From Physical Narration
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A collection of interesting Physical Narrative Examples

These might be inspirational, or act as warnings of things that work and do not.

APELAB Swiss Studio - IDNA

IDNA from APELAB is a concept that brings interactive storytelling to new heights by spatially engaging the user in the surroundings of their story.

Sebastian Errazuriz

His work - or especially this one (Wall Street City) is not directly connected with "story-telling". The reason why it ended up here, has to do with the fact, that I think, this work is a great deal in terms of "simplification", symbolism, semiotic message.

Photographer Niki Feijen

captures boarded-up buildings and decaying farm houses - "Freezing History"

More on Claes Oldenburg - Bed Ensemble

Claes Oldenburg realized the original Bedroom Ensemble for the exhibition

4 Environments by 4 New Realists taking place in 1964 at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York. The gallery rooms on New York’s 57th Street were vault-like in shape, and had been laid out with carpeting by the gallery owner to give potential buyers the feeling of the private residential atmosphere. Oldenburg wanted to present the "most private room in an apartment - the bedroom".

Even if Oldenburg's Bedroom Ensemble is a mere sculpture which can't be entered or explored - it still can be connected to our understanding of Physical Narratives

Here is an article (PDF) from the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt, which shows a replica of the Bedroom Ensemble, made in 1969.

Scene of the Crime - BOOK - Forensic Aesthetics

Collection / Reflections of 39 artists which do use - as Ralph Rugoff (author) calls it - "forensic aesthetic".

Scene of the Crime: Exhibition held at Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center / Ralph Rugoff (Editor), Anthony Vidler (Contributor), Peter Wollen (Contributor)

The book is not about works of art that simply document criminal acts. Rather, it is about a strain of art that presents the art object as a clue to absent meanings or actions. From seminal works by Ed Ruscha, Bruce Naumann, Barry Le Va, and David Hammons to recent works by Paul McCarthy, Sharon Lockhart, James Luna, and Anthony Hernandez, this art declares that it is about more than meets the eye, raising the suspicion that a significant segment of contemporary art is concerned with forensic strategies and demands an investigative approach.

  * Threads: 
      * parallels between criminalistics & art objects/installations
      * analysis of traces 
      * engaging the viewer in a process of mental reconstruction
      * Seven classic questions of any investigations: who, what, where, with what, why, how and when 
  * Artists of interest in terms of physical narratives:
      * Claes Oldenburg  "Bedroom Ensemble" 1963
      * Frances Glessner Lee: "Dark Bathroom" 1940s / "Three Room Dwelling" - from Nutshell Studies of unexplained  
Death - mixed media miniature dioramas

The Death of the Collector - Elmgreen and Dragset

Contribution to the Biennale 2009 by Elmgreen and Dragset for the Danish and Nordic Pavilion.

They set up the fictional lived - in space of an artcollector (they literally curated an exhibition of more than twenty artists and designers of all ages) in the Pavilion. Infront of the pavilion they established a swimming-pool in which the drowned / killed art-collector was floating.

artforum interview is here:

More works from Elmgreen & Dragset - who did a few more interesting "Physical Narrations" over the last few years are here (via one of their galleries):

Orhan Pamuk - Turkish Writer opens museum based on his Novel: "The Museum of Innocence / Masumiyet Müzesi

Years ago Orhan Pamuk conceived the novel and the physical staging of the novel together. The museums displays are organized according to the story line of the novel - 83 displays - according to the 83 chapters in the book.

While writing the book he collected more than a thousand artifacts that reflect the story, from a tricycle to dozens of ceramic dogs, from lottery tickets to news clippings of women with black lines drawn across their eyes (once standard in Turkish newspaper coverage of women connected to scandal).

NOTE: According to Alexander Glandien, who went to see the Museum while it was built, the exhibition-design team built an machine to automatically smoke the 4213 needed cigarettes

More details:


An interactive environment that combines the potential of musical theatre, film and computer game.
More details:

Mac Premo: The Dumpster Project

Autobiographical Physical Narrative of his stuff that he has to throw out. Stories of each piece, virtual tags give more information. Like a one person version of "Erzaehl uns Linz" with metadata.

Main link: A review: A video:

Sophie Call

Suggested by Marleen Wynants, based upon Call's work based upon working as a chambermaid in a hotel for a period of time, photographing and documenting the refuse of the rooms' inhabitants and building up some kind of photographic evidence of their story. This seems to be an ongoing theme in Call's work, collecting the leftovers of her own birthday, a telephone address book of an anonymous person and calling people within it, evidence of her own existence through a hired detective.

Working with real people, breaking down the dividing line between the public and the private spheres, is problematic.

Erzaehl uns Linz exhibition

March-August 2012 in Nordico, Linz. People are asked by a team of local curators to provide an object and the attached story about it that helps explain their attachment to Linz. A skull found by some kids in the 1950s, a Fremdenpass for someone born in Linz of non-Austrian parents, all sorts of bits.


Mike Nelson

Massive narrative installation from the UK Venice Biennale 2011:

Christof Büchel

Simply Botiful / Hauser & Wirth Coppermill 2007:!

Janet Cardiff and George Miller

Feldmann - Handbags and the stories they tell

The London Serpentine gallery retrospective of Hans-Peter Feldmann, known for his use of collected objects and humour, includes the contents of women's handbags. A collection of handbags. These ones are real, bought directly from women. Thus no narrative construction, but the interpretation of a given narrative moment.

Justin Lowe & Jonah Freeman


Theatrical depiction of social/historical environments. In this special case a ramshackled meth-lab as walk-through / labyrinthine assemblage of rooms, hallways, closets and observation platforms. In their PR-text they refer to dioramas of the Natural History or the period rooms of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Project description and images:

Article in the NY-Times:

Terra Nova by CREW

Electronic and digital media are the driving force for this narrative journey to the terrain of neurological research. “Terra Nova”, CREW’s most ambitious project to date, is a blend of theatre performance, installation, visual challenge and virtual adventure.

Sam Gosling - A Room With A Cue

Besides his Book 'Snoop' the paper "A room with a cue" is interesting regarding Physical Narration.

The Unknown Room by LE GUN

The exhibition consists of a room-inside-a-room, full of humorous curiosities and paintings of other, even stranger rooms.

Theatrical leanings

There are many theatrical connections that seem relevant.

Punch Drunk "Sleep No More"

A hotel that plays Macbeth. the Third version in NYC has been a hit, running for a year. Reports of people getting lost in the physicality, not actually watching the piece but getting stuck into the props, the staging, the diary entries and suchlike. [| negative] review

"You Me Bum Bum Train"

Immersice theatre, audience has a solo experience pulled through a series of events that are "in your face" and require a lot of audience compliance. a [| review] is not so positive.

Semna (?) Danish Theatre Group

Building spaces in which stories hapopen, the audience as part. Graz 2008 "Psytriatric Clinic" demanded too much from the audience - they tried to work the audience with alcohol and to get them more actively involved, but one needs a storyline upon which to hang such an experience.

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