The Empty Plan, 2010
Anja Kirschner & David Panos
78 mins, HD, Custom Ratio 3:2

Shifting between documentary, historical reconstruction and melodrama, The Empty Plan interrogates the relationship between theory and practice in the theatre of Bertolt Brecht.

The film contrasts scenes from Brecht’s exile in Los Angeles (1941 to 1947) with productions of his 1931 play The Mother in the late Weimar Republic, New Deal America and post-war East Germany, exploring different modes of performance and their relation to changing historical and political circumstances.

The title of the film is taken from Brecht’s Messingkauf Dialogues, an unfinished theoretical work written during his exile, which considers the possibilities of ‘committed art’ and its practical, theoretical and formal limits at a time when revolutionary mass movements had been defeated and theatre was supplanted by Hollywood cinema as the dominant form of popular entertainment.

Through the figures of Brecht, his collaborator Ruth Berlau and his wife, the actress Helene Weigel, the film reflects on conflicting personal, artistic and political ambitions, raising questions about the nature of art and the unrealised dream of its supersession through revolutionary practice.

Funded by Arts Council England through Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network, co-produced with City Projects and supported by Focal Point Gallery, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and Kunsthall Oslo.

Anja Kirschner (b.1977, Munich) and David Panos (b.1971, Athens) live and work in London. Their long-form narrative films collide popular culture references, historical research and literary tropes, and address contemporary aesthetic, social and political questions. Their productions involve amateurs, actors and specialists from other disciplines in the creation of speculative histories and spectacular fantasies that comment on social reality. Recent solo exhibitions include Chisenhale Gallery, London (2009); CCA, Glasgow (2009); Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe (2009), Transmission Gallery, Glasgow (2008) and Broadcast Gallery, Dublin (2008). Recent group exhibitions include ‘Depression’, Marres, Maastricht (2009); ‘Everything then passes between us’, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne (2009) and ‘Nought to Sixty’, ICA, London (2008). Kirschner and Panos are represented by Hollybush Gardens, London and their films are distributed by the LUX and BFI.

The film was first shown at Focal Point Gallery, Southend on Sea in 2010 and then at Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Kunsthall Oslo and Castillo/Corrales, Paris in 2011. With the British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet, it was shown at The Hayward Gallery, London, and venues in Glasgow and Plymouth, also in 2011.