Family to Nation

Participatory performance, in collaboration with artist Olivia Plender
Berlin, Germany

An adapted family drama

Family to Nation is a role-playing game that addresses social power structures.

This performance – organized as a kind of role playing game with a group of participants – examines power relations and how different forms of authority undermine the ‘family’ and the ‘nation’ by using a series of short plays inspired by the techniques of pedagogue Paulo Freire and dramatist Agusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed.

The forty-two audience members who are present become the characters of a family drama by referring to instructions given to them by the artists. Each short scene is performed in a fictional kitchen, living room, bedroom and garden. The scenarios explore comic drama storylines, such as when a conservative family is put to the test by the arrival of an immigrant au pair. The plays create opportunities to reflect on the relationship between fiction and reality, group behaviors, and conflict resolution skills.

In collaboration with the audience participants, the performance also includes participation from a psychologist (Dr. Roman Snihurowych, Charité Hospital) and a sociologist (Prof. Gökçe Yurdakul, Humboldt University), both of whom analyze and modify the individual scenes. Kim Einarsson (director, Konsthall C) moderates the discussions that follow the performance, during which the participants/performers are asked to reflect on their experiences during the role-playing game experiment. Performers and moderators are encouraged to discuss topics including the role of the audience in performance, the modalities of participation, and the possible social function(s) of art.




A publication documenting the performance, as well as 5 other events on performance lectures, is available from argobooks (Berlin, Germany, 2011), edited by Ellen Blumenstein and Fiona Geuss. Contributors: Ulf Aminde, Eric de Bryn, Helmut Draxler, Felix Ensslin, Christoph Gurk, Dorothea von Hantelmann, Clemens Krümmel, Solvej Helweg Ovesen, Dieter Roelstraete.

Title: Perform a Lecture!
Publisher: argobooks
Designer: Jung und Wenig
52 pages
21cm × 27.50 cm
Format: Softcover
ISBN-13: 978-3-942700-20-7

Available here

(“What is Lecture Performance? An Introduction to an Extended Investigation” by Ellen Blumenstein)

The most experimental project in format was Olivia Plender and Romeo Gongora’s role-play Family to Nation. While the event was announced as a performance, it was actually the audience members who, together with the artists and the organizers, became the performers. In a hybrid between a psychological family drama and an exercise of group behavior techniques of the Brazilian reformist pedagogue Paulo Freire, the participants were to “examine with a group of participants existing power relations, forms of authority and what they undermine, in both the ‘family’ and the ‘nation.’” The setup at the multifunctional theater space at .HBC involved the curator Kim Einarsson, who took the role of the mediator of the evening, and a sociologist and psychologist who intervened into the dynamics and conflicts within the group. Right from the beginning, the participants were split up into five “families” and assigned their roles as respective family members. The evening evolved out of a script of four successive scenes, the laid out problems mostly revolving around traditional family models and exploitative support structures (like hiring an au pair for child care). What was intended as a side topic of the inquiry, namely to explore “the role of the audience in performance, the activation of the viewer, and the possible social function of art,” became much more of an issue than the forthright political themes – although this happened after the performance rather than during its course. Surprisingly, the transformation of the viewer into a participant didn’t activate any resistance amongst the group at first; everybody (including us, the organizers) … READ MORE


Family to Nation was presented at the .HBC (Berlin, DE) on November 10, 2010, 7-10 pm. The project was part of Perform a Lecture! a series of 6 events on performance lectures curated by Ellen Blumenstein and Fiona Geuss with the support of the Capital Cultural Fund.

Family to Nation (2010), an adapted family drama

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