Friday, 5 November 2010, 24:00 | midnight

#18: Antje Majewski

Antje Majewski presents:

Dekonditionierung, 2008, 60 min
with: Peter Kern, Melanie Kretschmann, Julia Majewski, Ingo Niermann, Alexander Weise, Juliane Solmsdorf. Production: Bettina Schoeller / depoetica.

“I always find the unexpected: those moments are the best – did you catch them? Don’t waste it!“ Cosey Fanny Tutti, Heathen Earth

Art is a game of the possible. Anyone can always change his decisions, all can be seen, represented, told in a different way, and this game has no serious consequences at first. This allows one to try out experiments with a radical approach that could spell disaster in real life.

Dekonditionierung is inspired by experiments of the dance and art commune Exploding Galaxy / Transmedia Explorations. One of the members in 1969 was Genesis P-Orridge (later Throbbing Gristle). They tried to decondition the personalities of their members by changing personalities, clothes, tasks and places to sleep every day. This unfortunately led to personality disorders in some members.

Dekonditionierung doesn’t try to decondition the personalities of its actors, but our assumptions about human behaviour and communication. On five subsequent days, the actors were given rules of communication: Politeness, Power, Human Animal, Psychosis and Closeness. Every day the behaviour towards the group and oneself changed. The borders between play and “real life“ were fluid – one person could really hurt the other or eat real spiders that were too small to be seen in the film. Who are we seeing? When the rules change, does the personality remain the same? Some of the participants are professional actors, others not, but all were asked not to play a role, but to “be themselves” under changing rules. The script told them how to communicate (or fail to communicate), but not what about. All content was left to the improvisation of the actors, who were also free to decide when to leave the room and the play. Each day they found themselves in a different room, with different mood, furniture and props, which were connected to the rule of the day. All rooms and the spacious park belong to Atelier Ost, an old villa northeast of Berlin that is entirely surrounded by the Berlin wall.

Politeness is based on the consensus about the borders of what to do and say, which you have to respect if you don’t want to hurt or annoy the other. Is it polite to change shoes in public? Does it cross a line if you ask the other about last night’s orgasm? And is it polite to say nothing at all?

Psychosis makes communication very difficult. Everything the other says will be misinterpreted, it all seems hostile. Everybody sees and lives in a different world in which their own obsessive imaginations can only partly be shared and understood by the others.

Human Animals have grown up without human company. They haven’t learned how to behave towards others, can’t talk or walk on two legs. They are aggressive toward one other, try to take things away, and finally rub their heads against each other.

Power is about installing and pointing out hierarchies. The actors have by now spent four days together and personal aversions become part of the play, with the will to hurt. One gets screwed, another hypnotized. The mighty takes all the space, but in the end his money is abstracted from his pocket.

Closeness finally shows the mighty as a lonely person, asking for love and at the same time rejecting any approach. Two others change their clothes, imitate each other, bind themselves together with colourful ribbons. What is closeness? Is the lonely one close to the spectators? “Closeness? What is that?”

A twelve-year-old girl is playing her own games next to this group of grown-ups – childlike preparations for adult life include cooking a make-believe soup or building a house. She lives in a self-contained present.

The play was filmed in real time by two cameras. The editing condenses the improvisations, which took between one and two and a half hours, into stories. Antje Majewski


Antje Majewski (b. 1968 in Marl, Germany) lives and works in Berlin. From 1986 to 19992 she studied art history, history and philosophy in Cologne, Florence and Berlin. Majewski works with painting, video, and performance, often in collaborative contexts. Her works are based on anthro­pological questions, which she refers to concrete cultural and historical situations. From 1991 numerous solo exhibitions such as „My very gestures“, Salzburger Kunstverein (2008), „The World of Gimel“, Kunsthaus Graz (2011). Majewski is professor for Fine Arts at Muthesius Kunsthochschule Kiel, Germany.

Antje Majewski’s web site: