From Saturday 29 April, Kunsthal Rotterdam will be presenting some of the best-known projects by Haus-Rucker-Co, an exuberant and rebellious Vienna-based collective of architects and artists. The exhibition Mind Expanders features a selection of works made between 1967 and 1972, a period during which the collective developed its most distinctive and innovative architectural projects. Central to their work, which is still very topical today, were imagination, experimentation, and breaking with conventions. The exhibition includes works like Balloon for 2, a transparent PVC membrane inflated into a large air bubble, Environmental Transformers, and Mind Expander II, as well as films such as Yellow Heart, and Food City I, showing the construction of an edible urban scale model. The highlight of the exhibition will be the interactive, legendary installation Giant Billiard (1970), which will be shown in the Netherlands for the very first time.

This evocative installation can be accessed by anyone taller than 120 cm and will occupy most of HALL 2. Visitors are expressly invited to play, bounce, climb, and dance on this white air cushion measuring 14 by 14 metres, and with three giant vinyl inflatable balls on top. On its bouncy surface, visitors will become part of a completely deregulated environment without fixed rules or social conventions. A ball with a three-metre diameter may come rolling towards you at a high speed. So what will you do? Will you jump to save your life, allow yourself to be knocked over, or pass the ball to someone else? The game being played enabled Haus-Rucker-Co to explore how our physical environment effects the ways in which we interact with each other.

Mind-expanding happenings

Founded in 1967, the initiators behind Haus-Rucker-Co are the architects Laurids Ortner and Günter Zamp Kelp, and the artist Klaus Pinter, joined by Manfred Ortner in 1972. During the 1960s, – a time of many major changes in society, just like today – Haus-Rucker-Co reacted to the growing sense of alienation in our consumer society, as well as to increasing urbanisation and air pollution. The collective aimed to challenge perceptions of space, break down hierarchies of power, and create utopian urban spaces with lots of clean air and a strong sense of community. Often staged as ‘happenings’, their projects preferably had a mind-expanding effect while breaking through conventional patterns of thought. Whenever our usual perception of physical reality is disrupted, we become more acutely aware of our environment, and exactly that was the driving force behind the work of Haus-Rucker-Co. For their performance Food City I (1971) they invited a crowd of civilians to devour an edible urban landscape. They also created transparent bubbles such as Balloon for 2 (1967), in which two people could balance on the facade of a tall building. And their futuristic Mind Expanders enabled the wearers of these masks to view our world in entirely new colours and shapes.

Everything is architecture

Especially for the exhibition, designer Yvo Zijlstra joined forces with cameraman Henk Leurink and sound artist Charly van Rest to create the video work HRC Environment Transformer Simulator (2023) for which he manipulated film images of the Kunsthal’s immediate surroundings. By now the bubbles and helmets created by Haus-Rucker-Co have become too fragile for visitors to enter or wear, but with the help of filters, imaging software and soundscapes we are attempting to give the visitors a good impression of the unsettling, psychedelic effects of their projects. Apart from that, the exhibition also includes original visual and film material that shows how Haus-Rucker-Co stimulated and manipulated the optical and acoustic perception of the mediums they used for their works. A matrass, helmet, plastic bubble, or food: to Haus-Rucker-Co everything is architecture!