Bodies of Crisis: The German Wende remembered
A practice-as-research project developed by Maria Hetzer

Video: Performance trailer
Production: Live Performance on 19 September, 2012
Production: Millburn House | University of Warwick

The practice-based project was conducted between 2010 and 2015 and included a range of research methods and diverse research outcomes, amongst them five live performances in the UK and Germany, an object exhibition, multiple research and performance presentations at home and abroad, as well as an extended written commentary (PhD thesis).
The study centred on the performance of embodied memory and identity in relation to the German memory discourses of 1989 and their failure to account for the everyday as experienced by non-famous citizens. It also traced the industry of forgetting in relation to the body that is part and parcel of many historiographical research.
At its heart, the project undertook research into the experience of everyday live in times of severe collective crisis. The experiences of women from the GDR after the fall of the Berlin wall were gathered with a specific focus on embodied quotidian practices. The interview material was filtered, extended, and translated in a performance environment. Creative practitioners based in the UK, but from a variety of cultural contexts, experimented on the potential and limits to translating crisis experience across time and space. Using somatic-based artistic practice, e.g. dance, movement improvisation, endurance art, the specific potential of envisioning translation as performance through the creation of 'bodies of alliance' (Butler) involving all participants in the research process, was traced and highlighted. The transformational power of working with embodied historical experience – as a reflective tool for current concerns on the level of the somatic as well as the cognitive – is outlined. Evidence is provided for the ability to transgress traditional divides alongside past/present, body/mind, and same/other. The resulting model for translating experience transculturally using performance offers itself to be applied in other areas of social conflict.

The PhD project was jointly supervised by
Nicolas Whybrow, School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies, and
Seán Allan, School of Modern Languages (German), University of Warwick.

It was jointly funded by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung (Germany) through their doctoral funding programme and a Warwick Postgraduate Research Scholarship (WPRS), now called Chancellor's Scholarship. An initial producer grant by the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning at the University of Warwick enabled the creation of a prototype for the project, developing research method and performance approach.

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