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Conferenza degli assentiPhoto (detail): © Sebastian Hoppe

The project

Conference of the absent

In Konferenz der Abwesenden (conference of the absent), a performance work by the Rimini Protokoll artistic collective, the conference speakers who have been invited from all over the world do not need to travel in order to physically be there. A co-production with the Goethe-Institut, the tour involves six European capitals, namely Brussels, Lisboa, Luxemburg, Madrid, Paris and Rome, and will also be staged at the Venice Biennale of Architecture.

Konferenz der Abwesenden is a project conceived by the Rimini Protokoll artistic collective. The theatrical performance takes the form of a conference whose speakers all suddenly found themselves unable to travel. Whether because of COVID-19-related travel restrictions or the personal ecological conscience of speakers who preferred not to add to CO2 emissions, one way or another someone else must physically stand in for the speakers. Hence the idea of involving the audience directly in the conference. Audience volunteers willing to help the organizers see their project through only receive their script at the moment the event begins. Thanks to audience participation and improvization, every performance is unique and unrepeatable.

At the centre of the collective performance are people who introduce new ideas, playfully appropriating the speakers' biography or their thought or both.  Thus absence becomes a supplement, in that it creates space for unexpected testimonies and perspectives. As ghostwriter and speechwriter, co-author and director of Konferenz der Abwesenden all at once, the Rimini Protokoll collective transforms documentary co-authorship into a long-distance production that might be staged anywhere in the world, even while international travel is prohibited for pandemic reasons or avoided on ecological grounds. 

After the Dresden premiere, the production was next staged at the  Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen and subsequently, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut, at the Frankfurt Künstlerhaus Mousonturm. The European tour with the support of the Goethe-Institut will begin in the fall. The production will appear in Madrid at the Naves del Español en Matadero, at the Luxembourg  Théâtre National and at the Romeeuropa Festival in Rome. It will also be hosted by the Venice Biennale of Architecture, before moving on to the Kaaitheater in Brussels, the Teatro do Bairro Alto in Lisbon and the Paris Centre Pompidou. 
In Venice Konferenz der Abwesenden will form part of the Performing Architecture project series within the Mostra Internazionale di Architettura section of the Biennale, in collaboration with the German pavilion, whose theme is "2038".

Alongside the theatrical performances, the Goethe-Institut and its partners in Madrid, Lisbon, Luxembourg and Rome, together with the Rimini Protokoll collective, will hold a series of workshops, introducing participants from the theater world and civil society to the techniques of performance-based telepresence developed for this theatrical work.
The Goethe-Institut will document the stagings of Konferenz der Abwesenden on this site, combining images and short video clips with interviews with local organizers of the conference. At every location visited, a blogger will be invited to describe the performance and the effect on the audience of performance-based telepresence.
Once the tour ends, Rimini Protokoll will produce a final film, with contributions from participants across Europe.
Konferenz der Abwesenden is a production by Rimini Protokoll.

Idea / script / direction: Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi, Daniel Wetzel 
Set design / video / lighting: Marc Jungreithmeier
Music: Daniel Dorsch
Script research: Imanuel Schipper, Lüder Pit Wilcke
Prompts: Henriette Hölzel, David Kosel, Hans-Werner Leupelt e Karina Plachetka
Political and cultural advisor: Dr. Werner Friedrichs
Production manager: Epona Hamdan
Script assistant: Sebastian Klauke
Assistant directors: Lisa Homburger und Maximilian Pellert
Set design assistant: Maksim Chernykh
Production support: Federico Schwindt
A Rimini Apparat production
Co-production with: Staatsschauspiel Dresden, Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen, HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin) and Goethe-Institut.
Conception and development supported by the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Germany).
Partners hosting performances and single-site workshops, Southeastern Europe: Centre Pompidou (Paris), Kaaitheater (Brussels), Matadero (Madrid), Romaeuropa Festival (Rome), Teatro do Bairro Alto (Lisbon), Théâtre National (Luxembourg), Performing Arts and Community Spaces masters program (Rome). Performing Architecture is a series of Goethe-Institut programs at the 17th Mostra Internazionale di Architettura within the Venice Biennale, organized in collaboration with the German Pavilion and Künstlerhaus Mousonturm.