House Without a Door
June 28, 2008

On June 28th, 2008 High Desert Test Sites presented a film by London based artist Bernd Behr, titled House Without a Door. The weekend included a Saturday afternoon panel discussion, followed by dinner at the Palms in Wonder Valley, and then an evening screening of the film in the most remote test site on Iron Age Road.

Produced during a Center for Land Use Interpretation residency in Wendover, Utah, Bernd Behr's House Without a Door explores the relationship between film and architecture, linking a U.S. military test structure with references to 1920s German expressionist film.

In 1943 the U.S. military commissioned émigré architect Erich Mendelsohn and Hollywood studio R.K.O. to design and build a replica Berlin housing estate in the Utah desert to test incendiary bombs eventually deployed in the air raids on Dresden and Berlin. Behr's interest lies in the performative nature of the building, embodied in its cultural/geographical displacement and its function of repeatedly performing its own destruction.

Borrowing its title from the early expressionist film House Without a Door (1914), which has no surviving print, Behr's work fictionalizes the now inaccessible interior of this building through a set of references to 1920s German expressionist films, including Faust (F.W. Murnau, 1926) and Dr. Mabuse (F. Lang, 1922). These references reflect Mendelsohn's own relation to expressionist theater, Weimar filmmakers, and the proximity of the test site to an actual village in Utah called 'Faust'.

House Without a Door was shown as a large-scale outdoor screening with a specially commissioned soundtrack by Marcus Fjellström. It was supported by the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the University of Gloucestershire, England, and through a Film London Artists' Film and Video Award. The work was previously exhibited at the Chisenhale Gallery, London, 2006, and e-raum, Cologne, 2007. This presentation was supported by British Council and deciBel.


Schedule of Events

Bernd Behr: Expressionist Military Film Sets Test Site
Bernd Behr introduces his project House Without a Door with an illustrated talk tracing an associative history of film architecture linked to a replica Berlin housing tract built in 1943 on a U.S. military test site. (Palms)

Cornelius Schnauber: Homes and Haunts of Exile Hollywood
Los Angeles-based novelist, playwright, and director of the Max Kade Institute at USC, Cornelius Schnauber presents an illustrated tour of the houses and buildings once inhabited and frequented by European exiles in 1930s Los Angeles. (Palms)

Dinner at the Palms

Live music by Dean Chamberlain at the Palms

Film Screening of House Without a Door at Iron Age Road

After party (at the site) with music by Chad Brown

Special thanks to Chris Veit and Douglas Armour for facilitating PR and logistics, Jenny Nichols for her amazing hand silk screened posters, and to the Palms for their unflagging hospitality.