It was while in Berlin last summer as an artist-in-residence at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research that Philipp Weiss first heard about the Biosphere 2. He began to read about and research the original project that was initiated by an “eco-capitalistic thinking billionaire” and the individuals who called themselves “the Synergists.” What interested Weiss at first was the idea of simulation – “to build a world inside the world and this very strong idea of rebuilding the world in some aspect.” Weiss was caught by the expression “Spaceship Earth,” as Buckminster Fuller had named it, and the thought of spreading humanity into the universe. He considered the responsibilities on Earth, and the complications of leaving it – “being here on planet earth, you are part of a very big and fragile system… and in charge and responsible for keeping the system in balance in order for mankind to stay alive on this planet… and on the other hand this [“Spaceship Earth”] makes it very easy to say okay we can mess up with this earth and go elsewhere when we need to.” Weiss recognized dramatic potential in the ideas of this original Biosphere project, especially considering the personal experiences of those researchers who lived within the Biosphere between 1991 and 1993. However, he does not aim to create a documentary piece or tell a story that has already been told, instead he wants to start from the facts and diverge into fiction for his play. These are the current research interests of the Department of German Studies’ newest Max Kade Writer-in-Residence, Austrian author, Philipp Weiss.
Weiss does not write for only one genre, he has done both theater pieces and prose, although the beauty of writing plays lies in transformation. Once he has completed a play he celebrates when “handing it over to theater people – actors, directors – and having it transformed again. It’s a process of a text staying alive and being embodied again and again if the play is staged more than one time.” Weiss gushes, “I have plenty of perspectives and speakers and characters and they all have their own version of the world, their own voices and their own sounds. Different voices are like different instruments – you have a whole orchestra.” Writing short texts and novels is, however, more of an opportunity to have authority over a text for him. He sees in it the possibility to be more exact and fine with his intentions, although he also recognizes the unending space he is creating into and how long such a project can take.
While at the University of Vienna, Weiss studied German Studies, Philosophy, and German as a Foreign Language. For his Master’s thesis he wrote a deconstructionist essay on Peter Handke’s Wunschloses Unglück. Handke’s dynamic writing style inspires Weiss in his own projects, as Weiss recognizes that Handke is not afraid to change his perspective with every new text that he writes; Handke is not afraid to transform. Weiss claims, “I don’t think that a writer should finally come to one voice, to one form and stick to that – [instead] it’s new each time. “
Weiss himself started writing theater pieces in 2005, while he was studying. A professor of his encouraged him to write a play for the Burgtheater, which he did. The play, “egon. Ein Kunst-Stück,” was published in 2008 and performed at the Leopold Museum in Vienna – although Weiss confesses that when he first wrote “egon” he “had no idea what theater was and was just doing what came to mind, but this is very productive and much more interesting than knowing the tradition and fitting in.” Since then Weiss has written 5 other plays, and many pieces of prose. At this time he is working on a novel about the Fukushima accident, and of course the Biosphere 2 play, which is still in the beginning phase.
- “Pastiche” (2005)
- “Der erotische Körper” (2007)
- “Blätterliebe” (2009)
- Tartaglia (2006/ edit. 2013)
- Malachit und Amphisbaena (2012)
- egon. Ein Kunst-Stück (2006)
- Seifenblasenoper. Eine Kritik der runden Vernunft (2010)
- Allerwelt (2011)
- die europa. (2012)
- Ein schöner Hase ist meistens der Einzellne (2013)
- Kein schöner Land. (2014)
Text by Renae Bowen.