Some Clips from the rehearsals

The performance/installation takes its inspiration from the 1904 poem „Waiting for the Barbarians“ by the Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy.

Waiting for the Barbarians
C. P. Cavafy

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything going on in the Senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What’s the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,
in the state, wearing the crown?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor’s waiting to receive their leader.
He’s even got a scroll to give him,
loaded with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?

Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
And some of our men just in from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.

Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.

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Waiting for the Barbarians

The country is at a standstill, nothing is done, and no one is in charge. Everyone is waiting in a state of cultural torpor and political stagnation. It is a CinemaScope spectacle of imminent national decline. 

In a bunker somewhere in an unnamed city (Rome? Constantinople? Vienna? It doesn’t matter, because it keeps happening everywhere, after all), a crowd has gathered in anxious expectation of the arrival of some (also unnamed) “barbarians.”

The culture of fear replaced the optimism (The Golden Age of social democracy?) that was once this city’s leading frame of mind. The barbarians, the crowd is being told, are in a position to take over the country, to loot what they wish and want. 

Things have moved past the stage of discussion or debate. The political will of the citizens has been so atrophied by indolence, luxury, and complacency that they can only hope for disaster as a means of renewing the state. In the air, there is some perverse yearning for some violent crisis that might break the deadlock and reinvigorate the state. 

Waiting for the barbarians is a performance/installation that takes place in a real bunker. Deep down, under a playground, the public is being confronted with its own fear. The fear of the other. It is an ironic take on a „know your enemy“ training camp. Who are the barbarians? Why are we so afraid of their arrival? Why do we need the imaginary barbarians to define our own goodness/culture/identity? How we define ourselves if the barbarians did not exist any longer? And finally, why are we waiting instead of rebuilding this Paranoid Empire we call home?

The performance/installation Waiting for the Barbarians turns the bunker’s many rooms into a labyrinth of fear. A rollercoaster of sounds, images, and live actions that take the public on a ride inside the absurd paranoia that, unfortunately, became the prevailing discourse of our time.

So fasten your seatbelt, you are in for a wild ride.

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