Claudia Bosse

Claudia Bosse © Julia Stix
Claudia Bosse © Julia Stix
Claudia Bosse © Julia Stix

Claudia Bosse was born in Salzgitter-Bad in 1969 and studied directing at the "Ernst Busch" School of Dramatic Arts in Berlin. In 1996, she joined forces with Dominik Duchnik, Heike Müller and Silke Rosenthal in Berlin and founded the "theatercombinat" performance collective, which ever since has been creating experimental productions that combine installation, performance, choreography and theoretical discourse. Claudia Bosse has meanwhile established herself as the artistic director of the "theatercombinat", which has been based in Vienna since 1999 and works with alternating constellations of people, including Josef Szeiler, Christine Standfest, Doris Uhlich and Gerald Singer.

Claudia Bosse’s works, which are often staged in unusual venues, have been coproduced by theatres such as Kampnagel Hamburg, FFT Düsseldorf and the Théâtre du Grütli Geneva, by festivals like Theater der Welt and Theaterformen Braunschweig, and by museums like the Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art (MAK) in Vienna. Claudia Bosse has brought out detailed publications to accompany many of her productions. Her production of Elfriede Jelinek’s "bambiland", the last in a four-part series entitled "tragödienproduzenten" (i.e. producers of tragedy), won the Nestroy Award of the City of Vienna in 2009 for best off-production.
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Claudia Bosse: Portrait

Anyone wishing to settle back comfortably in their theatre seat and enjoy a piece of intellectual middle class drama has come to the wrong place if the play in question is the work of the director – or should one perhaps say spatial choreographer? – Claudia Bosse. Even the terms used to explain the mission of the "theatercombinat" performance collective which she helped found in 1996 and still runs today are indicative of a quite different direction: "research work", "experimental set-up", "theatrical research" or "theatrical process" – it is not a question of beauty here, but of insight, experience and performative knowledge production.

Accordingly, Claudia Bosse literally drags the spectator out of the passivity of his or her theatre seat: in the scenic experiments which the Vienna-based and Berlin-trained artist has been setting in motion for a good decade now, the audience is at all times exhorted to discover their own individual perspective on her work. Claudia Bosse’s audiences are always actors too: they are an integral part of her installations and change the theatrical spaces and processes no matter what is required of them: whether they have to find their way through the rooms in which the "theatercombinat" is performing, which could be an abattoir, a half-finished building or an industrial ruin; whether they have been invited to take part in a public sleep-in like at the "SCHLAFgegen düsseldorf" (i.e. SLEEPagainst Düsseldorf) at the Theater der Welt festival in 2002; whether they find themselves in the limelight up on stage while the actors sit in the stalls, like at the beginning of the Hamburg performance of Heiner Müller’s "Mauser" in 2004; whether as one of just three "observers" they receive a glance reserved exclusively for themselves as was the case in the 2005 Viennese adaptation of Heiner Müller’s "où est donc le tableau"; or whether they find themselves surrounded, outwardly indistinguishable, by huge civic choirs, as in the "Perser" (i.e. Persians) productions in Geneva and Brunswick in 2006 and 2008.

"The beauty of these arrangements involving reciprocal observation is that one also gets to see the audience’s fear", Claudia Bosse once said in an interview: "One sees everyone’s fear." Yet it would be oversimplifying to suppose that the aim of her work is to generate this fear. It is more about researching this fear. In more general terms, the "theatercombinat" is dedicated to researching quite fundamental components of the theatrical. Key questions might be the following: what do spaces do with people, and how does a (mass) choreography structure a particular space? How does the onset of a staged event change reality, and what happens in the reverse situation? What does language and what do particular spoken texts do to a body?

No effort is too great for Claudia Bosse and her colleagues when it comes to finding answers to these and other questions. The preliminary preparations and rehearsals for projects like the 36-hour performance "massakermykene" (i.e. massacre mycenae, in the former St. Marx abattoir in Vienna in 2000) or "anatomie sade/wittgenstein" (i.e. anatomy sade/wittgenstein, Vienna 2002) lasted nearly two years in each case. Claudia Bosse believes it is important that the results do not become a foregone conclusion on account of a finished production concept but that during the work process the linguistic and spatial circumstances inscribe themselves, as it were, into the performance and scenic installation. In "anatomie sade/wittgenstein", for example, she was keen for the audience to recognize "how these texts [by Sade and Wittgenstein] leave their mark on the various physiognomies and anatomies or disappear behind the muscular and social engravings of the body in question". Critical comments were therefore inevitable, questioning whether the uninitiated would also be able to tell from the aesthetic result that such high standards and excessive preparation had been invested. At the same time, however, the radical nature of her work won Claudia Bosse the greatest respect among critics and theatre experts.

In recent years, Claudia Bosse has moved away from work that is primarily choreographic and installation-based and returned to what are essentially traditionally text-based productions. In her "tragödienproduzenten" series she worked on tragedies from four epochs: the antiquity, Renaissance, baroque and modern eras. In the way she appropriates them, however, Claudia Bosse remained true to herself: in Aeschylus’ "The Persians", for instance, the alien rhythm of the original work literally took possession of the 164 and 300 choir members (in Geneva and Brunswick respectively), who at the same time, purely on account of their mass, were able at will to narrow or open up the stage area which they shared with the less numerous audience. In another setting, the director created what she called city interventions, filling various public areas with the sound of Elfriede Jelinek’s "Bambiland" while a silent moving choir added a physical presence to the spoken event.

In 2009, Claudia Bosse won the Nestroy Award of the City of Vienna for "Bambiland". Of course, she is a long way from entering the mainstream with such works, and it is unlikely that one can expect a comfortable theatre seat from her in the future either.

Wolfgang Behrens

Claudia Bosse: Productions (Selection)

(all productions with the theatercombinat)

"designed desires"
2012, Zollamtskantine (i.e. " Canteen of the custom office"), Vienna

"dominant powers. what is to be done then ?"
2011, theatercominat, Vienna

"the tears of stalin"
a three-part urban intervention
2011, within the frame of the Quadriennale, Prague

"vampires of the 21st century oder was also tun?" (i.e."vampires of the 21st century or what to do else?")
2010, Forum Freies Theater, Dusseldorf, Kartographisches Institut, Vienna

“2481 desaster zone”
2009, former Ankerbrotfabrik , Vienna

Elfriede Jelinek “Bambiland”
2008, was staged in different places in Vienna

Aischylos “The Persians”
2008, Festival Theaterformen Braunschweig

Racine/Seneca “ Phèdre”
2008, Maison de Faubourg Genf

William Shakespeare “Coriolan”
2007, thepalace, Wien

Aischylos “Les perses”
2006, Théâtre du Grütli Genf

After  Heiner Müller and Michel Foucault “Où est donc le tableau ?”
2005, Nestroysäle, Vienna

Heiner Müller “Mauser”
2003/04, Nationaltheater Montenegro/Kampnagel Hamburg

“anatomie sade/wittgenstein”
2002, was staged in several places in Vienna

“SCHLAFgegen düsseldorf” (i.e. “Sleep against Dusseldorf“)
2002, Forum Freies Theater  Düsseldorf/Theater der Welt, Dusseldorf

After  Aischylos und Bertolt Brecht “massakermykene”
2000, Stockyard St. Marx Wien

Bertolt Brecht “fatzer-fragment”
1998, Théâtre du Grütli Genf

Sylviane Dupuis “Moi, Maude ou la malvivante”
1996/97, Théâtre du Grütli Genf/Podewil Berlin