Lalish Theaterlabor

Research Center of Theater and Performance-Culture


“We don’t want to make theatre in the usual sense
of the word, but we embark on a voyage.
And this voyage is a process of self-awareness

and of self-expression in a solemn act.” Shamal Amin

Special Ways, Performances and Research Objectives

“The path of our laboratory work leads to the discovery of a new fusion of voice,
movement and life as a whole. The dissolution of the separation between art and life, between aesthetics and common values, is a decisive factor in our research projects.”
Shamal Amin and Nigar Hasib

After the experimental research project “The Culture-Physical Concept”, which was conducted in various countries in the Near East from 1985 until 1991 and “Exploration of Performative Culture and its Techniques”, from 1992 until 1999 in Europe, Shamal Amin and Nigar Hasib, two extraordinary artists hailing from Kurdistan, founded the “Lalish Theaterlabor” (“Lalish Theatre laboratory”) in Vienna, Austria. This experimental center for research in ritual and intercultural performance work ultimately serves to explore the “Present Body in Space and Time” and the “Source of Solemnity”.

In June of 2000 they opened their own center (“theatre-space”). A space to discover ritualistic body elements, in order to create an energetic body instead of a motorial one and to proceed with the experimental research of the processes of solemnity and ritualizing. A place where, together with their ensemble, their fellow researchers and members of a variety of different cultures, they could explore the many questions posed. The theatre-space of the Lalish Theaterlabor was rebuilt and renovated with the financial support of the Kulturamt der Stadt Wien.

From 2002 until 2003 the Lalish Theaterlabor developed the concept “Setting-out for the Sources of Solemnity” and the working process of “Creative-Nature”.  Inherent in these researches are questions like: “How can a ritual frame be developed to guide the spectators perceptions and how can a physical unity be put forth in order to create the ‘Present Body in Space and Time’ ?” In addition to that, techniques were developed, which created an access to such potentials. Essential and central aspects of the research of the Lalish Theaterlabor during that phase were the ritualistic, experimental vocal- and singing techniques and the originally composed songs. The vocal techniques, although always moving within a perimeter of basic principles, would necessarily change according to each specific part of the research.

From 2003 until 2006 based on Shamal Amin’s newly developed methodical work “Voice Anthropology” and under the direction of Nigar Hasib, the Lalish Theaterlabor expanded its experimental ritual performance work with the process “Songs as a Source”. Here songs become the source of rhythm, of physical presence and also the source of action. Thus songs are not only being sung, but they’re being done. Shamal Amin calls this process “Making songs visible”. Decisive for the importance of the voice and of ritual singing in this process is, as Nigar Hasib puts it: “…that the multidimensionality of the space is perceived through feeling and hearing the voices, tones and sounds, so that a feeling of space and spatial awareness can develop amongst those present.”

With the research-project “no shadow” (2006-2011) and the continuing research “Songs as a Source”, the Lalish Theaterlabor dedicates itself, in performance, to today’s mostly forgotten archeological search for the human voice, its individual and cultural origin and its direct impact. Nigar Hasib and Shamal Amin seek to discover an original, intermediate and artistic language, outside of the conventional linguistic symbolism. This new, non-linguistic language consists of syllables, sounds, tones and possibly still other vocal expressions, stemming from various different cultures. All this leads to a new way of communication in performance.

Shamal Amin aptly named this new phase in the work of the Lalish Theaterlabor the “Awakening of the Abstract Solemnity”:

“We create a flowing space, wherein voices and songs turn into pleasure. The voice resembles an action which always allows one to discover something new".

This new, non-linguistic language in the performance work of the Lalish Theaterlabor therefore distinguishes itself fundamentally from today’s so-called artistic languages of world theatre, which primarily deal directly with representation, with things, subjects and stories.

Shamal Amin and Nigar Hasib always try to create an empty space, which then becomes filled with voice and movement. A space in which the surroundings turn into an “Everywhere and Nowhere“, into a ritual-space and time transforms itself into an “Always and Never”, into a ritual-time. Songs and voices are not being employed to deepen a dramatic plot or to connect two scenes to one another, or to try to embody the theme of a song. Neither are songs performed for special occasions or to fit a given situation. The Lalish Theaterlabor’s “Songs as a Source” surpass all these limitations and deconstruct such techniques.

Nigar Hasib, describing this process: “Songs create our actions, but our actions do not interpret our songs lexically. Therefore each song, each vocal action, prescribes its own precise movement-score for the body. The body deals directly with the “Life of the Sounds” and its acting becomes organic instead of purely technical. In this way of acting the body doesn’t become a part of the voice and the voice a part of the body, but they form a unity, because that unity is the original source of expression”.

In the above-described way, the Lalish Theaterlabor for itself was able to suspend the basic structure of a common western theatre concept and developed its own instead. The rejection of “Authorship” and the deconstruction of conceptions such as “Director”, “Actor/Actress”, “Show/Performance” serves as a transition to the development of new ways of performance work. The terminology of the Lalish Theaterlabor, such as “Participating Observer”, “Celebrants”, “Performative Gathering” as opposed to “Director”, “Actor”, “Show”, is not a linguistic interplay, but is in actual accordance with the structure of the theatre lab’s work and its research processes.

The aim of the Lalish Theaterlabor is a transcultural exchange and the creation of a “Present Body in Space and Time”, by exploring body- and voice techniques of East- and North-Anatolian performance culture, as well as western performance - culture and art, in order to allow for new ways of performing.

This however is not a search for one certain identity of the individual, but for all of its different identities. Another point of emphasis is the ritualizing of criticism in these globalized times and the further development of basic ritualistic elements in performance work. These elements are to be seen not only as instruments of contact and of communication, but also embody an attempt to deconstruct and surpass the rigid concepts of the mechanized rationalism of centralism.

The Lalish research projects were conducted in Kurdistan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Syria, Morrocco, Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, England, Switzerland, Denmark, Poland, Italy, Greece, Ukraine, Kosovo, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria Macedonia and Japan. Various renowned institutions, such as the International Theatre Institute, many artists of recognized international status, theatre scientists, ethnologists and anthropologists worldwide, consider this research a desired experimental ritualizing process, which has brought forth a new and original approach to performance work.

Annual research projects in various experimental performative meetings; “Intercultural Dialogues” in form of international symposiums; lecture series and podium discussions; Open Laboratory and workshops, teaching the particular methods of “Solemn Voice- and Bodywork”, “Ways to Ritualisation” and “Songs as a Source”, with lecture-demonstrations of techniques; photo exhibitions of research-projects; artistic and scientific exchanges and cooperation; annual tours through Europe, North Afrika and Asia; publishing of the research results in “Lalish Magazine”; artistic exchanges with Parate Labor, Walter Pfaff/Switzerland, France; Bakhtiar Khan Zadeh, Azerbaijan National Theatre/Baku; Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richard/Pontedera, Italy; Kazuo Ohno, Butoh Dance/Yokohama and Hosho Noh Theatre/Tokyo, Japan; Jerzy Grotowski Center/Wroclaw, Poland; with various artists and theatre ensembles from Africa, the Arabic Peninsula; a special methodic exchange with a number of chosen international theatre companies and artists at the 14th session of ISTA (International School of Theatre Anthropology) under the direction of Eugenio Barba, Grotowski Center, Wroclaw, Poland, April 2005. And with International Center for Performance Studies in Tangier/Morocco, Instabili Vaganti Company/Performing Arts Centre in Bologna/Italy, Il Casale delle Arti in Sant' Agata de' Goti's/Italy, Loja Theatre Laboratory in Prishtina/Kosovo, Theater O in Nuremberg/Germany, Theater Asou and Theater Feuerblau in Graz/Austria.

The methods developed by the Lalish Theaterlabor, in its “Ritual Performance Work” and “Songs as a Source”, attracted enormous international interest. The same goes for the lectures of the theatre lab’s own methods at the Institute of Theatre, Media and Film Sciences at the University of Vienna/Austria, the Shinshu University of Masumoto/Japan, Cairo Academy of Performing Arts/Egypt, the faculty of Art in Prishtina/Kosova, Open Laboratory, Workshop and Lecture with students of: fine arts faculty/Tehran university, art and architecture faculty of Azad university, university Soureh, cinema-theatre faculty/Honar university/ Iran.

Performances and Research-projects of the Lalish Theaterlabor in Austria, Tours and at international festivals

1998 “Paradise Now Revised” in Austria, Germany, Great Britain. 1999 “Memory + Honey” and “Songs, Suffering, Ecstasy” in Austria, Switzerland, France, Great Britain. 2000 “...that I may sing it with the body” and “Caravan”, in Austria, Germany. 2001 “The Gilgamesh Epic/Thus Spoke Zarathustra, thus Speaks Gilgamesh” and “Wheat-Dance” in Austria, Germany. 2002 “Sundance” in Austria, the Netherlands, Japan. 2003 “Where Milk and Honey flow” in Austria. 2004 “Land of Ashes and Songs” in Austria, Egypt, Japan. 2005 Segments of “the beginning of speech” in Poland, 2005  “The Beginning of Speech” Version I and II in Austria, Poland, Egypt, Tunisia. 2006 “The Beginning of Speech” Version III in Austria, Japan, Greece, 2006 Segments of "no shadow" in Greece.  2006 “no shadow I” in Austria. 2006 "projekt: niederhof"  Phase 1-4 in Austria. 2007 "no shadow II" in Austria, Kosovo, Ukraine, 2007  "projekt: niederhof"  phase 5-8 in Austria, 2007 "mythos" develop of different actions in Iran, 2007  "projekt: niederhof" performance in the nature in Austria. 2008 "three brideges" part I in Ukraine, part II in Iran, part III in Kosovo, part IV  in Austria, 2008 "no shadow" l in Egypt. 2009 Segments of "the beginning of speech" in Poland, 2009 "the song is back" iranian Version in Iran,  2009 "no shadow" in Polen (at Grotowiski Year), in Bosnien Herzogovina and in Bulgaria, and some Segmentes in Greece. 2010 Segmente von "no shadow" in Kurdistan. 2010 "no shadow" in Jordan. 2011 "no shadow" in Austria, Morocco. 2012 "no shadow" in Macedonia. 2012 "monos" in Jordan. 2012 "nomaden" in Austria. 2012 "no shadow" in Poland, Italy. 2013 "no shadow" in Austria, Italy. 2013-2014 "the garden of dreams" in Austria, Italy, Germany, Morocco, 2014 "the door of sand"  in Sweden, 2015 "the door of sand" in Austria, Germany, 2015-2016 "my voice is my memory" in Austria.

Nomination and Awards:
1. Nominated for the best ensemble with the performance "land of ashes and songs" at 16th Cairo international festival for experimental theatre. Egypt/Cairo 2004
2. Ehrenpreis am XIIes Journées Théâtrales de Carthage in Tunisien 2005.
3. honorary Award at the Teheran University Theatre Festival in Iran, 2007-2008-2009
4. Award for the best voice "Sound of MESS 2009" for the performance "no shadow" at 48th MESS International Theatre Festival. Sarajevo/Bosnia Herzegovina 2009.
5. honorary Award at the 17th Jordan international Theatre festival. Jordan/Amman 2010.
6. honorary Award at the international Liberal Theater festival. Jordan/Amman 2011.
7. Award "Jacques Lacarriere/Theatre as Dialogue between civilizations" for the Performance "no shadow", at 10th International Theatre Festival "Actor of Europe". Prespa/Macedonia 2012
8. Award for "the best voice and ritual performance" for the performance MONOS, at 5th Al-Toqous international Theatre Festival. Amman/Jordan 2012.
9. honorary Award at 5th and 7th Al-Toqous international Theatre Festival. Amman/Jordan 2012 and 2014.