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January 2022 · Performance · For: Design Investigations

Renunciation Rebellion

→ Renunciation Rebellion is a project presenting a performance piece which displays an accedence ritual for a fictional religion based on anti-consumerism. It is based on the fact that capitalist habits have long taken on religious patterns.

Public Relations

Sigmund Freud advocated the thesis that man is always subject to his innermost drives and incapable of any permanent rational action. His nephew Edward Bernays was fascinated by this thesis and constructed communication practices that became known as public relations. Linking products with our identities, we started worshipping them.

Capitalism as religion

Replacing devotion to religion with devotion to consumption, this new kind of religion grew to be one of the main pillars of society. However, increasing social problems and climate change expose this model as unsustainable and bring to light a desocialized and selfish society. How will people find their inner peace in a sustainable world of tomorrow?

Four members of a fictional religion sitting in a circle
An unusual design challange…

Designing a performance

Since a designer of the 21st century cannot simply go about his work quietly behind a desk, but must always seek confrontation with activities outside their comfort zone, we designed a performance and the necessary props. The performance was designed in collaboration with the Angewandte Performance Lab.

Two blue costumes in a ambient-lit photostuido
Prototypes of the costumes

Four costumes were designed and produced. In addition, steel tubes were bent and welded into rings that could be disassembled. For the resulting transportable "altar", a fabric cover was also tailored which made the steel construction look like a wormhole when stretched over it. With the help of an Arduino and a DMX IC a light show was programmed. The power was provided by a car battery and an inverter.

Design sketches of the headgear
Some sketches for the headpiece (© Stefan Schönauer)
Bending steel rings
Bending steel pipes
Various fittings
Various steel fittings
Welding the frame
Welding the frame
Altar test setup
First test setup

The Plot

The resultign performance shows the rite of passage of the renunciation rebellion, an antithesis to the religion of consumerism. In the course of the plot, the protagonist experiences a personal ascent in the midst of the community. The diary of the ascending one is burned. In the following rite, the ascendant will confess their sins and wash them away. Finally, they are granted the ceremonial garment, stride through the portal of waiver and put on the ascetic headpiece. They are now perceived as an equal member. You can watch the final performance at the top of this page.

Picture of a public performance
The final public performance
Studio photo of the asceting rite of passage
Ascetic rite of passage, studio photo


This project was created by Julia Hahnl, Stefan Schönauer and Mia Tešić. Project in collaboration with Angewandte Performance Lab.