Family to Nation

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

An adapted family drama

Family to Nation was a role-playing game, produced in collaboration with artist Olivia Plender, that addressed social power structures.

The intention was to examine, with a group of participants, power relations and forms of authority using a series of short plays inspired by the group behavior techniques of pedagogue Paulo Freire and Agosto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed. The forty-two audience members became the performers in a fictional kitchen, living room, bedroom and garden.

The event also involved a psychologist (Dr. Roman Snihurowych, Charité Hospital) and a sociologist (Prof. Gökçe Yurdakul, Humboldt University) who analyzed and modified the scenes in collaboration with the participants. The discussions were moderated by Kim Einarsson (director, Konsthall C). All group members were then asked to reflect on their experiences and the role they had taken in the experiment. On the agenda were also more general issues like the role of the audience in performance, the activation of the viewer, and the possible social function of art.


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


Perform a Lecture! 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.

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

Available here


Family to Nation was presented at the .Hbc (Berlin, DE) on November 10 2010, 7pm. The project is 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 Culture Fund.

Family to Nation (2010), an adapted family drama

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Catalogue
  3. Credits