Principles of Embodied Democracy in Collaborative Processes

Based on our experience in teaching, artistic practice as theatre practitioners and in activist contexts, this research project investigates and develops instruments and strategies for democratic practice. It investigates the effects of principles and methods of structured participation on collaborative processes, their participants and the results of the collaboration. To this end, we are striving for a hybrid practice that combines research, teaching and artistic activity with one another, thus enabling the various modes of our work to inform and question one another in this research project. Within the framework of the project, we will (further) develop working structures for democratic forms of collaboration and apply, compare and investigate them in artistic projects, in teaching and learning formats, in activist processes and in contexts far removed from theatre. We use this broad field of research to investigate the effects that easily implementable democratic principles have on different forms of collective practice. Methodologically, we will mainly work with qualitative questioning, participatory observation and auto-ethnographic descriptions and position our research within a theoretical framework. Our aim is to sort and structure the research findings and to make them available to a broad audience by means of an artistic, adaptable handbook (with digital presentation in the sense of Open Access) and lectures.

The research project consists of two research topics related to one overall research area. The first part „Embodied Democracy in Collaborations between Commons and Singular (Artistic) Expertise“ will be explored and presented by Sabine Harbeke. This second part „The Contribution of Collaborative Theatre to Presentist Democracy and Critical Pedagogy“ will be explored and presented by Christopher Kriese.

Sabine Harbeke works as a writer, director, filmmaker and lecturer and is based in Zürich. She has, in the understanding of a playwright-director position, directed most of her plays herself. Her texts are based on intensive research and interview practices and are usually written specifically for a performance venue and selected performers and thus negotiate political issues embedded in a current situation. She has been directing her own writing and other plays at the Thalia Theater Hamburg, Theater Neumarkt Zurich, Theater Basel, Theater Kiel, Schauspielhaus Bochum, Theater St. Gallen, Capitol Teatr Muzyczny in Wroclaw and the BRIC studio in New York, among others. The book “Autorenregie” by Karin Nissen-Rizvani; Theatre and Texts by Sabine Harbeke, Armin Petras / Fritz Kater, Christoph Schlingensief and René Pollesch, gives an insight into her theatre work.

Parallel to her artistic career, Sabine Harbeke has been working for 10 years as head of the BA program for Theatre Directing at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) and has been deputy head of MA & BA Theatre Directing since last year. At the Department of Performing Arts and Film she developed and leads the transcultural interdisciplinary collaborative program “building bridges”, involving New York University, Aalto University, Tartu University, Stockholm University of the Arts and ZHdK.

Christopher Kriese grew up in Brazil and Germany. From 2008 to 2014 he studied theatre directing at the „Zurich University of the Arts“, where he now works as an assistant lecturer and in the development of international partnerships. He is a founding member of the transdisciplinary collective NEUE DRINGLICHKEIT ( which aims to dissolve the boundaries between art and politics. Together it’s members developed interventions, festivals, workshops and performances. Their works have been shown in theatres, museums and festivals in Zurich, Berlin, Hamburg, Ljubljana, Belgrad, Shanghai, Tel Aviv and São Paulo. Their latest production, the long-term project „Der Widerspruch“ (The Contradiction), was supported with a two-year grant by the city of Zurich.