The State | Performance

GREY ROOM presents:

The State | a performance by Alexander Manuiloff

translated by Hannes Becker | curated by Kata Krasznahorkai


the performance is in German
dates : 23/24 February 2017 | 8PM
venue : Ballhaus Ost | Pappelallee 15, 10437 Berlin
tickets : 030 440 39 168 | |


Nothing is possible, so don’t try. The massive crowds weren’t changing anything. The enemy was not clear. So he decided to concentrate the protest on himself. This is a protest. This is not a suicide. But it became one.

Plamen Goranov thought nothing would change if the people are not changing themselves. He self-immolated himself in front of the municipality building in Varna at 7:30 a.m. without any spectators or cameras, only witnessed by the municipality police. He died as a consequence of his heavy injuries while only having turned 36. Plamen protested against the Mayor of Varna calling him to resign and was one of the leaders of a mass protest in February 2013. Heavy corruption was the trigger of a wave of dissent among the poorest of the poorest in Bulgaria, who went on the streets in complete despair and disillusioned by the State. People had no faith in the State representing their interest anymore and answered with anger and aggression. Plamen changed how Bulgarians perceive their society as being in a deep social and moral crisis. The State was revealed as completely corrupt and helpless.

Shortly after Goranov’s act the Mayor and the Prime Minister called his suicide a reason for their decision to resign. The government made a national day of mourning for him, it was on the main news in the national and international media. He was an outstanding figure in the history of self-immolations as he was a hard-working elevation worker during the day – and a poet and photographer in the night, all his acts carefully planned – also this last one. But that last morning nothing happened the way he planned. Since his death, poverty in Bulgaria drove 18 Bulgarians to self-immolate themselves, the latest case happened in January 2015.

*A letter appears in 63 parts. To keep power. To misuse power. To manipulate power. To give up power. Planning of the performance is impossible. As it is only relying on the interaction between layers of text and the individual presence in this situation.

„As audience-actors we’re trapped, not just in the ‘play’, but in the historical narrative, in the fact of a death, complicit, not just in the execution of a drama, but in culture of corruption, economic hardship, political deadlock and disenfranchisement that framed Goranov’s self-immolation and that of numerous others. The State takes us to one particular edge of the contemporary theatrical – a conceptual work, reflecting on the conditions of performance that nonetheless harnesses the power of narrative to look at real political issues.“ (Tim Etchells)

You are taking over power. You keep it, misuse it, manipulate it and You give it up. Unless someone else does it for you. It’s entriely up to you.


The performance project is part of the program series GREY ROOM, initiated and realised by Critique&Culture e.V. The project has been realised with the kind support of the LOTTO-Stiftung Berlin.

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Alexander Manuiloff

is an award-winning Bulgarian writer, whose plays and dramaturgy works have been staged on three continents and also at some of Europe’s most prominent theatre festivals. Scriptwriter of several films that toured globally and won prizes. Receiver of the Bulgarian Writers’ Guild Award for the best fiction debut book of the year (for “Film”, 2005). His works have been published in Bulgaria, Germany and the USA, and his journalistic writing has also received official accolade by the Association of European Journalists. Scholarship holder of the Charles University in Prague; the American Foundation TFAS; Goethe Institut Munich and Das Deutsch-Amerikanische Institut Heidelberg. Selected as one of the few foreign scholarshipholders of Germany’s theatre festival Theatertreffen 2014, Alexander is the first Bulgarian writer to be ever presented with a text-perfromance at Berlin’s top theatre forum the following year. Part of the exchange programme of the Drama League, New York, 2012. Alexander is an artist featured by the German-French TV ARTE.

The State

is a concept for theatre without actors and without a director. It explores the topics of how we build societies, how democracies function, whether there are agents-desctructors and what it takes to cooperate with others. It also tells the story of a real Bulgarian man who burnt himself in a protest against the system.

For two years the stages and theatre venues in Bulgaria were closed for “The State” until Berlin’s Theatertreffen decided to select the piece as one of the five Stueckemarkt winners in 2015. Since then “The State” has travelled around the world and has been invited to about 20 festivals and venues.

Kata Krasznahorkai

is a Berlin-based art historian, project director, curator and art critic working as a research fellow at the University of Zürich in the research project “Performance Art in Eastern Europe (1950-1990). History and Theory“.  Her focus is on the field of State-(Re)-Actions between Performance artist and the State as well as Performance Art in the Records of the Secret Services. 2010-2016 she was a project director at the Collegium Hungaricum Berlin (.CHB) curating several performance series. 2013-2015 she was the project leader of „Critique and Crisis. Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité reconsidered” in the framework of an EU- Culture program. She is an expert advisor to the Council of Europe for the reconceptualisation of Council of Europe`s Art Exhibitions. Krasznahorkai also worked as a curator at the Ludwig Museum Budapest (1997-2003). Krasznahorkai is lecturing widely in Germany and Switzerland, writing in numerous international publications and is a correspondent to Műértő and member of AICA. She is the chairwoman of the Berlin-based non-profit society Critique&Culture.