Speaking of marginalized and dominant discourses, the latter being (naturally) overwhelmingly present on Sunday, on Monday we got a presentation of a theater project which aims at giving a voice to those who were excluded from the national euphoria in the early ’90s.
There is a good chance that Nai Wen’s perspective as someone who came to Germany as an adult helped her to ask the questions and get the answers which the performance project she presented is based on. Working with techniques of the Theatre of the Oppressed, and Brechtian alienation effects, on the site of the well-established memorial site Bernauer Straße, her original project combines multiple dimensions of a de-colonial, subversive approach to history:
By generating a script from interviews with contemporary witnesses, people from the margins of German society are given the opportunity to speak out, and a sense of authenticity is generated.
By using the, sometimes graphic, overacting and alienation techniques, this sense is smashed to pieces, and the individual experience is generalized.
By acting on-site, starting off with the traditional format of a guided tour around an official memorial site, official discourse is at the same time challenged and interacted with.
By leaving it to visitors themselves to figure out who and what is part of the play, individual involvement is encouraged.
For me, this performance project stands out as an example of creative, dynamic, and engaging approaches to deal with history. Especially when dealing with people who are neither very fond of “traditional” ways of learning about history, e.g. books and museums, nor represented in official discourses, I imagine projects like this are potential “gateways” to generate interest in historic events in general.
Nai Wen’s presentation was, unfortunately, very disappointing. Some short clips, and then a workshop in Theatre of the Oppressed, or just more room for questions, might have allowed (me) a deeper understanding of her work, and prevented exhaustion!