Democracy.doc began as an interactive performance and later developed into a program of interdisciplinary projects. The interactive performance Democracy.doc Democracy.doc is neither traditional theatre nor a ‘verbatim’ experiment. It is a collaborative and interdisciplinary project that has developed over the past nine years. In 2005 two Russian playwrights, Nina Belenitskaya and Ivan Ugarov, along with the German director Georg Genoux interviewed over 100 Russian citizens from different regions around the country. After analyzing the interviews, the creative team became curious about how certain subconscious attitudes might influence the way Russian people understand the role politics and democracy play in contemporary Russian culture. In 2006 they invited two psychotherapists, Elena Margo and Arman Bekenov, to join the creative team and to conduct a series of training sessions held at Moscow’s leading documentary theatre venue, Teatr.doc. These workshops were the beginning of the project now known as Democracy.doc. No two Democracy.doc performances are alike as the audience plays an active role in all of the shows. Though the original production was based on documentary materials from 1991-2005, the play is constantly changing as a result of the audiences’ participation. Democracy.doc is an interactive performance. There are no actors, and the audience participates in the action onstage. The creators of the show draw on the principles of ‘World Work’, an approach to conflict resolution and community building developed by Drs. Arnold and Amy Mindell. Through their use of the ‘World Work’ principles, the creators of Democracy.doc offer their audiences the opportunity to explore their own relationships to democracy. Audience members are not asked to confront questions about their understanding of democracy, they are asked to articulate how they experience it in their everyday lives. This is a sensitive question. It often leads to powerful conflicts onstage that clearly reflect certain tensions in the culture. In a society where many sensitive topics are suppressed and ignored, the theatre takes on an important responsibility. It gives voice to people from all different sectors of society, especially those which are generally marginalized or relegated to the periphery. There are no actors in Democracy.doc. There is no recitation or memorized texts and no attempt to replicate reality onstage. Democracy.doc creates a space for its participants to articulate certain sentiments that are often left unspoken and unexplored. Right before our eyes ordinary people become spectators, actors, directors and characters all at the same time. We have performed Democracy.doc more than 50 times in Moscow and in more than 20 other cities throughout Russia. We also performed Democracy.doc at numerous venues in Switzerland (Basel and Chur) as participants in the “Culture Capes” Russian/Swiss exchange of 2012. That same year we were invited to participate in the 7th Berlin Biennale of Contemporary Art where we premiered our latest project CRISIS at the Theatre Hebbel am Ufer in 2012. We were also participants in the 2012 Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art. And, our project was included in Nikolai Gladkeh’s book "Theatreproject Democracy.doc" and featured in two documentary films. The project Democracy.doc The Democracy.doc production team works closely with other theatres, arts collectives and organizations that produce interdisciplinary, contemporary, documentary, political social, interactive and therapeutic arts projects. The Team of Democracy.doc founded in 2007 the Joseph Beuys Theatre in Moscow. Their projects were 3 times nominated for the Golden Mask Award as the best theatre experiment of the year and participated at international festivals in Berlin, Warschau. Basel, St.Petersburg, Kiew, Talin, Jerewan, Sofia, Moscow, Jekaterinenburg etc.
Georg Genoux staged the Joseph Beuys text “A Call for an Alternative” as part of the Joseph Beuys exhibition in Moscow in 2012.
The documentary project “Lear Rehearses Death” has been included in the Russian Case program for the 2014 Golden Mask Festival.
Democracy.doc and Joseph Beuys Theatre developed projects at Teatr.doc, National Center of Contemporary Art (NCCA), the Garage Center of Contemporary Culture, the Meyerhold Center, the Andrei Sakharov Museum, Memorial Society.
In 2013 the Democracy.doc artists began organizing projects together with the International Theatre Laboratory NEDRAma. Since that time we have been producing projects together with Replika Teatr in Sofia and at the University of Cambridge. Our artistic directors include Arman Bekenov, Georg Genoux and Elena Margo. The Democracy.doc Philosophy Democracy.doc is inspired by Joseph Beuys’s idea of social sculpture. As Joseph Beuys wrote, our creative work has the potential to lead us out of the “ghetto of art” and into lived experience. To this end, we do not apply the methods of conventional art and performance. Our work does not cater to the art world. It seeks to perform crisis interventions and asks participants to take an active position on social issues. Democracy.doc creates an inclusive and interactive space where we can explore the role of contemporary artists. Ours is an anti-elite work open to all, everyone is invited to participate. We believe in what we call 'Healing Theatre'. It is a different kind of theatre research in which all participants (both artists and audiences) take active roles in the performances. Everyone makes a contribution and, in that sense, every participant becomes an artist. We also conduct one on one work with individuals who use theatre methods to come to terms with their own life crises. Sometimes the results of this process are also shared with the public. Our work on Democracy.doc has also inspired the development of ‘Memory Drama’, a genre in which we explore individual and collective histories through performance. According to the German artist Udo Kultermann, the artist is the shaman of contemporary society. They not only produce objects, but perform an act of self-sacrifice for the sake of society. Through this process of sacrifice, he or she stimulates the healing process in others. One must accept one’s own healing process. Our theatre facilitates contact with the HERE and NOW and asks participants to confront their own personal pain and fears. We work in the spirit of Joseph Beuys's words, 'You must show your wounds in order to be healed. If you do not show your wounds, you cannot be healed'. These projects also have a theoretical component. The Democracy.doc collective is planning to publish a series of scholarly and theoretical studies that investigate the connections between contemporary theatre and everyday life. At the end of 2013, Elena Margo began offering a series of lectures about her experiences traversing the boundaries between theatre, therapy, and psychology. She has presented her work at the National Center of Contemporary Art (NCCA) in Moscow, the University of Portland (USA), the summit 'World Work in Warsaw’ summit on politics and consciousness in the changing world, and at the Goethe Institute in Sofia.