Hotel Modern is a Dutch theater collective that for more than twenty years have been presenting their unique brand of visual storytelling to international audiences. The group, which consists of Herman Helle, Pauline Kalker and Arlene Hoornweg, combine miniature sets with videography and music to create a haunting and engaging visual and theatrical experience.
The group‘s production of KAMP, which chronicles daily life in a German concentration camp, was presented recently at REDCAT in Los Angeles. The miniaturized set, which faithfully recreates the stark conditions of the camp and its inhabitants, is a powerfully evocative reminder of the suffering of the victims of the Holocaust. Pauline Kalker’s own grandfather was one such victim, and the production is, in many ways, a memorial to him and the millions of others who were murdered by the Nazi death machine.
The multi-media format of the production is itself theatrically and visually compelling. The three members of the group move wordlessly around the set, manipulating tiny puppets to create scenes that are then projected via a tiny camera onto a screen above the set. The audience is able to observe not only the scene as it is projected above, but also the intricate work of the human actors as they delicately stage scenes of horror.
The puppets themselves — barely mobile figures that are more reminiscent of clay animation puppets — are initially presented as a mass of humanity, faceless victims in a Grand Guignol tragedy. However, as the performance progresses, the individuality of these inmates is slowly revealed — a child here, an old man there, over there a starving, crippled man. The German guards, however, remain anonymous, plodding workers in their labor of genocide.
The philosopher Hannah Arendt referred to the “banality of evil” in describing the Nazi murderers like Adolph Eichmann, and Hotel Modern’s portrayal of a day in the life of a concentration camp vividly illustrates that concept. We see one of the inmates engaged in a grindingly mundane task of sweeping the dusty ground, a chore that is briefly interrupted by the hanging of several inmates. . .
To read the rest of Hilsman’s review, go to Riot Material magazine: https://www.riotmaterial.com/hotel-modern-kamp/
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