The Architecture of Staged Realities opens in Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam on 4 September 2021. Entire generations have grown up with the norms, values and role models of Disney stories since the first full-length cartoon Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and the opening of the first Disneyland park in 1955. Disney’s imagination, according to him “the model from which reality is created”, enters living rooms even more easily with the rise of the Disney+ streaming service. But what are viewers and visitors allowed to see in this staged reality, and what don’t we see at first glance? How does Disney influence our self-image and the picture we have of our environment and of other people? With the exhibition The Architecture of Staged Realities, curator Saskia van Stein explores the current social and cultural impact of Walt Disney.
A complex sorcerer’s apprentice
Disney’s characters and fantasy worlds offer an escape from reality, but behind the seemingly innocent world of films, products, streaming services and theme parks lies a well thought out design. This design inevitably echoes the maker’s worldview, with all the limitations, blind spots and racist and sexist stereotypes that are part of it. In this constructed world, even Walt’s personal image was carefully built and maintained.The exhibition features work by artists and designers who were inspired by Disney in their own practice. It also looks at the influence of Disney's architecture on the design of the “real” built environment. In this interaction between Disney and the outside world, the complexity of the sorcerer’s apprentice and “father of the middle class” emerges.
Reflecting and subverting a fairytale feeling
In the scenography by Frédérique Albert-Bordenave and graphic identity by Irene Stracuzzi, the exhibition offers visitors an experience that simultaneously reflects and subverts a fairytale feeling. The exhibition features work by artists, designers and thinkers including Bas van Beek, Carlos Diniz, Benjamin Earl, Pete Fung, Oskar Johanson, Clara Lezla, Margit Lukács & Persijn Broersen, Lara Schrijver, Ghita Skali, Helmut Smits, Studio Ossidiana, Pilvi Takala, Simon Wald-Lasowski en Kem Weber.
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Pilvi Takala: Real Snow White (still), 2009. Courtesy of Carlos/Ishikawa, Stigter Van Doesburg and Helsinki Contemporary.
Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács: Mastering Bambi, full-HD video, 2010. Courtesy of Akinci.