Amazing Places

How Do You Watch a Show on a 30-Kilometer Stage?

Imagine you're riding a train across the German countryside. You look out the window and see gently rolling hills, bucolic stretches of farmland, and an elderly couple taking a lazy boat ride on the little river. Ahh. It's nothing too exciting, but it sure is peaceful – wait, is that a great white shark attacking the boat? And why are all the bushes running? You've just stumbled into Bewegtes Land.

A promotional image from Bewegtes Land.

The Moving Land

For one weekend in 2017, university professors and media artists Jörn Hintzer and Jacob Hüfner brought something strange and wonderful to life. Bewegtes Land — "Moving Land" in English — unfurled over 30 kilometers (19 miles) of rural land, blurring the line between fantasy and reality.

Train riders watched as a hunter ran across a field, chased by his galloping tree stand. They saw a farmer accidentally strike a geyser in the middle of his field. They passed by a surreal vignette of people standing on various heights of ladders so that they can look straight ahead into the train windows.

In one of the most elaborate scenes, a runner races the train from one station to the next — and wins. You can tell Rocco from the rest because of his flashy blue-and-yellow outfit and his mane of glam-rock hair, and as the train chugs along passengers can watch him pop in and out of small tunnels along the way. It's just one of the many ways the project made a mundane train ride magical.

Bringing People Together

Entertaining train passengers wasn't Bewegtes Land's only goal. It took a lot of performers to pull off the stunt and those performers came from the actual towns the train passed by. The 400 participants got to meet their next door neighbors (or at least see them in a whole new light). The Rocco stunt, in particular, took a whole town's effort. The town responsible, Dornburg-Camburg, tasked 25 residents to don Rocco costumes and play the part of the cartoonish speedster. The rest of the residents played cheering onlookers — but almost everybody participated. This is one public art trend we'd love to see popping up elsewhere!

Bewegtes Land

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Written by Reuben Westmaas November 16, 2017