The Society

Photos: Dominique Brewing

The Society

Meters of files with the inscription ‘Spinner!’ (Nuts!). In the archive of the Max Planck Society, proposals from independent project organizers since 1900 that have never been realized have been collected, such as: a European Council of Mothers, formulas for the attainment of stable world peace, or pedagogical reform projects, just to name a few. Why were these proposals rejected? Which institutions never saw the light of day? What research was excluded?

Herbordt/Mohren reviewed these files and staged a new research society on this basis: intergenerational, participatory and committed. With international guests from the arts, science, civil society and the neighborhood. In continually recurring meetings, all participants design and create the knowledge on which the society could be based, how this knowledge can be stored, expanded and told, who participates and how the resources are shared.

After a series of online laboratories with the participation of partners from Berlin, Istanbul, Reykjavik, Salvador-Bahia and Zurich, among others, the new research company presented itself digitally and at the Theater Rampe in Stuttgart for the first time at the end of the 2020/2021 season.

Since 2022, ‘Die Gesellschaft’ (The Society) has been part of the inventory catalogue in the first Schaudepot for the Performing Arts in Stuttgart. ‘The Society’ can be visited here on individual dates and after prior registration. Each performance takes place with new, always international guests who participate online or live and whose contributions are documented as a video, archived and sustainably accessible in a video installation. The guests are invited to engage with the audience about their reflections and perceptions of our current society and the practical consequences for them. In this way, a new research society is created in constantly changing combinations, which remains active and accessible in Stuttgart on a permanent basis.

In the Schaudepot, ‘The Society’ can be visited by 1-8 children and adults at the same time. A visit consists of an introduction to ‘The Society’ as a performance and new research society with Melanie Mohren and Bernhard Herbordt; an encounter with a shareholder; an insight into a video archive of all previous encounters; the possibility of becoming or proposing to become a shareholder and a board game.  

Next appointments, registration and information about the visit


‘It begins: ‘The Society’, a piece in two parts. There is a children’s society with art educator Tina Pantisano and a program for adults, which is now conducted by Melanie Mohren. ‘The Society’, implemented in 2021 at the Stuttgart Theatre Ramp, refers to a research society, based on the so-called ‘Spinner Archive’ (Loony Archive) of the Max Planck Society. Since 1900, suggestions and ideas have been collected there that are considered unfeasible. In the Schaudepot, visitors are asked to make suggestions as to which societies might still be founded. On the table in front of them is a list of those already archived as ‘nuts’: the Society for the Study of a Formula for Stable World Peace, for example. Why doesn’t anyone take this proposal seriously?’

Dietrich Heissenbüttel, KONTEXT:Wochenzeitung, 04.01.2023

Attracting people from different walks of life to the theatre is an important goal. In the project ‘The Society’, for example, Bernhard Herbordt and Melanie Mohren bring people from art, science, politics and other worlds together. For this purpose, they have reviewed files of the Max Planck Institute, which document projects that were never realized. ‘Spinner’ (‘Loony’ or ‘Nuts’) can be read on some of the yellowed lids. A European Mothers’ Council is just as much a part of this as formulas for achieving a stable world peace. ‘This is a process-oriented work in which there are always moments in which the public is involved,’ says Grohmann, describing the approach. The artists spent a year and a half working on this production at the Rampe, with which they have long been associated. They developed their project in exchange with the audience and with international interlocutors.’

Theater der Zeit, February 2022

‘TdZ: After all, the formula for achieving stable world peace can be found in the files!

Melanie Mohren: Yes, unfortunately the Society that wanted to pursue this was not founded. But that brings us back to the theatre: the question of what would have happened if. What would our present or future look like if these ideas, these wonderful suggestions had not been rejected? We find speculation of this kind extremely appealing. At the same time, however, some exceptions emerge. Who will be rejected? And above all: Who doesn’t show up as an applicant in the first place? It’s highly topical if we look around today’s institutions and research organizations. This raises the question of why so little has happened in the past 120 years.’

Theater der Zeit, May 2021


From and with: Jorge Alencar, Ebru Nihan Celkan, Xenia Dürr, Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir, Matthias Engler, Neto Machado, Viviana González Méndez, Paula Kohlmann, Tina Pantisano, Boglárka Pap
Interventions: Marcus Bergmann, NAF
Artistic direction: Melanie Mohren and Bernhard Herbordt
Stage: Leonie Mohr and Hannes Hartmann
Production direction: Andrea Oberfeld (honest work – independent cultural office)
Research, coordination: Silinee Damsa-Ard, Sandra Oehy
Assistance: Felix Falczyk
Technical management: Max Kirks
Zoom management: Kati Trinkner
Camera: Amir Saadat
Video documentation: Hagen Betzwieser
Photos: Dominique Brewing
Graphic design: Demian Bern

A production by Herbordt/Mohren (‘The Institution’) in co-production with Theater Rampe Stuttgart, in cooperation with Merz Akademie Stuttgart. Funded by conceptual funding from the Cultural Office of the City of Stuttgart, the Performing Arts Fund (Fonds Darstellende Künste e.V.) from the federal government, the Baden-Württemberg State Association of Independent Dance and Theatre Creators (Landesverband Freier Tanz- und Theaterschaffender Baden-Württemberg) from the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts of Baden-Württemberg.