Brecht Forensics: Part 1, Drinking Brecht, (2018)

UPCOMING: January 5th, Joe’s Pub, Under The Radar Festival, 10.30am

Cocktails, DNA, petri-dish, alcohol, strawberries, percussion.
Performance: Prelude Festival, CUNY Graduate Center, Oct 4th 2018
Duration: 1 hour
Artists: Kathryn Hamilton, Mike Perdue, Jude Traxler, Dr Mike Flanagan, Devin Burnam, Jacqueline Blaska
In collaboration with GenSpace

Brecht Forensics is a new work in development, based on DNA extracted from a hat that used to be the costume for soldier number 2 in the Berliner Ensemble performances of Mother Courage. The hat has never been washed, because Brecht wanted it to stink like the war, and so it retains the DNA of those who interacted with it and wore it since 1949. Brecht Forensics will be created out of the DNA itself, growing onstage inside of live bacteria.

Part 1, Drinking Brecht is a lecture that demonstrates DNA extraction live onstage, and then creates two cocktails, The Herman, and The Karl, from DNA of two different individuals, former members of the Berliner Ensemble. The lecture-demo is followed by a party where the audience drink the cocktails, and the performance takes place in the small intestines of the audience, as they ingest the DNA, break it down, and reabsorb its components into their own proteins. The piece becomes a commentary on the idea of acting, of taking on a role, it is both the most extreme type of method acting - literally incorporating the building blocks of another’s life into your own - and also a kind of intestinal alienation, a Brechtian gesture for a consumptive age. The party is accompanied by a percussion set, scored from the DNA sequence of one of those actors. Two percussionists play Herman’s DNA score, each taking the role of one DNA backbone and playing in the opposite direction 

Part 2, Genetically Modified Theater is a table-top installation that created a miniature Berliner Ensemble stage populated by transgenic performers. It demonstrates the process by which two former members of the Berliner Ensemble's mtDNA sequences have been spliced with genes from jellyfish that code for phosphorescing proteins, and inserted into bacteria growing live on a miniature petri-dish stage. Now, at a microbiological scale, the two actors meet again, creating a drama of their own as they co-exist, and then begin to compete for increasingly scarce resources, over the duration of the installation. 
Medium: Petri-dish, luria broth, Bacteria 1: plasmid with DNA insert haplotype H, green protein, Bacteria 2: plasmid with DNA insert haplotype K, red protein, Mother Courage book, whiteboard marker, fabric hat, rotating displays, UV light. 

All photos by Maria Baranova