocus, relate and reveal.”
Cut In Half is the second piece of Dietl and Müller’s pleasingly perplexing puzzle. “During our stay in Birmingham last July and September we kept hearing the phrase “Please, cut it in half”, explains Müller. “On the one hand people seem to enjoy tiny bites and bits – but there is also something more sinister with this phrase: earlier last year a historic tree in Centenary Square was cut down. Supposedly to allow for the major building works but others have suggested it has more to do with new ‘anti-terror measures’ ”. Taking all this to its unnatural conclusion the duo cut shopping trolleys in half and surround them with fake grass carpets and ornamental bushes. People are invited to sit in these moving seats, close to each other: “a situation most of us usually try to avoid” say the artists.
Swapping Chamber – Sniffing Diamonds, Cutting Glue is the final slice of their serpentine stew where Dietl and Müller are joined by Brussels-based dancer and choreographer Justine Maxelon and Oxford-based singer-songwriter Laura Melis Theis. Somewhere in the city centre, the quartet will install a treasure chamber, a walk-in respite from everyday life for weary city-dwellers. Here passersby can seek solace and, once relaxed, confide in the artists with their worries, insecurities and reservations. The artists aim to transform people’s fears, their problems – things that are usually immaterial and intangible yet which prevent people from moving forward – into a piece of take-away artwork. Step-by-step the interior of the swapping chamber is deconstructed to create something for those brave enough to enter.