Collaboration by Evita Rigert, Annamaria Merkel, Ryan Eykholt and Chris Harris

Call me co-plaintiff* is an operatic miniature inspired by Theodor Storm’s old German literary fairy tale; die Regentrude (1863). The narrative is a homage to a mythological figure; the deity of all springs. The Libretto emerged through synthesizing the story with an ancient Anglo-Saxon medical text of a healing remedy called Lacnunga.

The concept grew out of an investigation concerning a current lawsuit, set into motion by the independent environmental organisation Milieudefensie, against the Dutch fuelling company Shell for opposing the terms of the Paris Agreement (1). However the court case will proceed, the performance reflects on either outcome – radical change must be initiated within the individual. This transformation occurs beyond time, beyond place. Lead by industrial and spiritual musicality, the character on stage moves from unconscious- to consciousness, willing to accept their liability to bear damage that has been done. If the absence of responsibility is a collective traumatic event, could a sense of environmental stewardship turn apathy into action? In order for this transition, one must first awaken to face the accountability we have as individuals to initiate change.

* Register as a co-plaintiff against Shell via

(1) ‘The Paris Agreement builds upon the Convention and for the first time brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.’ (unfccc 2018)

We began with a brief: trauma. Or, more specifically trauma within institutes. What is the definition of ‘trauma’? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is a ‘wound’, derivative from the late 17th Century.2 Wounds are both internal and external, physical and mental, moral and spiritual.

Our artistic research lead us to support the campaign of one particular organization; the environmental organization Milieudefensie.3 For the first time, Milieudefensie will be the initiator of a lawsuit in which the Dutch fuelling company Shell will be answerable to years of pollution through mass-production of oil and gas; all in opposition to the terms and conditions of the Paris Agreement, signed by 195 signatories in April 2016.4 The case consists of confronting and building awareness of the issues raised by campaigning against the corporate market and calling to account those who are not consider themselves part of the global system. Should the case be won, Shell will actively have to initiate a change to their codes of production and not, as in previous years, be susceptible to a simple compensation claim.

But the trauma goes beyond the boundaries of what Milieudefensie can hope to achieve. We then began with a question: what happens after? Should the case be won, who is then responsible? Yes, a significant change will occur, and maybe the effects of climate change will see a dramatic hindrance. But it will only be a delay. Milieudefensie as much as any of us, are a part of this new consumerist world; one which we are not able to break free from. Can we return to a previous primordial world from which we have progressed? What then is the ultimate answer?

A change must be initiated within ourselves. It is impossible to relive the primordial world from which we have progressed. The only solution, therefore, is to find a counterbalance; a venn-diagram in which both the previous world and the new world merge where a new world is formed. People are awakened to the inner-feelings of presences from a system, which creates linear-thinking to how we personally consume energy. In order for a realisation to occur, we must first awaken our own psyche and come to a realisation of the responsibility we have as individuals to initiate change.

Based on this background, three research questions has been formed;

How can a performance provide an space for individuals to contend with their disembodied relationship with the earth and with climate change?

How can the adaptation of fairy tale reimagine current understandings of heroic actions and of responsibility
within the context of Milieudefensie’s legal action against Shell?

How can the musicality of breath expose a possibility of exchange between Milieudefensie and Shell outside of the courtroom? In what way do both organizations breathe, or survive within the same system?