The documentary play Über das Gehirn (About the Brain) by Maria Ebbinghaus traces the human brain as an explored, unexplored and still-to-be-explored organ. This organ creates our personality and our image of the world around us, and anchors us firmly in the world. The play demonstrates the limits of the capabilities of the brain, and describes the effect of brain damage on personality and perception.

A spatial installation with displays, exhibits and screens is shown using video material, performative appearances and readings. The audience moves through the space as it follows the events. The performers are the neuropathologist David Capper, the neurosurgeon Karsten Geletneky, the neuroradiologist Andreas Bartsch and the magician Thomas Fraps. The video recordings showing the three doctors in their practical everyday work document the current state of knowledge of how the brain functions and the limits inherent in the doctors’ essential work.

Between the video sequences, the doctors recite texts from Arbeit und Struktur (Work and Structure) by the writer Wolfgang Herrndorf, who could have been their potential patient. He was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, and his blog described the effects of the illness on his personality and his relation with the world around him: depersonalization, loss of orientation and hallucinations. At the end of the play, the magician Thomas Fraps incorporates the doctors in his performance and uses an illusion to demonstrate how the brain can also create impossible realities. Through Herrndorf’s subjective view and the doctors’ objective view, the play allows us to experience the capabilities of the brain, emotionally, and intellectually.

Dr. Karsten Geletneky (neurosurgeon)
Dr. David Capper (neuropathologist)
Andreas Bartsch (neuroradiologist)
Thomas Fraps (magician)

Pianist: Katharina Ortner
Text: Wolfgang Herrndorf, Arbeit und Struktur (Work and Structure), 2013
Supervised by: Prof. Heike Schuppelius, Prof. Anja Dorn, Prof. Urs Lehni, Dr. Barbara Kuon

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