Philipp Ruch

Portrait Philipp Ruch
Photo: Esra Rotthoff

Philipp Ruch on the disappearance of a critical public sphere.

Does Covid call the theatre into question?
I don’t think so. Covid-19 is a means for the heightening of theatricality. The more stipulations, the more creativity. Coping with restrictions leads to the creation of fascinating things. When the political setting stipulates that people must maintain 1.5 meters distance from one another, they may not touch each other and actually culture is completely impossible because it’s a leisure pastime, then the costume designer says: Look I have just the thing for that: a massive, expansive robe. And that’s how it works throughout all the disciplines. Limitations create the conditions for innovations. Artistic creation is based on limitations, without stipulations, it rarely succeeds.
Has the pandemic changed your work?
Completely. Due to the pandemic many of our supporters, who have been called accomplices ever since the senator for the interior attacked the Gorki’s artistic director in the winter of 2014, have encountered financial difficulties. In March, I was also somewhat shocked to hear nothing from the fifth estate, the artists, intellectuals and others active in the arts and culture. Thea Dorn and Juli Zeh were almost alone in representing the function of intellectuals to criticize those in power. Otherwise there was silence and shock-induced paralysis. Slowly everything is getting back onto its feet again. We wanted to show that radical art is just as possible as necessary under pandemic conditions. That’s how the action Wo sind unsere Waffen? was born, in which MAD, Germany’s military intelligence service, asks the population for their help in finding the military’s weapons. Now the first private residences have been searched, and we’ve paid rewards for information.

But your work is even more dependent on the public than conventional theatre, right?
Both the theatre as well as the ZPS rely on a political consciousness. Also with Wo sind unsere Waffen?, the disappearance of a critical public sphere, which is expressed in the nosedive of the printed newspaper, gives me more and more of a sinking feeling. I doubt that one is socialised into a political consciousness through TikTok. Especially since the app originates from a dictatorship directly. The good old newspaper was a well-set alarm. We could do with a few more of those. The Gorki has been working in this spirit for years.
Zentrum für politische Schönheit

Interview: Arno Widmann

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