„Empire of Oil“ is one of the most interesting independent-scene-productions of the recent past, both in its success and in its failure.

TAGESSPIEGEL, Berlin, 26 May 2018

An aesthetically convincing contribution to the collective memory of history around the global realm of oil and its economic and ecological consequences. (…) The bilateral nature of man and nature can not be better represented.
DER FREITAG, online 31 May 2018

These are impressive images that encase you with “The Underground Frontier” at the Ballhaus Ost: footage from the air over Arctic waters or between people on a street in Mosul, Iraq. In addition, long-lasting, dark sounds sound, which draw you even more into the environment. Sometimes this immersive stage action seems threatening, then again mystical, even magical.

TAZ, February 2018

“The statements of about two dozen people are embedded in opulent 360-degree films, which can be seen in a round horizon in Ballhaus Ost. The films, some drone shots, some taken statically, show derricks in Arctic waters and in war-torn Northern Iraq.”

ZITTY Berlin, November 2017

“The next piece (FASCION) is about the increasing fascistization of the political climate. Trump, AfD and Co. Again the Costa Compagnie will research, stay close to the material and at the same time search for a new choreographic form. Because our reality is far too complex to being generalized.”

BLOG – Performing Arts Festival Berlin, June 2017

“They interviewed soldiers, civilians, fans of the Taliban and emancipated women, filmed their approach by airplane on dusty lines of houses, playing children in open spaces, peaceful bread baking to cheerful oriental music or momentous electro. The result is: surprising, ambivalent, hopeful and pleading.”

THEATER HEUTE, August 2016

“The Costa Compagnie does not try to explain the world to the audience. Instead they very effectively and powerfully document the kaleidoscope of an heterogeneous Afghan present on the way to an uncertain future by artistic means. A remarkable achievement. “

Mannheimer Morgen, 11.05.2015 

“Critics of the conventional image of women in Afghanistan come to speak as well as advocates of the Taliban and the Sharia, soldiers of the ISAF troops as well as Afghan civilians. In passionate dance sequences one suspects traumatic experiences. ”

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, 11.05.2015

„During “Traces of Afghanistan”, narration, film, sound, interviews and dance sum up to differentiated, multi-perspective performance-mosaic formed out of an analysis of our contemporary times and a mutual perception, which lets one exitedly expect the final presentation on the 8th of May.“

Mannheimer Morgen, 16.02.2015

„One of the most extraordinary theater performancees of the past years.“

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, 16.06.2014 

„This performance enlightens the shadows it casts ahead.“

Die Welt, 19.01.2013 zu „Fukushima, my love“

The radiation ultimately still remains unbelievable and devastatingly invisible in this two-hour show. But the archaeological approach to the glowing core of the disaster performed by the guests  from Hamburg provided a very considerable awareness about the fatal consequences. “

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, 04.10.2013

„Fukushima, my love“ artistically transports knowledge, a sense and a grasp of Fukushima und and the Japanese culure.

Now!Out,10.06.2013

„Felix Meyer-Christian constructs – with mental sharpness and artistically defying logical definition – an artistic rapid in the consumer-friendly and sluggishly streaming mainstream of contemporary theatre.“

Hamburger Abendblatt, 12.09.2012

RADIO-Interviews

Deutschlandradio Kultur

Kompressor vom 02.05.2018

Art project at the re:publica18 – What defines the oil industry

https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/kunstprojekt-auf-der-re-publica-was-die-erdoelfoerderung.2156.de.html?dram:article_id=416990

Deutschlandradio Kultur

Rang 1 – Theatermagazin

12.07.2014

Zu CONVERSION_1

http://www.deutschlandradiokultur.de/theater-intendanzen-ueberall-neustarts.2159.de.html?dram:article_id=291495 

Südwestrundfunk

SWR2 am Morgen

Zu CONVERSION_1: Archäologie der Gegenwart

http://swrmediathek.de/suche.htm?econt=conversi 

Deutschlandradio Kultur

Radiofeuilleton – Bühne

20.01.2013

Zu FUKUSHIMA, MY LOVE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAvBUAb-EoQ 

Deutschlandradio Kultur

Radiofeuilleton – Bühne

30.03.2012

Zu Kohlhaas. Frei nach Kleist.:

http://journalismus-mhmk.de/digger/koerber-studio-abendessen-felix-meyer-christian/ 

PRINT-MEDIEN

Production: EMPIRE OF OIL / Part 1 -3

DER TAGESPSIEGEL

“Empire of Oil” at Ballhaus Ost

A VERY SPECIAL LIQUID

Some deep drilling at the theater: With the trilogy “Empire of Oil” the performance collective Costa Compagnie is dedicated to the most coveted resource in the world at Ballhaus Ost.

By Patrick Wildermann, 26.05.2018

It was in the days of the second Gulf War in the early 1990s when one could see many young people at demonstrations with banners calling out the slogan “No blood for oil!”. Where the black gold flows, so the dictum, it is not about military goals. But only for the money. The performance collective Costa Compagnie comes to a similar conclusion in its trilogy “Empire of Oil” – with the difference that the group is pursuing a more complex path to investigate the network of drilling and war zones, of economy and ecology.

Based in Hamburg and Berlin, the collective has traveled to Norway and Iraq to speak with people whose lives are marked in very different ways by the global traces of oil. Since November last year, the artists around director Felix Meyer-Christian have already developed a film and an essayistic performance from the material obtained. With the third part, a choreography under the title “An Infinite Ending”, the company now finds its conclusion in Ballhaus Ost. On the occasion of the final premiere, the trilogy can be experienced once more in its entirety.

Pleasing, because “Empire of Oil” is one of the most interesting independent-scene productions of the recent past, both in success and in failure. Especially the first part, “A Research in 360°”, displays a remarkable panorama. The documentary is projected onto a screen that surrounds the audience. The inspiration was the round horizon of 1881 by Hendrik Willem Mesdag, a painting that still allows the 360 degree experience of the beach and the North Sea in The Hague. The diversity of perspectives on which the Costa Company is aiming is thus already certified technically. In addition on the second floor, you can visit an 11-minute full-immersive-experience via virtual reality glasses. You descend the endless ladder onto an oil production platform, stand next to patrolling soldiers on a dusty road in Mosul, you look out over rugged landscapes in a region we call the Middle East.

“A Research in 360°” seeks the greatest possible contrast of the regions. In Norway, where, at the end of the 60s, the oil miracle began that still secures the welfare state through a fund system, the Costa artists are meeting, among others, the offshore manager of a major oil company. An Iraqi geologist, who on behalf of the state contributed his mining expertise in the far North. As well as a Greenpeace activist, who analyzes that “behind most social conflicts an ecological reason” hides, and which also – moderately regrettable – embodies the soulful side of environmental protection, because she for example tears at the sight of seabirds next to drilling platforms.

In Iraq, on the other hand, the artists, and with them the viewers, immediately land in the area of tension between the conflicts around US interests, crimes committed against the Kurdish population, as well as the actions of ISIS. “In Kirkuk,” it once says, “it smells like oil.” And where the complex of claims to power takes on such existential dimensions, questions about climate change or the ravages of drilling in the Arctic are of little relevance.

The second part – the performance “The Underground Frontier” – tries to expand the topic into postcolonial spheres, to questions like: who owns the land, who owns the underground, who owns the resources? The performers Maria Walser and Julia B. Laperrière are negotiating against each other in images from Norway and Iraq flowing into each other, where, unlike in the film, the systemic connection between the two countries remains rather contoured. Of course, globalization lets everything circulate, not just the oil. One wonders a bit what a documentary specialist like Hans-Werner Kroesinger would have distilled from findings. Nonetheless, this part also has its light moments – such as when a sheikh from Mosul is quoted, who in the face of the first oil boom is said to have moaned in wise foresight: “I wish we had found water.”

The dance part “An Infinite Ending” finally remains nebulous in the truest sense. Lea Martini and Julia B. Laperrière create some strong moments of exhaustion in the artificially foggy Ballhaus Ost, struggling and being trapped in a recurring cycle – but without the context of the trilogy those actions might ultimately fizzle out in perplexity. And yet, “Empire of Oil” has a clear message: to question one’s own consumer behavior and, therefore, one’s own dependence on the world’s most desirable resource.

TAZ, 03.02.2018

FOR THE EXTRACTION OF PROFIT

Performative questions about a commodity that keeps the world going – and also brings it into turmoil. The Costa Company in Ballhaus Ost with “The Underground Frontier”, the second part of “Empire of Oil”

By Julika Bickel

On socks you step through the curtain, sit on the purple carpet or one of the pillows. The curtain forms an oval-shaped space and at the same time serves as a canvas.

You are on a ship. Around you, you can see the expanse of the sea and the spray that leaves the moving ship as a tail in the water. Three performers join in, they give a talk about the “Underground Frontier”. They want to know where the oil comes from. They ask: Who owns what lies beneath our feet? Who owns the treasures? Drone images of drilling rigs look like stranded spaceships. The shots are dipped in color, alienated, sometimes they are pink, then yellow, then green. The next moment you are in a city of ruins. There are ruins of houses around one. There appears a fire coming from a gas torch on an oil field.

The performance premiered Thursday at Ballhaus Ost: “The Underground Frontier”. The play is the second part of “Empire of Oil”, a four-part research project of the Costa Company.

For research, Felix Meyer-Christian, the founder of this interdisciplinary group, traveled to Norway and northern Iraq, filmed with a 360-degree camera and talked to the local people.

Oil and related climate change are currently the biggest challenge facing humanity, says the theater maker. “There is nothing else that will affect life on the planet as crucially as the changes that are now happening and that will soon become stronger.”

These are impressive images that encase you with “The Underground Frontier” at the Ballhaus Ost: footage from the air over Arctic waters or between people on a street in Mosul, Iraq. In addition, long-lasting, dark sounds sound, which draw you even more into the environment. Sometimes this immersive stage action seems threatening, then again mystical, even magical.

The separation between stage and audience is completely dissolved. The three performers walk between the seated spectators while they deliver their lecture in German and English. Her performance has something comical about it, because it seems so intentionally rehearsed: the memorized text, the rehearsed drama, the polite smile, how the microphone after a small dance performance lies coincidentally in the right place.

In between are abstract and protracted streams of thought from the off in indirect speech that one can not always follow. But the passages also illustrate the complexity of the interrelations. “The topic is so incredibly intangible,” says Meyer-Christian. “Our indifference to climate change is based on our failure to see where the oil comes from and where it goes.”

With concrete scenarios and people he wants to make the topic visible in his performance. The all-round shots allow greater autonomy of the gaze. You can look around, the distance is reduced.

After a 360-degree video essay (which premiered at Ballhaus Ost last November) and this second, text-based part of the research project, a dance performance dedicated to the subject on a purely physical level will be presented in May, as well as an online Virtual Reality film will follow. This is how the film footage and the documented performances can be experienced by people all over the world.

Norway and Northern Iraq are two regions with large oil resources – one has brought prosperity and peace to the welfare state, the other war and flight. In Mosul and Kirkuk, Meyer-Christian was in September 2017 at the time of the Kurdish referendum, which was strongly linked to hopes of oil profits.

On site, he interviewed oil drillers, managers, politicians, journalists and Greenpeace activists. The interviewees appear large on the curtain in the performance and silently look at one another while the performers quote them in indirect speech.

The statements are repeated as a song by a performer. He plays keyboards and sings through a microphone that electronically distorts his voice: “They are looking at you / killer whales, killer whales / what is this?” And “You can like or dislike oil and gas / you become a prostitute / you do what you do for the money. “

Norway is the most important oil and gas supplier in Germany after Russia. For Meyer-Christian, the Scandinavian country is the epitome of the Western, hypocritical way of life. Even the country relies heavily on renewable energy, but makes a lot of profit by selling oil abroad.

How strong our consumption behavior with the climate change, he was not aware of the research. “There is not one person in charge,” says Meyer-Christian. “We are all causers and future sufferers at the same time.”

At the end of the performance everyone should lie down with their eyes closed. It’s an experiment, so the three speakers. They send you on an emotional journey of thought. Together with a close person one should go on the run. And everything is under water.

ZITTY, 22 November 2017

Intermedial performance

CURSE AND BLESSING

In the “Empire of Oil” at Ballhaus Ost, the interdisciplinary Costa Company explores in an innovative way how societies are poisoned by oil – and how it could at least be dosed

Text: Tom Mustroph

Sea and desert are not just large areas where people are reluctant. In some seabed, under some desert sand is also the black gold – a curse and blessing at the same time.

On the oil-rich coast off Norway and on the equally oil-rich sand of northern Iraq, the Costa Company has gone to investigate on site how the raw material shapes the local population. She questioned oil drills and managers from Scandinavia, was in the office of Kurdish politicians whose independence efforts are closely related to the hoped-for profits from the oil business. These and other interviews are now part of the immersive performance “Empire of Oil – A Research in 360 °”.

A poetess and a critical journalist from Northern Iraq were also interviewed, and Greenpeace activist Sini Saarela, who has since become a heroine, was one of the “Arctic 30” caged by Russia for a while. The statements of about two dozen people are embedded in opulent 360-degree films, which can be seen in a round horizon in Ballhaus Ost. The films, some drone shots, some taken statically, show derricks in Arctic waters and in the war-torn northern Iraq.

A key figure is the Iraqi geologist Farouk Al Kasim. He came to Norway in the 1960s, looking for medical care for his sick son. At that time, Norway began to develop its oil fields. Al Kasim warned against the mistakes of his homeland: The Iraqi elite had squandered concessions to British and US companies in the intoxication of quick money and put the profits that did not go out of the country, usually in their own pockets. Norway’s oil sovereign wealth fund, which brings considerable wealth to the entire country, is also credited with Al Kasim’s warnings.

However, Felix Meyer-Christian, filmmaker and director of the Costa Compagnie, also found in the example country Norway some walls of silence; especially when he asked about the global consequences of the beautiful oil business of Scandinavians: climate change, environmental damage and destruction. Therefore, “Empire of Oil” also asks why many industries are still based on oil, and who deserves it, even though technologically an energy transition would have been possible for a long time.

Two performers interact with the audience live on film, but the project is divided into several parts. In further phases, the Costa Compagnie wants to expand the 360-degree film installation by a text-based performance (Premiere 1 February) and later a dance performance (Premiere 23 May).

All of this should also be documented with a 360-degree camera and finally a fully immersive virtual reality environment will emerge from the entire material. “We want to find out what VR technology can mean for the theater,” says Meyer-Christian. On the 23rd of November the starting signal for the technology experiment in the documentary theater context will be given in the Ballhaus Ost.

Production: CONVERSION_2 / AFTER AFGHANISTAN

Fonds Doppelpass // Kulturstiftung des Bundes // Theater und Orchester Heidelberg
Mannheimer Morgen, 11.05.2015
http://www.morgenweb.de/nachrichten/kultur/regionale-kultur/wirkungsmachtiges-kaleidoskop-der-widerspruche-1.2238544

Performance: With “Conversion_2 / After Afghanistan.” the Theater Heidelberg presents a remarkable theatrical experience.

POWERFUL KALEIDOSCOPE OF CONTRADICTIONS

By Martin Vögele
At one moment, the actor Hauke Heuman reflects the writing of an unknown author: „She wrote, the challenging part in a place like Afghanistan would be, that the sheer abundance of complex contrariness and of mutually excluding moral situations is so overwhelming, that nothing would remain, but to abandon everything one thought before, in order to open up a new field of thinking.“
The Hamburg based costa compagnie sets foot on the traces of these contrarieties, hopes, experiences and fears of the Afghan population and interim-occupants in their performance „Conversion_2. After Afghanistan.“. A dance-performance within the overall project „Conversion. A German-American Chogeography.“ in cooperation with the Theater and Orchestra of Heidelberg, where the piece premiered.
Shortly before the international military mission in Afghanistan „ISAF“ ended in December 2014, artistic director Felix Meyer-Christian, choreograph Jascha Viehstaedt and cameraman Stefan Haehnel set out to research on-site: In the cities of Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif and within two NATO-camps they spoke with over 30 Afghans as well as German, Dutch and American soldiers and collected video- and audio recordings all around. Documentary and essayistic texts, video-tableaus, dance and sound composition now merge within CONVERSION_2 into a theatrical reflection of this trip. The many-voiced texts are mostly brought forward by the performers (Hauke Heumann, Hans Fleischmann, Florian Mania, Nanette Waidmann) and sometimes directly delivered from the videos.
No easy way
But also the dance is multi-formed: Frank Koenen, Akemi Nagao, Jascha Viehstädt and Maria Walser change between impulsive shows of strength, subtle physical seclusion, rhythmic-eruptive chaos and a harmony searching synchronicity. One of the strongest moments might also be the most disturbing one: The dancers perform a boygroup-choreography while the theater’s children’s choir (which also took part in the earlier performance installation around the theater) sings „Colors of the Wind“ alongside the actors, a song which was written for Disney’s „Pocahontas“.
„Conversion_2“ does not choose an easy path – not for the group nor for the audience, as the spectator is confronted with a surge of opinions and images (at the end of part 1 a gigantic, inflated plastic tube overgrows the entire stage). Meanwhile the costa compagnie does not try to explain the world to the audience. Instead, they very effectively and powerfully document the kaleidoscope of an heterogeneous Afghan present on the way to an uncertain future by artistic means. A remarkable achievement.

May 9, 2015

SWR 2 / Southwest German Radio:

JOURNAL AT NOON

By Anne Lennartz

Radio moderator: One year ago, the costa compagnie, a free-lancing company from Hamburg, developed a piece out of the drawdown of the American Forces from Heidelberg. The performance by the name of “Conversion_1” took place in an emptied gymnasium of an US-Army-installation – a multimedia-based, theatrical commemoration on the times with the Americans. Now the international forces are leaving Afghanistan and the costa compagnie is again part of the process, out of which they created “Conversion_2”. Last night the premiere took place and Anne Lennartz was there to report:

What traces, what memories do the international troops, the strangers, leave behind in Afghanistan? costa-director Felix Meyer-Christian was on-site last year, together with a choreographer and a cameraman, shortly before the drawdown. A very intensive reporting-theater has been created out of that research, much more interesting and also more critical than its predecessor “Conversion_1”, which dealt with the drawdown of the Americans from Heidelberg. The freelancing theater-makers interviewed over 40 persons, German soldiers, police advisers, Americans and many Afghans: women, men, driver, students, artists. They appear in little video clips but are also performed by the actors on stage.

“I am here as an officer of the reserve. I am not forced to come here. I am here voluntarily, each and every time. Because I am fascinated by the country, by my work and by the diversion.” (from the piece, German soldier).

An American on the other side keeps repeating “I regret, I regret. I wish I could be with my family.” Another German cannot forget the images in his head of children which where blown up by a detonation. And the Afghans look back in history. How often this country has been occupied? “And now again, we are victims of the country’s geopolitical location!”, says one Afghan woman.

“The geopolitical location is decisive, for the Europeans and the Americans. China, Iran, Russia. And in the middle, there is Afghanistan.” (extract from the piece, Afghan civilian) Sounds from Kabul are brought in and the dancers kick colorful balloons across the stage, exactly those which are sold in the streets of Kabul. “What is happening in Afghanistan? The Western soldiers have killed many, many people. Where is the difference between them and the terrorists? They make it unofficial and you make it official. I can say, that Americans, they make extremists.” (from the piece, Afghan woman)

Originally the international troops came to liberate the women – but did they succeed? One Afghan woman says, that only one newly founded girls’ school would have been enough, to justify the mission. But right after, someone else is contradicting that opinion. The strength of this performance is that it shows the disrupted condition of the country and at the same time integrates the causes and its historic development.

Did the mission make sense? The answer is not given by the voices or the text, but very persuasively by the installative stage design. Right in the moment, when soldiers are referred to as barricading themselves within their camps, large plastic tubes enroll upon the stage. They become sturdy, thick pipes, layer atop and next to each other, take more and more space, fill in the complete large stage and recall to a military stronghold. – But what happens at the end, what happens after the drawdown? Well, air simply deflates. A pile of plastic remains. Nothing else. Above it, a drone is now circling on stage. “The Americans just work off their kill lists”, one Afghan mentions. “Conversion_2” became a very convincing documentary piece for the stage!

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung Heidelberg, 11.05.2015
http://www.rnz.de/kultur-tipps/kultur-regional_artikel,-Conversion_2-im-Heidelberger-Theater-Afghanistan-quo-vadis-_arid,96878.html

“Conversion_2” at the Theater of Heidelberg

AFGHANISTAN, QUO VADIS?
Dance-Performance about the complex of problems of an oppressed country

By Arndt Krödel
“Nothing is good in Afghanistan.” In 2010, this brave sentence by Margot Kaessmann stirred up a lot of criticism in the public debate, as she as was the chairman of the Protestant Church in Germany. But maybe this statement helped to question complex matters and to break free from habitual patterns. The same approach is tested by a joint production of the Hamburg based costa compagnie and the Theatre of Heidelberg, which runs under the title “Conversion_2. After Afghanistan” and which just premiered on the theater’s big stage. The dance-performance is the second product by the collaboration of the two companies, who already have released “Conversion_1” in 2014, a performance which deals with the drawdown of the US-forces from Heidelberg.
Before the international military mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014, three artists of the costa compagnie traveled to the Hindukush. They conducted interviews with the locals, but also with soldiers and asked for their experiences and feelings regarding the past and the present. A present, which has to acknowledge, that its coordinates are changing without anyone being able to tell how it is all going to end one day. With the intention to develop new forms of documentary and choreographic working, a dance-performance out of the collected material was created, as a subjectively observed snap-shot of Afghanistan.
The performance, for whose text and artistic direction Felix Meyer-Christian is responsible, therefore does not seek to – and cannot be – a documentation in its narrower sense. As the performance understands itself as “interdisciplinary”, it works with the artistic means of contemporary dance (choreography: Jascha Viehstädt), video on different surfaces and presents a sometimes quiet abstract sound environment of everyday-sounds, of military environments, as well as composed music. Even the “Alte Saal” (smaller, traditional stage) and the foyers are integrated, with installations and appearances of the children’s choir singing “Im Früh taut zu Berge”.
On stage, actors take the parts of the interview partners and present themselves as messengers of an unknown world that displays itself as multi-faceted and contradicting and often as diffuse. Critics of the conventional image of women in Afghanistan come to speak as well as advocates of the Taliban and the Sharia, soldiers of the ISAF troops as well as Afghan civilians. In passionate dance sequences one senses traumatic experiences, when the performers in distressed movements appear as to be running against an invisible wall.
The performance leaves one stunned and a little overwhelmed, as during the dense construct of breathlessly changing scenes and fragments one sometimes loses orientation. Still: The sorrowful question is articulated very clearly and impressively towards the end: Afghanistan, quo vadis? The group succeeds with enthralling images and haunting situations, especially within the dance parts, for which the Hamburg-Heidelberg ensemble is to be praised. The audience appeared to be also taken with the presentation with a long and affectionate applause.

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung Heidelberg, 11.05.2015
http://www.rnz.de/kultur-tipps/kultur-regional_artikel,-Conversion_2-im-Heidelberger-Theater-Afghanistan-quo-vadis-_arid,96878.html

Production: CONVERSION_1

Fonds Doppelpass // Kulturstiftung des Bundes // Theater und Orchester Heidelberg

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung Heidelberg, 11.07.2014

http://www.rnz.de/kulturregional/00_20140711060000_110714164-Conversion-1-Eine-Aera-ist-beendet-das-Theater.html

CONVERSION 1: AN ERA HAS ENDED AND THE THEATER BEGINS
The Costa Compagnie premiered in the former US-Hospital in Heidelberg-Rohrbach.

Von Ingeborg Salomon
Enlightening view of history in an unusual place: the Costa Compagnie explores the German-American relations at the gym of the former U.S. Hospital in Heidelberg-Rohrbach.
Gyms don’t have the best image exactly: dusty, musty and often reminiscent of unloved physical exercises. The gym of the former U.S. Hospital in Heidelberg-Rohrbach is no exception. But theater-makers like to conquer unusual places, so the gym is now turned into a stage. The 200 visitors of the premiere on Wednesday night appeared to be somewhat perplex at first: no chairs were to be found and standing might have become tedious after a while. But remedy approached in the form of (more or less) stable cardboard stools that were carted in per roll container, which had the advantage of enabling the audience to wander through the hall. Sitting and watching was yesterday, today we witness performing. Simultaneously, thoughts and visitors were constantly in motion, according to the ancient Heraclitus saying: “Everything flows”.

With “Conversion_1″ the Costa Compagnie has created a fusion of many different media. The big theme is a historical quest: How did the Americans and the citizens of Heidelberg experience each other? What memories stayed on? Text, video, music and dance merge, along with German and English. This means for the audience member that he needs to focus his or her attention, especially as different videos run concurrently on multiple mobile projection screens.

The videos were shot in Heidelberg and on a research trip to the United States. The final result – a” Chogeography “- proceeds through geographical and historical spaces, always looking for the experienced memory, which represents the reality for the individual.

But how real is this reality in the face of historical facts? Obama’s “Yes, we can” gets equally questioned as the now reducing American and German military presence in Afghanistan is.

Can you draw any lessons for the future from the past? Or does history never repeat itself anyway? The Costa Compagnie asks these questions very clearly and shows in many sequences, that ‘the’ historical reality or a documented truth do not exist. One witness accounts that Condoleeza Rice expected the people of Iraq to welcome American troops as liberators, as the Germans had done in 1945. She was mistaken, as we know today.

The artistic director Felix Meyer-Christian impressively sets the members of the Costa Compagnie into scene. Especially the dance scenes give evidence of great professionalism. And most of the spectators followed the movement instructions quiet willingly: They lay down obediently on the rather cold gymnasium floor to gaze up at drone videos of the American landscape on the ceiling and they streamed into a small cube installed out of white curtains without any protest. A reminder of Abu Ghuraib? Or maybe not? After 110 entertaining minutes the visitors gave a warm applause. In 2015 “Conversion_2” will follow.

Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung, 16.06.2014
http://www.rnz.de/heidelberg/00_20140616060000_110696358-Konversionsgeschichte-im-Gehen-Passt-gut-auf-d.html#ad-image-1

Listen to the History of Conversion while walking: “Keep a good eye on it!!

Via an audiowalk through on the grounds of the old Health Care Centre the audience listened to American memories.

By Steffen Blatt
This was one of the most extraordinary theatre productions within the last few years. On behalf of the Theater und Orchester Heidelberg the “costa compagnie” from Hamburg produced a sort of audio play, which guided the audience through the area of the former Health Care Centre of the United States Army in Rohrbach.

On the 15th of November 2013, the crowd of people was enormous, as the grounds of the old Health Care Centre in Rohrbach opened up its gates to the public for the first time since the draw-down of the US-Army. A guided tour and the presentation of many facts took place on that day. This weekend, the citizens of Heidelberg were now able to experience the area in a completely different way: through an audiowalk, on which the people, who were originally stationed there, were telling their stories.

The “costa compagnie”, an artists’ collective from Hamburg, focuses in cooperation with the Theater and Orchester of Heidelberg on the topic of the conversion, i.e. the re-use of the former U.S. installations in the city. The members spoke with soldiers who were formerly stationed in Heidelberg and with their families, with high-ranking military personnel, scientists, political activists, military chaplains. In order to do so they travelled all the way to the United States. The interviewees talked about their lives during their time in the U.S. military, about encounters with the other culture, about skepticism and convergence. The research results will be incorporated into a large performance that will take place in the gymnasium on the former US-Hospital and will premiere under the title “Conversion_1”. Katharina Kellermann, the audio artist of the “costa compagnie”, also designed an audio tour in which visitors could explore the area this weekend. They were listening to the original documents, music and sounds – a kind of radio play while walking.

The audiowalk starts at the former Checkpoint at the entrance of the site. Everyone gets a map on which the route is drawn, an MP3 player and a pair of headphones. After pressing “Start” one hears a kind of heartbeat. Then the voices of Americans start talking about the church on the right side of the entrance where Catholics, Protestants and Jews held their services. About the gym, where the children had gymnastic classes and where a daughter was picked up from training. About the old office where a father was working. Some still remember everything and others only remember parts. English and German speakers connect the various collage-like statements, while sound effects create a dense atmosphere: a plane taking off, church bells, the siren of an ambulance, a basketball that is bouncing on the gym floor. When it comes to protests of American soldiers against the Vietnam War, the “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die-Rag” by Country Joe McDonald, a cynical commentary of the Woodstock generation, tunes in, which the GIs also listened to in Heidelberg.

And again and again one listens to the heartbeat like pulse which is guiding the listener through the tour. You hear are steps on dirty asphalt and wonder if they are your own. One effect the “costa compagnie” can not have planned on with certainty: The wind that sweeps across the hospital grounds, is passing on the headphones and produces this typical noise that symbolizes the loneliness in Western movies – extremely suitable to the abandoned U.S. Army base.

The statements become more political: One voice tells about the transformation from the American occupiers to the protectors of Germay and the U.S. military in Germany as an outpost against the Soviet Union. “And since 1990, the U.S. military remained here just because it is closer to the Middle East.” Sounds as simple as it can be sometimes.

After nearly 21 minutes, silence occurs in the headphones and the participants are faced with an open grass field and look upon four large loudspeakers that are placed in the high grass of the helipad. Now the question of a possible memorial is asked for, a memorial that could sum up the American presence in Heidelberg. What should it look like, where should it be located on the site? The answers are highly differentiated. A monument should stimulate thoughts, and has to deal with history and different cultures at the same time. “Only this can prevent future devastation!” says one. Another mentions that it would be sufficient to just keep one or two buildings. Finally one interview partner asks for a favor of the Heidelberg citizens: “Take good care of the grounds. For I will come back one day and want to walk over it again.”

Production: HERZ DER FINSTERNIS

Lichthof-Theater Hamburg & Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin

Hamburger Abendblatt, 12.09.2012

Regarding the Fear of the Unknown and the Wilderness

“Heart of Darkness” at the Lichthof Theatre is a skillfully staged trip into horror

by Klaus Witzeling
HAMBURG. A white plastic tarp covers the audience’s seating area like a reef. The spectators stand around helplessly in front of the obstacle. They feel alienated, uncomfortable without seating in such exposure. Similar disorientation Captain Marlow probably must have felt when he arrived in the Congo in Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness”.
On the lead of this river travel, Felix Meyer-Christian, in his multimedia performance after Conrad’s novel, increases the dose of irritation: with narrated horror scenes, grotesque dances and the final mortal ritual of ghostly lemurs. In this dramatic essay on the fear of the unknown and the overbearing rule of the colonial masters over the “savages”, Meyer-Christian shows, how white, “civilized” people step by step turn into the despised, mutated and annihilated “monsters” they so much fear.
A dozen steel plates sets the spatial limits of the performance space, put up in an installation by Eylien König. It reflects upon the impenetrable wall of the jungle, and also serves as a projection screen for Signe Koefoed atmospheric video installation. The frightening intense dancer and choreographer – inspired by African dance and the physical limit-reaching excess of Japanese Butoh dance – embodies the self and the unknown, in the confrontation with the Conrad-prose speaking actors Lisa Flachmeyer and Felix Meyer-Christian.
Although the director, who stepped in for the ill fallen actor Paul Walther, only read the text, he still decided to also perform along the other artists, so that the trip into horror could unhindered develop its maelstrom. Meyer-Christian drew a bow in this dramatic collage from the murderous doings of the white ivory traders in the past to the unscrupulous arms dealers in current conflict areas.
In the at times agonizing ritual of “exorcism of evil” Felix Meyer-Christian does not make it easy, neither for himself nor for the audience. But in this performance without concessions he takes up a repressed, hot topic, similar to his other historical-critical researches. And he constructs – with mental sharpness and artistically defying logical definition – an artistic rapid in the consumer-friendly and sluggishly streaming mainstream of contemporary theatre. (-itz) 

Production: ARCHE.ZONE – CHERKIZOV REVISITED

Joseph Beuys-Theater & Sakharov-Centre Moscow, Russia

The Moscow Times, 27 February 2012
Theater Plus / Drama Critic John Freedman about Culture and Art in Russia

Breaking Down the Barriers of Theater

By John Freedman
(…) Next up was “Cherkisov Revisited,” a performance-installation, if I may put it that way, conceived by Felix Meyer-Christian, Eylien Konig, Karolina Mazur and Alexei Kukarin. This was ostensibly an exploration of the effect that the controversial closing of the Cherkizovsky open-air market had on those who had worked there, although nothing so obvious and concrete emerged from the performance we witnessed. It included documentary texts drawn from interviews with a former market worker, and excepts from the writings of Chingiz Aitmatov.

The audience wandered about the stage, stopping to peruse a sculptural ensemble of pedestals in the center of the hall; to watch excerpts from Andrei Tarkovsky’s film “Stalker” on a computer in one corner; to watch videos of the old Cherkizovsky market projected on the floor in another corner; to listen to a women reading text in Polish as a Russian interpreter provided simultaneous translation; and to observe an oversized polyethylene bag as it came to life and crawled across the floor.

There was no center of attention and, during a discussion afterwards, director Meyer-Christian admitted he was surprised and even a little disappointed that some elements of his work were basically ignored by spectators. Much was made of the odd figure of the sack making its way across the floor. Some were surprised that no one bothered to open the bag and look inside — clearly there was a person in there, perhaps someone who needed to be liberated. Others pointed out that some spectators stood in the way of the bag and hindered its forward movement. Was this an act of curiosity, indifference or hostility? (…)