Seestadt Aspern 2019

Die Stadt der Temperamente

A smart building in Wien Aspern accommodates four very different characters - conflict inevitable. Scenes from a smart neighbourhood, in a play written for Vienna Biennale 2019.

︎︎︎ collaborator: Mia Meusburger
︎︎︎commissioned by: wien 3420 / MAK Wien

What happens when houses become independent agents on the energy market? What goals do they pursue and how do they negotiate among each other? Can a house develop some sort of intuition? How does the behavior of their residents change as buildings increasingly network, listen and interfere?

Mia Meusburger and Johanna Pichlbauer wrote a play that enacts various positions on the smart city. Loosely based on Nestroy's farce "Das Haus der Temperamente", in which four families with different temperaments inhabit an apartment building, "Stadt der Temperamente" (City of Temperaments) tells the story of four inhabitants of a smart building in aspern Seestadt, who get caught up in conflicts due to their different habits and expectations about what it means to live “smart”. In four colours and on four floors, the designers play with the absurd, they charge artificial intelligence with passion, driving it to extremes and thus into the chaos of tomorrow’s smart togetherness. The play was performed on July 5 and 6 at the Flederhaus in Vienna Aspern, Seestadt, as part of the MAK Biennale 2019.

Building a new city part out of nowhere is a huge chance – to think about the ways inhabitants interact with their city and each other, to critically reflect on the effects new technology has on the quality of living, and to observe how people use, misuse and refuse smart home systems. In order to make the extensive research conducted by ASCR in Aspern publically accessible to a broader audience, we decided to wrap it in a story – a story that everybody could relate to, because we’ve all been through neighbourly troubles and have maybe even had a little crush on the new tenant on floor 1.

A plan was made: the people of Aspern shall get their own play, reflecting their neighbourhood and its unprecedented situation infused with the viennese wit and humor so vividly pictured by Viennese playwright Johann Nepomuk Nestroy. Like the troublemaker Nestroy 200 years ago, we gave our protagonists reasons to fight and to fall in love over, gave them character and flaws we often find in ourselves and we spent hours dressing up Flederhaus, using colour, light, props to transform it into a stage. The Flederhaus house proved to be the perfect setting – it allowed us to do just what Nestroy had become famous four: To divide the stage into four, each floor housing a different character and thus representing a different sentiment. And as the piece unfolds, and the livelihoods of our protagonists start to blend, a fifth protagonist starts to interfere: It’s the house itself, gaining consciousness...

The 4 Characters 

Achte ist’s, das Haus erwacht,
Prognosen sind bereits gemacht,
ein Graph, der über’n Tag verläuft,
Tabell’n, mit Daten überhäuft.
Und es erscheinen nacheinander:
Frau von Volt und Alexander
Braus, der Herr von Smart
und unten ganz
im Haus am See,
steht am Balkon Madame Privée.

Was wird an Strom der Wind heut bringen?
Was macht der Smart mit smarten Dingen?
Wer wird auf Technik ganz verzichten?
Wer wird den Automat vernichten?
Herr Braus in seinem Lampenfieber –
findt er sich gar im Dunkeln wieder?
Wer wird sich in wen verlieben?

Und diese Zahl, die 427.
Was will Fortuna uns da sagen?
Aspern steht vor lauter Fragen..

©Johanna Pichlbauer