Squeezing brightly dressed performers into tight urban spaces, Companie Willi Dorner creates surprising living sculptures. Dorner aims to shift our perspective and cause us to reflect on the scale and structure of our environment. As much as the contrast between the rigid environment and flexible performers illuminates some basic truths about the design of buildings and spaces, I think the more interesting revelations relate to behavior.
Like the flash mobs I wrote about earlier this week, the behaviors force us to question the unspoken norms that govern behavior in a society. The positions and arrangements of the performers violate these norms in striking and significant ways. They’re too close together, they’re entwined and contorted, they’re upside down, they’re horizontal, they’re in places forbidden by law or general good taste to occupy. Encountering these behaviors reveals a second layer of structure in a city: an invisible structure formed by codes of behavior that work as well as fences or street markings to maintain our orderly coexistence. The photo below, of the blue-clad person upside-down against the gridded wall, shows this beautifully — an irreverent subversion of both kinds of order.
Something like this is a little piece of chaos, and it can be done in disturbing fashion, or it can be done whimsically. Clearly this is an example of the latter, with color a primary cue to the artist’s intent. There’s a real sense of play here, like a game of hide-and-seek (or in the first photo, sardines) being conducted in plain sight. It would be fun to witness, but I think out of anyone the greatest joy belongs the performers, who have license to indulge their inner child and color outside the lines for a day.