In early-1930s Berlin, production began for a film telling the story of a writer’s shocking encounters at an unconventional cabaret; the film was never finished due to political turmoil and economic crisis, but its director had the foresight to save storyboards, scripts, and completed footage in a crate, in hopes of its future completion. In 2011 the materials were uncovered in an archive in Siberia, then sent to Poland where Alaska-born, Berlin-based artist Reynold Reynolds found them. After a year-long restoration of the materials, Reynolds was able to recreate and complete the story in a compelling installation titled The Lost. A seven-channel, seven-screen looping film, The Lost is an immersive experience in which the viewer is called to piece together and interpret its narrative. Visitors to West Den Haag’s presentation at ARCOmadrid this year will have the opportunity to experience The Lost, which was only recently finished and premiered in Den Haag last fall.
Broken up into seven different loops, The Lost follows protagonist Christopher, who recently moved to a cabaret establishment in Berlin; the character is based on American writer Christopher Isherwood, who lived in Berlin in the 1930s and wrote the stories that inspired the Broadway musical Cabaret. The proprietor, a strange elderly gentleman, takes in young female dancers and actresses to live and work there; in the building’s basement these women are subjected to mysterious scientific experiments. Townspeople and local officials become concerned with the cabaret’s activities and Christopher finds himself amid turmoil. The Lost blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, while also alluding to the political unrest in Germany on the eve of the Nazi regime.
Reynolds requires viewers to determine the film’s significance as they walk through the installation and view all seven screens; “the heart of the matter is what really exists and what’s true,” he explains. While his work is often characterized by a dark tone and concerned with transformation, in this case he adeptly transports the viewer back in time, emulating the 1930s German original’s stylistic elements, from imagery to actresses to the score, while presenting it in such a way as to attract contemporary viewers.
The Lost is on view at West Den Haag, ARCOmadrid, Booth 9G03, Feb. 19th–23rd, 2014.