Markus Öhrn

Resistance through Duration

“Resistance to the neatly packaged and over-produced things we are fed everywhere in our society.”

Markus Öhrn is a visual artist working with video, sound installations, and performance. However, the context in which he presents his work is mainly theater. Öhrn made his directorial debut in theater in 2010 with the piece Conte d’Amour, which won first prize at the 2011 Impulse Theater Festival, Germany. Conte d’Amour later became the first part of a trilogy that includes We Love Africa and Africa Loves Us (2012), and Bis zum Tod (2014). These works have been shown at festivals around the world, including Theatertreffen, Berlin; Wiener Festwochen, Vienna; Festival d’Avignon; Festival Transamerique, Montreal; and the roving German festival, Theater Der Welt.

Markus Öhrn: Philoktetes
Markus Öhrn, Philoktetes. Photo: Markus Öhrn.
Markus Öhrn: AZDORA
Markus Öhrn, Azdora. Photo: Marks Öhrn.

Öhrn began to experiment with site-specificity and serial formats in 2015. The first project created in this manner was Azdora, where Öhrn cast local housewives to form a black metal band that performed for ten consecutive days. Originally created for the Italian Santarcangelo Festival, the piece was shown at the 2016 Wiesbaden Biennale and on stages across Europe with a new cast of local housewives in each iteration. Other durational performances include an “advent calendar” consisting of 24 pieces performed over 24 days at Berlin’s Volksbühne theater in December 2015; and the eleven-day performance Wir Sind die Guten (We’re the Good Ones), created for the same theater in 2017. His five-hour theater piece Häusliche Gewalt (Domestic Violence) was commissioned for the Wiener Festwochen in 2018, and its 2019 follow-up, 3 Episodes of Life—created in the form of a silent film—won a special mention in the Austrian theater award, Nestroy.

Öhrn considers this durational format to provide an antidote to and even push back against “the neatly packaged and overproduced things we are fed everywhere in our society. The viewers have to invest their time—and themselves—in the work, instead of just experiencing something that is forced into an easy-to-digest format.”

Markus Öhrn: 3 Episodes of Life
Markus Öhrn, 3 Episodes of Life. Photo: Nurith Wagner-Strauss.

In the age of binge-watching, he argues, “we’ve lost the ability to wait for the next episode, and think about what will happen. I want to create more waiting, more duration, to create a deeper connection to the subject matter or story I want to tell.”

As a mentor, he is looking for applicants who are working with live formats—alone or in combination with other artistic mediums—and are interested in exploring a specific theme with the tool of durational and multipart performance, to reject easy answers.

Watch the video statement to find out more about what Öhrn is looking for in applications:

Visual artist Markus Öhrn on his work and role as mentor in Forecast's fifth edition.