Ligna

© LIGNA
© LIGNA
© LIGNA


Established in 1997, LIGNA is a group comprising the media theorists, radio, theatre and performance artists Ole Frahm, Michael Hueners and Torsten Michaelsen.

In shows, performative interventions and installations, they explore the potential for action on the part of collectives that form diffuse and temporary associations. The preferred venue for their interventions is the increasingly controlled public domain, for which they devised the radio ballet genre: a choreography of forbidden and excluded gestures is broadcast on the radio; the listeners bring them back en masse and in uncontrollable fashion. Wählt die Signale - Ein Radiokonzert für 144 Mobiltelefone (i.e. Dial the Signals – A Radio Concert for 144 Mobile Phones), on the other hand, engages the radio listeners in a collective twelve-hour music composition, while a play entitled Der Neue Mensch (i.e. The New Man) exhorts the audience to take over the stage in a complex gestural interaction and to question the theatre as a place of representation.

The group’s works have won many international prizes.
Related links

Ligna: Portrait

They have already worked together for a long time, initially in radio – at the Freies Sender Kombinat in Hamburg, to be precise. Within this framework, Ole Frahm, Michael Hueners and Torsten Michaelsen experiment time and time again with new forms of this medium. The fundamental basis for their later work as the performance group LIGNA is Brecht’s radio theory from the late 1920s in which, in a collection of different texts, Bertolt Brecht explores the mass medium of radio, which at the time was still in its infancy, and appeals for the medium to be changed from an “apparatus of distribution to an apparatus of communication”. Radio should in his view not only broadcast but also receive. The listener should adopt the role of broadcaster and become actively involved, as this is the only way for the medium to be used in a genuinely democratic manner and for the reviewer to become the producer.

Railway ballet

The performance artists are intent on “researching the reception situation as a source for production”. An example of this is the “radio ballet” which they staged for the first time in 2002. At Hamburg’s main railway station, hundreds of people gathered, equipped with portable radios and headphones. Mobilization of the group had been organized using several internal mailing lists, though of course anyone who had tuned his radio to the FSK frequency could take part in the performance. The participants were politely requested to perform certain gestures – to sit down on the platform, for instance, to reach out their hand in a begging gesture, or to take off their shoes. The instructions were given via the headphones – out of the ether, as it were. This made it possible not only to roughly synchronize the actions of the participants, but also for them to take increasing ownership of the public space. The fact that the central theme of this work was the privatization of public space was so controversial that the German rail operator Deutsche Bahn had initially obtained a court order to ban the event from taking place. The central bone of contention was the fact that the action, which had not been announced to Deutsche Bahn yet had unintentionally been made public in advance, was seen as a “third-party gathering in the public domain of a railway station”. The legal dispute passed through two instances in which LIGNA argued that the “radio ballet” – unlike a gathering – was a collective form of dispersion, and won the right to proceed.

The game is on

“We ourselves try to remain invisible”, is how the artists describe their role during the performances. They devise the concepts and texts, create the framework and the playing field – be it a theatre stage or the urban public domain – and then hand over the situation to the visitors, giving them the responsibility. Then the game is on, with all its uncontrollability. The listener becomes an actor, moving between individual isolation and collective, a balancing act which is as exciting as it is fragile. While listening to the radio programme via the headphones the visitor appears isolated, yet his actions within the space allow him to become part of a collective, part of the (performance) production. From an initially random constellation of participants, in other words, an intentional association of producers evolves.

Performative audio play

The performance “Der neue Mensch. Vier Übungen in utopischen Bewegungen” (i.e. The new man. Four exercises in utopian movements, 2008) is an experimental arrangement which, in four chapters, not only presents a “new man” but also allows the audience to experience him. These are models created by Bertolt Brecht, Wsewolod Meyerhold and Rudolf von Laban, over which their contemporary Charles Chaplin trips. Kitted out with headphones, all the participants start moving across the stage (which is devoid of spectators) after just a short time. They walk, step and glide. They whirl their limbs through the air, chase each other, carry chairs, jump, cower, sit and call out. They are all listening to the same “performative audio play” – but each in a different order. They all adopt the instructed positions once; they are a collective and individuals, isolated and dispersed. By contrast, “Eiland” (i.e. Island), a work which will be staged during this year’s summer festival at Kampnagel, functions entirely without any collective. One participant at a time will be rowed out to a manmade island on the Alster lake where he can spend 25 minutes – with headphones – without any sort of performance being visibly staged for him. Surrounded by wind, waves and water, he listens to a text about water as a commodity, which gradually causes the idyllic, burbling backdrop of the setting to crumble. A play is produced without actors, stage or audience, and in this case without even a collective. This is theatre without theatre, a performance that takes place more or less entirely in the minds of the participants, where their imagination becomes an essential element of a highly individual performance.

Katrin Ullmann

Ligna: Productions/projects (selection)


The First International of Shopping Malls. Within the frame of the project Ciudades Paralelas (curated by Stefan Kaegi and Lola Arias)
2010, Theater Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin; Buenos Aires


Das Rätsel des Wassers (i.e. The mystery of water). Performative tours of the Alsterschwimmhalle.
Within the framework of Deutsche Masters 2010.
2010, Kampnagel, Hamburg

What we can´t hear II. Performative spatial explorations. Within the framework of X-Moradias.
2009, Goethe Institut Sao Paulo/ X-Moradias, Sao Paulo

Es fährt! Übungen nach der Schreber-Methode (i.e. It drives! Exercises according to the Schreber method).
A performative driving school for a different type of driving. Within the framework of the Shared Space programme.
2009, Einstellungsraum, Hamburg

Große Freiheit Landungsbrücken.
Five theatre courses: Hamburg schools embark on a search for the freedom of bygone and future eras at the Landungsbrücken in Hamburg. 2009, Theater macht Schule, Kampnagel, Hamburg

Die Verschwörung der Flaneure (i.e. The conspiracy of the window-shoppers). A performative stroll through the controlled shopping arcades of consumerism.
In the Frankfurt shopping centre MyZeil. Within the framework of FLANEUR – Der Kongress. 2009, Schauspiel Frankfurt am Main

Das Labor für unkontrollierbare Situationen (i.e. The laboratory for uncontrollable situations). A performative exploration of the control mechanisms and subliminal scope for action in shopping malls as exemplified by the Europa mall.
Within the framework of the symposium Virtuality and Control.
2008, Hochschule für Bildende Kunst/Thalia Theater, Hamburg

Der neue Mensch (i.e. The new man).
Four different concepts for a “new man” at the beginning of the 20th century (Brecht, Chaplin, Laban, Meyerhold) are translated into utopian exercises, movements and gestures and put to the test in performances with the audience
2008, Kampnagel, (Hamburg)

Em busca da Revolução Perdida (i.e. In search of the lost revolution).
A performative search for traces of the revolution on 25 April 1974.
2008, Radio Antena 2/Rádio e Televisão de Portugal RTP (Lisbon, Portugal).

Das Unbewusste der Sterne (i.e. The unconsciousness of the stars).
A demonstration about the future of political movements on Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. Within the framework of forecasts of movements.
2008, Zentrum für Bewegungsforschung/Theater Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin.

The purloined voices.
Radio performance.
2007, Within the framework of the festival Break 2.4: Potemkin village, Ljubljana

Schatzsuchen in Wilhelmsburg I-III (i.e. Searching for treasure in Wilhelmsburg I-III).
Performative dispersion in the public domain.
2007, Within the framework of the Art & Culture Summer 2007. IBA Hamburg

The Transient Radio Laboratory II.
Performances in various shopping malls in Dublin city centre.
2007, Festival Out of Site, Dublin

Karneval der Tiere (i.e. Carnival of the animals).
A performative radio show on the question of

man as beast
in Mannheim city centre.
2007, Within the framework of the 14th International Schiller Festival. Nationaltheater Mannheim (Mannheim)

Vive l’association. A radio ballet about the past, present and future of Pariser Platz and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
2007, Opening programme of the audio drama week at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin

Odyssee N&K
A performative radio show about the marks left by a historic strike at the former machine factory of Nagel & Kaemp.
2007, Kampnagel, Hamburg

Normierte Räume – Abweichende Gesten (i.e. Standardized rooms – deviating gestures).
A radio ballet about questions of collective gestures at Augustusplatz in Leipzig.
2006, Within the framework of the exhibition Eine Frage (nach) der Geste. Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst, Leipzig

Radiotelephonie (i.e. Radio telephony)
2006, Performance and exhibition within the framework of the RadioREVOLTEN festival, Halle

Love is in the Air. A performative love story in St. Andrews Church in Graz
In cooperation with the author Bernadette Schiefer and within the framework of the Writing Acts project
2006, Festival Styrian Autumn, Graz

Nacht. Stimme. Zerstreuung (i.e. Night. Voice. Dispersion).
A monologue for one speaker. 2006, Kunstradio/ORF, Vienna

RADIO MAMUTICA
2006, Temporary radio and performances within the framework of the Urban festival, Zagreb

I Am[not]sterdam. 10 Exercises to get the City out of your Body.
A performative radio intervention in Amsterdam city centre.
2006 Within the framework of Het publieke verlangen. De Balie, Amsterdam

Die Zukunft der Radiokunst (i.e. The future of radio art).
An acoustic intervention in the public domain.
2006, Within the framework of the exhibition Stile der Stadt. Art and Consumer Architecture, Hamburg

Lustpark Turbinenplatz (i.e. Turbinenplatz pleasure park).
Performance for 40 participants as part of Re / location I: Sanatorium.
2006, Schauspielhaus, Zürich

Die Summe der einzelnen Teile – Übungen in abweichendem Glauben (i.e. The sum of individual parts – exercises in deviating faith).
Performance in Liebfrauenkirche in Duisburg
2006, Within the framework of PubliCity – Constructing the Truth and the Akzente cultural festival of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Duisburg

Die ursprüngliche Zerstreuung. Eine kollektive Produktion (i.e. The previous dispersion. A collective production).
performative installation within the framework of If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution!
2005, Veenfabrik, Leiden, Netherlands

Glücklich durch Radiowellen (i.e. Happy thanks to radio waves).
A performative radio expedition about the search for happiness.
2005, performance was part of the Ruhrtriennale 2005 opening programme, Bochum

Das Gespenst der Freiheit (i.e. The spectre of freedom).
A midnight radio intervention in Weimar city centre, following in the footsteps of Friedrich Schiller
2005, Deutsches Nationaltheater, Weimar

Institute for Driving Experience: ID drives!
Performance and distribution of a CD with performative exercises for car drivers in the multi-storey car park of the MECC exhibition and conference centre in Maastricht.
2005, Within the framework of the Trichtlinnburg project, Jan van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht

Dispersed Tourists. A radio ballet about tourism in Salzburg city centre.
2005, Within the framework of the Trichtlinnburg project by the Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg

Auf zur zerstreuten Barrikade! (i.e. Off to the dispersed barricade!)
A radio ballet about questions of resistance practices in Frankfurt city centre (“Fressgass”).
2005, Within the framework of Schöner wär’s, wenn’s schöner wär – Der Kongress am Schauspiel Frankfurt (Frankfurt)

Kult der Zerstreuung. Übungen in abweichendem Verhalten (i.e. Cult of dispersion. Exercises in deviating behaviour).
A radio ballet in protest against the cult of consumerism in Mönckebergstrasse in Hamburg
2004, Within the framework of Go Create Resistance 7. Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg

Ordnung muss sein! Fünf Schritte in das Unbekannte einer globalisierten Welt (i.e. Order must prevail! Five steps into the unknown of a globalized world).
A radio intervention
2004, within the framework of “Globalisierung für Fortgeschrittene # 2” (i.e. Globalization for advanced learners # 2) at the museum kunst palest, Düsseldorf

Der Palast ist in Gefahr! (i.e. The palace is in danger!)
A performative dispersion in the utopian domain.
2004, Within the framework of “Fun Palace Berlin 200X”. Urban communication spaces for the 21st century, Berlin

Wer sucht, der findet... (i.e. Seek and ye shall find).
A treasure hunt and mystery tour of Bremen city centre.
2004, Within the framework of “freiRäumen” by the Junges Theater Bremen

Wir brechen das Glas (i.e. We break the glass).
A “radio interventionistic sensitization to commodities” in Vienna city centre.
2004, As part of the GEFÜHLSATHLETIK series by the Tanzquartier Wien, Vienna

Versiegelt die Stadt! (i.e. Seal the city!)
A radio intervention about “crossing controlled surfaces” in Frankfurt city centre.
2004, Within the framework of the 5th International Summer Academy, Frankfurt am Main

Es gibt keine Situation, die ausweglos wäre. (i.e. There is no situation to which there is no way out).
A radio performance to celebrate the reopening of the Palace of the Republic
2004, Palace of Republic, Berlin

Dinge, die wir nicht tun dürfen (i.e. Things we are not allowed to do)
Exercises in performative art use. An intervention for the exhibition rooms of the Museum for Applied Arts.
2004, MAK, Vienna

Das Brüllwunder von Meiningen (i.e. The shouting miracle of Meiningen).
Invisible theatre in the public domain as part of the Junge Hunde theatre festival.
2004, Meininger Theater, Meiningen

Anormalisierung des Alltagslebens (i.e. Anormalization of everyday life).
An interventionistic radio ballet in Hanover city centre within the framework of REpublicACTION/THEATERFORMEN
2004, Festival Theaterformen Hannover, Hanover

____________ Die Schachtel des Nichts (i.e. The box of nothing).
Radio performance to mark the opening of the Portal II exhibition at the Kunsthalle Fridericianum
2003, Fridericianum, Kassel

Sternental. Eine Straßenoper in 5 Akten (i.e. Sternental. A street opera in five acts).
Performative radio expedition within the framework of Go Create Resistance 5. 2003, Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg

Radioballett: Übung in nichtbestimmungsgemäßem Verweilen (i.e. Radio ballet: exercise in lingering not according to the rules).
Public performative radio play at Leipzig’s main railway station within the framework of the series Entsicherung der Schaubühne Lindenfels (i.e. Unlocking of Schaubühne Lindenfels)
2003, Schaubühne Lindenfels

Labyrinthe und Interferenzen I. Ein nächtlicher Gang durch eine sterbende Stadt (i.e. Labyrinths and interferences I. A night-time walk through a dying city).
Radio expedition through Hamburg city centre within the framework of Go Create Resistance 4
2003, Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg

Wählt die Signale – ein Radiokonzert für 144 Handys (i.e. Dial the signals – a radio concert for 144 mobile phones).
12-hour interactive radio concert from the atrium of the Gallery of Contemporary Art
2003, Hamburger Kunsthalle

Mental Radio Show.
Radio and stage show in cooperation with 10 artists from the Baltic Sea region within the framework of ArtGenda 2002. 2002, Neues Cinema/Deutsches Schauspielhaus, Hamburg

Radioballett: Übung in unnötigem Aufenthalt (i.e. Radio ballet: exercise in unnecessary lingering).
Public performative radio play in Hamburg’s main railway station. Within the framework of Formierte Öffentlichkeit – Zerstreute Öffentlichkeit (i.e. Formed public – dispersed public)
2002, Hamburger Kunsthalle

Ligna’s Music Box live from Rikrit Tiravanija’s “Mobile Home”
2001, Kunsthalle Hamburg, within the framework of the exhibition ein/räumen

Dead Cowboys Radio Show.
Radio show and field congress together with the theatre group Mass und Fieber (Zurich) within the framework of the exhibition project RE_public
2000, Graz Kunstverein at Expo 2000 in Hanover and Styrian Autumn festival, Graz