17th May 2021
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Bewegtes Land, an Art Project For Train Passengers

Land In Motion, an Art Project For Train Passengers
By Liam Klenk

In 2017, the fascinating art and performance project Bewegtes Land (Land in Motion), created by Jörn Hintzer and Jacob Hüfner highlighted the boundlessness of human ingenuity. Hintzer and Hüfner are media artists and professors at the Bauhaus University Weimar, in Germany. In an immense burst of creativity, they gathered 400 volunteers to carry out performances along a train route in Germany’s Saale valley.

At some point in our lives, we all sat in a train, looked out the window, and let the landscape roll by. Inevitably, in those moments, our thoughts traveled in tune with the speed of the train… pondering, dreaming, imagining, longing.

This inspired Hintzer and Hüfner to stage one of the geographically largest performances of all time.

What, if as they gazed out the window, the curious passengers would witness unusual occurrences? Or, things that, at first sight, might look inconspicuous but would then turn into a surreal moment in time?

Hintzer and Hüfner transformed the German Saale valley into a giant, 30 km long stage with more than 50 pieces of performance art.

400 residents along the designated route volunteered their time over two days to put on short performances for the passengers. They performed for 24 train loads of passengers over a period of 2 days.

The creators saw the flashes of art given to the passengers as a metaphor for the flashes of media we expose ourselves to every day online. Only seconds are spent with some impressions. In our life online as well as on the train that races past the individual performances.

For the volunteers, Bewegtes Land was a fun, unusual weekend together with neighbors many of them had never before spent time with. In one town, Dornburg-Camburg almost all of the residents took part in the project.

The result of this amazing feat of collaboration? Flying hay bales, running bushes, a shark in the river Saale, etc.

And, the interesting question as to how the speed of a train influences our perception?

To better illustrate what happened on 26th and 27th of August 2017 along the train route Jena Paradies – Naumburg, here a description from the YouTube video “Bewegtes Land Casefilm”:

“The contrast between countryside and metropolitan areas is nowhere larger than along a modern train line. Bewegtes Land (Land in Motion), Productions for Passing Trains transforms the landscape into a stage. The passengers are the spectators. The actors perform along the route of the passing train.

Speed meets slowness. Countryside meets city life.

We meet where we encounter each other every day, without being aware.

24 performances on one weekend. For passengers that race past at 100 km per hour.

The art project plays with our perception of the countryside. Sometimes it is idyllic. Sometimes enchanting. At other times it is wild. Maybe even frightening.

Bewegtes Land presents short stories, to the point. Narrated in one picture. Often only a few seconds long.”

Apart from sold-out trains filled with overjoyed passengers, Bewegtes Land delighted more than 30 million viewers online.

Re-discovering this old gem online three years later in 2020 surely made me realize that we haven’t even come close to exploring all forms of artistic expression in the performing arts.

Besides being an impressive, unique creation, this extraordinary project from 2017 is also an inspiring precedent for more socially distanced performing.

To adapt to a world living with Covid-19, what if the trains were slightly less full? The performers along the train route are already rarely in close proximity to each other.

Now, because our world has been shaken to its core, is our chance to challenge old formats and discover new ground.

More from Liam Klenk:

Don’t Wear That Hat: Theatre Superstitions & their Origins

Bains des Paquis – Social and Cultural Haven in Geneva

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