Focal Point Gallery presents a new feature length film, The Empty Plan, by London based artist filmmakers Anja Kirschner and David Panos. The piece considers the historical context for the work of renowned German playwright Bertolt Brecht, reconstructing four productions of his play, Die Mutter across three decades, and contrasting rehearsals and performances with Brecht’s time in exile in Hollywood during the 1940s. It was during this period that Brecht began the work of formalising many of his ideas into the unfinished theoretical text known as the Messingkauf Dialogues, used as the organising principle of the film.
In the process of making their new work, Kirschner and Panos shot footage in Los Angeles, and worked on location at theatres in Catford, Camberwell and Southend-on-Sea. The last remaining Edwardian theatre in Southend, The Palace Theatre, is used in the film to represent a German Weimar Republic era venue. The Empty Plan examines the political and aesthetic problems faced by Brecht as theatre was superseded by cinema, and the revolutionary movements that informed the playwright’s polemical approach, were destroyed or betrayed in the crises that lead up to WWII. Die Mutter was the last of Brecht’s works to be staged in Berlin before the Nazis came to power and was an attempt to join the politicised logic of agitprop and the dramatist’s ‘Learning Plays’ with a more classic theatrical mode. Kirschner and Panos’ film deploys a number of different formal strategies. Mixing improvisation, Brechtian and Stanislavskian theatre exercises, as well as set pieces shot in traditional film sets, it also utilises documentary-style reconstructions, fragments of text and historical imagery.
Anja Kirschner (b.1977, Munich) and David Panos (b.1971, Athens) live and work in London. Their long-form narrative films collide popular culture references, historical research and literary tropes, and address contemporary aesthetic, social and political questions. Their productions involve amateurs, actors and specialists from other disciplines in the creation of speculative histories and spectacular fantasies that comment on social reality.
After the film’s premiere in Southend-on-Sea, The Empty Plan will also be shown at Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and Kunsthall Oslo during 2011, as well as in the British Art Show 7: ‘In the Days of the Comet’ at The Hayward Gallery, London, and venues in Glasgow and Plymouth.
The Living Currency, after Pierre Klossowski: Staged by Pierre Bal-Blanc, Berlin