For a month, I was artist in residence at the Schlachthaus Bern. I approached the subject examined by my performance – illness and public life – from two different directions. On the one hand, I had random pedestrians on the street show and tell me about their illnesses. I talked to epileptics, to hypochondriacs, to cases of periodontosis, hernias, skin allergies, teenagers with ADHD and many others. I sat at a table on the sidewalk with a sign saying, “Are you sick? Tell all!” Then I waited until somebody sat down to talk to me. This often led to very long conversations with slightly absurd overtones. For example when a 65-year-old woman opened her mouth on the square outside the Zytglogge Tower, pointing to individual teeth and describing which tooth was causing her which problems. I started a kind of patient’s file, noting each “patient’s” history and tracing the paths they were taking through Bern. This led to a “map of illnesses” and served as material for an indoor performance which I developed for the Schlachthaus Theater.
My second field of research started with the fact that my grandfather had been an ear, nose and throat specialist practicing in Bern. I visited his former students and had them explain his personality and the operations he used to perform.
I wove all the material I had found in this manner into a performance at the Schlachthaus Theater; the framework was that members of the audience could turn in their illnesses and acquire new ones.
YOUR ILLNESS IS NOT YOUR OWN, YOUR ILLNESS BELONGS TO THE CITY!
“When somebody starts his break-dance… here’s how to act: either don’t touch him, or see that he doesn’t injure himself; otherwise let him lie and shake it out, and then call an ambulance. Nothing else. Do nothing yourself. During a fit, an epileptic develops strengths you cannot imagine. I broke one medic’s arm and another one’s shin-bone, and I gave my GP an incredible shiner. Three times, I crashed my head against the wall, and they said, let him crash into the wall, then he’ll be normal again.”
Text example 2
Text example 1
“A field your grandfather was famous for: operations of the pituitary: pineal glands, where you perform a medial incision through the eye in order to treat adenomas, i.e. the tumors that mean your hats no longer fit you. That’s something your grandfather invented in Bern. It was easy to see under a microscope. You go in next to the eye, along the base of the skull, you recognize the pituitary as a shape, before that, there is the sella turcica or Turkish Chair, a bone-like skin, and then you suck out the pituitary. Of course that’s the end of your sexuality. Your grandfather: good demeanor, an imposing figure, huge charisma; when he said something, everyone else fell silent. Both personally and professionally, he could be very loud, and knew how to party, he always ended up dancing on the tables at celebrations. In my mind, I always see your grandfather walking into the Marzilibad, and 10 meters behind him comes his wife, with the food and the bathing clothes. Very embarrassing: a striptease he did as part of a kind of performance at a medical congress in Interlaken. When he was past sixty.”
ARE YOU SICK? TELL ALL!