Big Brother

The video camera pans the pristine interior of an apartment, moving left to right, from a sparsely furnished bedroom to the living room, well-appointed with striped wallpaper and a floor to ceiling window, and then to the eat-in kitchen, humble in appearance. The camera stops and focuses on the kitchen door. After a bit, the door creaks open; we surreptitiously watch the first houseguest to arrive. He peeks his head in. He enters and reaches up to turn on the light, and wanders around the windowless kitchen, examines the table that’s been set for two, looks under the sink as if to check for a leak. He continues through the other rooms, apparently finding them oppressive. Only two and half minutes into the filming, he’s already climbing the walls. The doorbell rings heralding the entrance of another guest. And then another, and another. One of the guests is clearly a bully, a little dictator. He goes after the latest guest, chases him round and round, making him jump, making him holler. Perhaps they’re related; they look alike. Nighttime seems to make all the guests more restive. The two are wrestling again; they knock over a large potted plant and several pieces of furniture. Day follows night, night follows day, in rapid succession. The houseguests now barely pay attention to one another; they’re too busy tearing the place apart. We can hear thunder, the sound of rain pouring, and then the distant roar of a rushing engine. The apartment is dark save for one lamplight; it’s in an apocalyptic state.

This, however, isn’t some bad reality show. The characters on the screen are not contestants looking to win money but are four male mice staking out their territory, looking for food. At closer inspection, we suddenly realize the tabletop and the sofa are made out of toast, the chairs and the shelves are crackers and waffles, the desk is a chocolate-covered wafer, and the rug in the bedroom is a thin slice of bread. In fact the entire apartment seems to be edible, including the walls. The apartment is cleverly miniature in size; we’re told it was designed after an actual apartment, and according to scale 1:10—a palace for mice.

Mouse Palace is a short film, ten minutes and twenty seconds long,[1] from the Austrian video artists/filmmakers Harald Hund and Paul Horn. It is the latest work in their series they call “Living Space,” in which they joyfully explore human existence by ironically “reducing our ideas of space.” [2]


[1] Image: Still from Mouse Palace (2010). To view the film:

[2] Genoveva Rücker, Curator, OK (Offenes Kulturhaus) Centre for Contemporary Art, Linz, Austria.

Other sources: “Mouse Palace,” Kleine Zeitung, September 10, 2010; Knoll Galerie Wien.

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