Documentation of Baader Meinhof eXperiment – black box edition

The norwegian scenario BMX was written to use the oppurtunity of two appartments in the same block inhabitet by prominent larp writers and organizers;  on one hand Eirik Fatland & Li Xin and on the other hand Erlend Eidsem Hansen. This was the setup:

Two rooms, next door : the security police and activists.

One wall divides them – One focus tears them apart, ideology
One group of participants plays the police, the surveillance department and the paramilitary
the other group plays activists, communists and anarchists

The game was well documented by Li Xin and Håken Lid.

When me and Ebba Petrén brought it to Stockholm last spring we decided to put it in an abstract black-box environment instead of a realistic setting. The idea was to make the presence of each sides obvious to the players of the game allthough their characters were yet to find out.

A room with black walls, neutral floor and dynamic light put people and bodies in focus. One can be tempted to think of the black box as a neutral ground where “pure” role-playing can happen, with no surrounding distractions. Allthough black, square and clean the box is far from unbiased, it severely affect how we think and do live role-playing.

The stage is transparent. Everything can be seen, but not necessarily heard, by everyone. The participants move through a void, but proximity becomes a distinct tool.

Here are some images from the enactment in Stockholm, where I had the oppurtunity to hide in the shadows, manipulating the lights and taking pictures.

The Baader-Meinhof eXperiment Stockholm

Vi hjälper Erlend Eidsen Hansen att sätta upp detta lysande scenario i Stockholm på tisdag. Det finns 20 platser och vi kör på Riksteatern i Hallunda.

The Baader-Meinhof eXperiment Stockholm

Two rooms, next door : the securitypolice and activists.

One wall divides them – One focus tears them apart, ideology
One group of participants plays the police, the surveillance department and the paramilitary
the other group plays activists, communists and anarchists
An interactive drama about the extreme left of Swedish activists in the 1970s,
the officers that monitor them, and the terrorists who try to recruit them.

We are in a space in a collective of Stockholm. The year is 1975. Abba has won the European Song Contest last year. The 1st of May is drawing to a close. What will be the main slogan? Will the Israelis come to Stockholm during the Grand Prix Final?

A group of peace activists and KPml(R) have a visit from a group of fresh new members of the RAF (Red Army Faction).
Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof and two others are in prison in West Germany.
The RAF plan to do a politcal action in connection with the embassy in Stockholm.
The police do not intend to let this fraction ever reach their goal. But who is a terrorist, who is not? When is it terrorism?
A group of watchers have found the group and installed monitoring equipment in the apartment.
It’s just a matter of hours before the authorities have enough evidence to strike against them.

Several members of the collective do not particularly enjoy having a visit from their old communist friends who have taken up arms after a visit to the Commune 1 (K1) large squat-collective of Berlin, in 1969.

Besides being an exciting thriller this event will hopefully also reveal parallels between our time and our recent past:

  • Where are the borders between “activist” and “extremist”? What draws people to cross it?
  • Where is the line between abuse of power and control over the situation for police and authorities?

ADRESS: Riksteatern, Hallundavägen 30.
DIRECTIONS: Subway to Hallunda, red line towards Norsborg. The ride takes 35 min. — MAP
CONTACT ERLEND: erlendeh at
PRACTICALITIES: Gabriel Widing, +46735707959,


Foto: Li Xin

Alive and role-playing

Published in lifelike edited by Gade, Thorup, 2007. Article in PDF.

Live role-playing. For the last few years we have been talking and writing a lot about the latter part of the concept. The role-playing has been the main focus. We say live role-playing developed from talking- heads tabletop role-playing games. That is of course true in a sense. But the active form that we practise also came into being because of the fact that we are a- live. So what about the live part? What does it imply and signify? What is the liveness of live role-playing? If we can do role-playing without liveness, could we do live without role-playing? What would be left of the medium?

When the participants were introduced to the scenario Limbo [1], about a “group of people from our own time and society who are hovering between life and death”, the organizer offered a relieving choice:

  1. Take one of the pre-written characters or
  2. Be yourself or a version of yourself

The scenario was set in a “waiting place to reflect on life as it has been so far, before either returning to life once again or facing the unknown on the other side of death.” For me it was an obvious choice to go for the “be yourself”, because a character would not get me any closer to the themes of the scenario than my own experiences and thoughts.

Martine Svanevik shares her experiences from the scenario in the Norwegian forum

“I chose to play myself, something which I realised afterwards was a choice I should not necessarily have made. /…/ On the other hand, I learned a lot about myself and how I view life/death/the afterlife. I came to the game thinking I had all the answers, but I came out of it with a totally different set of answers. /…/ I am not sure if I want to do it again, and definitely not at a game where other participants have characters. /…/ It was one of the strongest experiences in my life.” [2]

Limbo was set for strong emotional interaction and a sort of close-to-life-experience. It definitely pointed out a potential way of approaching live role-playing with less character and more liveness. I am sure there are others as well. Sometimes we could reduce character to plain social role or function.

I consider the character a tool to get in touch with a story or enter another world. It’s our ticket to the diegesis, to the fiction. Sometimes we really need it. When I played inside:outside, [3] which placed the character in “a prison where a bunch of normal people are forced to face dilemmas”, I loved my character. I wouldn’t have survived without it. The game started out with the Wolf’s Dilemma and the Prisoner’s Dilemmas and after that it only got worse. [4] Being yourself in that situation, in the company of your real friends, could have demolished friendships for ages.

Futuredrome [5] is an interesting example of how the role-playing came in conflict with liveness. Assessed as a live role-play, the event was crap. The participants interacted on a sliding scale from hardcore character immersion to hardcore off-game partying. But these two groups, and everyone in between, were definitely alive and kicking. And they actually often managed to co-exist in disharmonic unity. All of the participants were present in their acting, dancing, playful bodies, which created a common ground.

What makes live role-playing really potent is the liveness of it. Everything else is extras. The bodily experience of life, framed by an aesthetic or dramatic context – that’s what makes me tick.


  1. Written by Tor Kjetil Edland. Enacted in Oslo and at Knutpunkt in Stockholm, 2006
  2., 01- 12-2006
  3. Written by Eirik Fatland & Mike Pojhola, enacted on different locations in the Nordic countries, 2001-2002
  4. Pojhola, Mike: ”School of Flour, Developing methodology through eight experimental larps” in Bøckman & Hutchison (ed.), Dissecting larp, 2005
  5. Organised by Henrik Wallgren et al, Kinnekulle, Sweden, 2003