Over the course of six weeks and with a cast of hundreds, a Belgian theater company seized control of over six miles of streets in the city of Mons to stage surreal spectacles including flying kayakers, crowds of angels, and a taxidermy deer transforming into a donkey. The resulting work, Mons Street Review, is an online experience sourced from these performances, all captured with a 360-degree camera riffing on the style of Google Street View.
Mons is the 2015 European Capital of Culture, and Mons Street Review was launched in January. Created by Ludovic Nobileau with his Xtnt theatre, it references the city’s mining past, history that goes back to the Middle Ages, and its future as the location of a Google data center, while also celebrating public space. As Nobileau told Le Soir, it was important that they show the streets’ “democracy, that they’re for everyone.”
Xtnt specializes in playful but bold street interventions, such as bravely marching into the terrifying traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to create a human crosswalk so pedestrians didn’t have to take the underground passage. They had an almost obscene amount of fun with Mons Street Review, and as you click through the interface, narratives progress in which people in ghillie suits crawl through grass installed on La Rue Verte (“the Green Street”) or a deer appears in the night on the Rue de la Biche (“Doe Street”). All the materials are simple, whether flying feathers, a river made of bubbles for a boat, umbrellas opening and closing, or people holding up words on the street, but each digital step forward reveals something surprising and strange. The collapse of one of Mons’s marquee installations for its 2015 capital year — “The Passenger” by Arne Quinze” — has the kind of grandiose absurdity that actually would fit in perfectly with Xtnt’s hijinks.
This Belgian parody of Google’s ubiquitous online navigation tool is a little reminiscent of Jon Rafman using it to catalogue candid and really bizarre moments. Mons Street Review is intended as a portrait of the city, with a miner appearing amid the modern streets and Renaissance soldiers on the move. It’s also a delirious way of discovering a city through the strange scenes unfolding in its public spaces.
Access Mons Street Review online.
h/t Pop Up City
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.