Radio Ballet

Exercise in lingering not according to the rules 

(Übung in nichtbestimmungsgemäßem Verweilen)

A Radio Ballet is a radio play produced for the collective reception in certain public places. It gives the dispersed radio listeners the opportunity, to subvert the regulations of the space. 

The Radio Ballet “Übung in nichtbestimmungsgemäßem Verweilen” took place in the main station of Leipzig, Germany, a former public space that is under private control of the German railway company (Deutsche Bahn - DB) and it ́s associates since the mid-nineties. Like every bigger train station in Germany it is controlled by a panoptic regime of surveillance cameras, security guards and an architecture, that avoids any dark and “dangerious” corners. The system of control is designed to keep out every kind of deviant behaviour. People, who sit down on the floor or start to beg are detected immediately and instantly expelled. 

The Radio Ballet brought back these excluded gestures of deviant behavior into the main station. Around 500 participants - usual radio listeners, no dancers or actors – were invited to enter the station, equipped with cheap, portable radios and earphones. By means of these devices they could listen to a radio program consisting of a choreography suggesting permitted and forbidden gestures (to beg, to sit or lie down on the floor etc.). These suggestions were inter-rupted by reflections on the public space and on the Radio ballet itself. 

The Radio Ballet was not a demonstration (that could have been forbidden by the DB) but a ”Zerstreuung” (a german term with different meanings: dispersion, distraction, distribution and, as well: entertainment). It also was not a mass ornament: The participants could act where they wanted to, on the platforms, on the stairs or the escalators or in the ”Promenade” (the shopping mall in the station). They acted as a free association, which transformed the coincidental constellation of radio reception into a political intervention. 

The first Radio Ballet took place in May 2002 in the main station in Hamburg. In both cases – Hamburg and Leipzig – the German Railway company tried to forbid the intervention before it took place. In Hamburg they even brought it before court - where we won: The court followed our argumentation, that the Ballet is not a gathering, that is forbidden by the regulations of the space, but a dispersion of radio listeners, that cannot be forbidden anywhere.