Social Dialogue Magazine
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Patricia Ines Hoeppe, Professor, Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, Germany

Performance Art in Social Work to Help Integrate Immigrant Populations


To position oneself, to find one's place and allowing others to do the same seems to be the global social and cultural issue of our times and is the guiding principle of the project Performed City(1) which took place in terms of performative research in a small city in the southern part of Germany 2012-2014. This city has a population of 15,000 with over 70 % of them being migrants. Because integration is proving itself to be difficult, the city council turned to me, a Professor and developer of the Master Studies „Performance Art in Social Fields“ at Francfurt University of Applied Sciences/Germany and long-standing Performance Artist, with the request to develop and implement an art poject for the entire city that would reveal the status quo of integration as well as support integration and communication between it’s citizen.

Cultural Performance

Culture creates itself through acting. This aspect of culture, the aspect focused on acting, is referred to as Cultural Performances. Through the execution of acting with each other, Cultural Performances create events and negotiate processes. Culture as Performance, so to speak. Through the actions, in the so-called Cultural Performance within an everyday context, it creates not only an awareness, but also settles social realities.

Performance Art constitutes social realities by creating atmospheric, subjectively and inter-subjectively experienced situations with artistic tools. It identifies interpersonal situations; it constitutes reality and is self-referential. It`s call for action and negotiation in what is often a life situation can initiate and promote the capability to act. Because it cannot be directly interpreted and because of its multiple facets and multiple perspectives, it can contribute to peoples' freedom though the positioning of their "performative perspective" and "reflexion in action" (3). This practice-led research (3), the performance research has the particularity that, in the very moment of research it already has a reality-constituting impact. Performed City addresses the social space - city - in relation to integration. In contrast to so-called urban performances, which take place within city spaces, Performed City does not address the urbanity of city space. In Performed City the social and cultural space within the democratic state system is itself the performance space - with its fabric of different sub-systems and finally the citizen himself.

Every citizen in a democracy is called upon to take part in the process of forming society to participate in forming the social and cultural city space (4). As participant, through his position in the social and cultural city space as well as through (per-)forming situations with tools such as intervention, operative settings, involvement and implementation (5) he gains a continuous ability to act and constitute social reality. Thus he enables his own integration. The performative-artistic city project Performed City takes place in three Lines of Actions, which are the essence of the methodology I developed.

Inner Line of Action

In the Inner Line of Action=Performative Positioning of a City the positioning of constituting powers in the social city space will be consciously perceived and staged. An entire city is systemically positioned and performed in regards to her social fabric. The reference for this is the systemic formation work as method, performing visually relationships patterns which exist in a system. The systemic formation work is expanded through artistic means and then performed with the entire city by means of deputies=performers. I refer to this systemic-performative formation work with an entire city as the Performative Positioning of a City. The term "system" is a construction (6) and serves orientation. Based on family-systems, the psychologist Bert Hellinger, among others, observed that, for instance, the entanglements and exclusions of individual family-members has a disruptive effect on the entire system. Affiliations can be restored through systemic work, something that makes the solving of entanglements for the entire system possible. The systemic work is based upon the fundamental presumption that a change to a part of a system influences the entire system (6) - here: the entire city. In the project Performed City I have extended the systemic formation work in cooperation with the systemic advicer Käthe Finke (7) in order to include an entire city. A factory building serves as a "miniature city." Here in this closed performance location the city's deputies embody the city and its atmospheres in Performative Positioning of a City=Inner Line of Action. After comprehending the space that they are in, accomplished through walking and standing, they position themselves graphically according to their subjective feelings. The assumption is, that social-cultural issues reveal themselves through the positioning of the city, and that theses initiate further systemic and performative strategies.

This settling occurs through physical positioning=embodiment of the urban position in a performative-temporary drawing of a space=mapping and through performative action which serve to position the city. Problems in the fabric and possible steps within the urban for resolution within the practiced democracy in the city become visible and available.

The possible resolutions come first out of the systemic (8), which restores democratic order and settles - through movement - the urban structures in relation to democratic order and negotiates this order. Art provides the systemic continuation. Art opens the space of possibilities and actions and settles the real and actual. The growing awareness of problems within the fabric and possible steps towards resolution are understood as calls for action. By taking up these impulses to act and developing them further, performative actions occur, that when performed in the real city space, will constitute the city anew. For this reason, I refer to them Performative Constitution of a City= Outer Lines of Action.

Outer Line of Action

In Outer Lines of Action= Performative Constitution of a City performances and actions take place in the real-life social urban space. During the Inner Line of Action= Performative Positioning of the City, the issues became evident to the deputies concerned. Now, in Outer Lines of Action, the issues will be formulated into a stand-alone performance-action performed in a real-life social or cultural space.

Culture creates itself through acting. In the negotiations which follow, the settlings are fitted. Culture is created through the execution of settling and negotiating, a Cultural Performance whose aim is the integration of diversity through democratic positioning.

Public Line of Action

The objective of Public Line of Action is to empower the citizen to integrate into their democratic city, through participation (9). The citizen is empowered to participate through the Citizen Happening. Citizens are invited to take a position on their individual stand-points, to show this and negotiate it in the negotiation process with their fellow citizens, thus forming the city as a whole.

A Happening (10) represents an artistic experimental arrangement, which suggests everyday actions within the context of art as experiment. In Citizen Happening the performance actions from the Inner Line of Action and the Outer Lines of Action are set up like an obstacle course. At various stations, the participant, directed by mapping, situations and guidelines for action, can mimetically try out performative methods, and subsequently develop their own impulses for action poietically to settle them in their city. In terms of cultural and social participation, these are first performed experimentally in the miniature city and later implemented and negotiated in the real-life social and cultural city space.

Performative and participatory methods are democratic methods, which demand and promote democratic intercultural competencies. In Germany, not all citizens, whether native or immigrant are familiar with democratic types of action. Performed City, through Performance Art can contribute to empowerment towards democracy.


(1)Patricia Ines Hoeppe, Performed City, Performance Press International 2015 Translation: Helen Center, www.patricia;
(2) Donald A. Schön, The Reflective Practioner, 1983 Basic Book, Inc. USA;
(3) Seitz, Hanne „Performative Research“ in Fink, T., Hill, B., Reinwand, V-I, Wenzlik, A kopaed München 2012, Borgdorff, Henk, Die Debatte über Forschung in der Kunst in subText03, Künstlerische Forschung, Zürich Hochschule für Künste 2009,
(4) Europarat Straßbourg, Education for Democratic Citizenship, 2001,
(5) Dieter Mersch. Life-Acts. Die Kunst des Performativen und die Performativität der Künste in G. Klein, W. Sting, Positionen zur zeitgenössischenszenischen Kunst, transcript Bielefeld 2005,
(6) Schwing, Rainer, Fryszer, Andreas „Systemisches Handwerk“, Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht; Göttingen 2012,
(7) Käthe Finke, systemic advicer:,
(8) Hellinger, Bert „Ordnung der Liebe, Knauer Verlag, München, 2002,
(9) Feldhoff, Silke, Zwischen Spiel und Politik, Partizipation als Strategie und Praxis in der Bildenden Kunst, Diss 20.2.09 UdK Berlin,
(10) Kaprow; Allan 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, Steil Verlag Göttingen 2007; Michel De Certeau, die Kunst des Handelns, Merve Verlag Berlin 1988