Judith Seng, process design can learn from the skills of performative arts

Published on June 19, 2013

Judith Seng investigates the contemporary culture and its materialized manifestations. Her works are poetic yet analytical and span the field between research, experimentation and creation of objects and spaces.

Acting Things investigates in knowledge of process design beyond the tradition of management thinking. Based on the assumption that process design can learn from the skills of performative arts, different production experiments are set up in which material and processes become mutually dependent: the material that is to be worked on generates a process which then in turn will shape the material.


The starting point for this project is based upon an observation of a traditional dance, that has been performed for generations every 1st of May in the South of Germany. During the so-called “Bandltanz” a woven structure is created by the choreography of the dancers. This lead to the research question of ACTING THINGS: What if an object would be created out of a dance? And what if we look at production processes as if they would be a dance?

Acting Things I is the opening event in a series of experiments into the possibilities of production processes around objects. It rethinks them by turning a theater stage into a temporary factory in which guests produce tables themselves in order to dine on them together. Entrance is free – the only payment is the physical labor the audience contributes to the project.

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After the happening, the produced objects are preserved. Looked at in another context they seem like traces of the individual operations; their fragility and temporality pay tribute to the process of making itself being a key motivation for producing products nowadays.

Acting Things II, The second production experiment creates several encounters between a dancer and a wax and investigates the interplay between forms of action and of material and how both develop like a dialogue, reacting and depending upon each other.

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The third experiment was focussing on the poetics that emerge between dissolution and fabrication of situations, interactions and objects and materials.The set up in the former print shop of the Amerika Haus Berlin was transformed over the course of three days. Acting Things III began with a static installation that displayed eight wax objects alongside a videoscreening showing the dancer making the very same pieces in the previous experiment Acting Things II. The next day, over the course of 12 hours, the installation was transformed into a work situation in which the processing of the material took place.The displayed objects slowly dissolved into material again thus initiating new encounters between the dancer and the newly colored material. The rhythm of actions was controlled by the time it took to process the material. After 12 hours the work situation was retransformed into an installation again. Six objects that had been overworked over the day alongside a video of the new interactions were displayed.

The overworked objects were preserved and photographed as objects made in a process of continuous over-work.

The experiment was open to the public and also showed a small exhibition about the project Acting Things, its previous experiments, observations, questions and thoughts.

Material Flow has been commissioned for Design Miami/Basel as the fourth in a series of experiments which investigates the making of objects through the performing arts in order to unveil the aesthetic, energetic and social dimensions of production processes. By looking at production as a dance, a play, a social ritual, Acting Things explores means of making beyond efficiency and result orientation.

Material Flow stages a poetic evolution of material, movement and objects over the course of Design Miami/ Basel – seven days, eight hours a day. Throughout the fair, dancers will engage in a free-flowing dialogue with material to create objects that express a unique process of making and a continuous cycle of fabrication and dissolution triggered by a continuous flow of material. A series of objects will be created each day to signify a complete cycle of production, only to be broken down the next day and translated into a different body of work, enabling new moments of creation again and again.

The dance part of the experiment is developed through an evolving cooperation between dancer Barbara Berti and Judith Seng. ACting Things IV will be performed by Barbara Berti, Julian Weber and Team Studio Judith Seng.

Dates: 11th – 16th of June 2013, 11 am -7 pm
Preview day: 10th of June 2013 (By invitation only)
Location: Hall 1 Süd, Messeplatz, Basel, Switzerland

Judith Seng


Year: 2011-2012
Location: Bad Kohlgrub and HAU
Music: Frank Wiedemann
Dancers: Barbara Berti, Trachtenverein Franz Degele
Food: Alex Valder, Anna Wolf
Assistance: Daniela Holzer, Alex Valder, Maren Bönsch, Patricia Mafra, Carmen Buttjer and Lena Krogsgaard.
Camera: Rudi Schröder
Video editing: Oli Weiss, Esther Görocs, Dimitar Ruszev and Harald Neumann
Support: Sebastian Christoffel and Joao Abraul
Funding: Einstein foundation Berlin via Graduate School for the Arts and Sciences


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