'Zombies' Are Invading The Streets Of Hamburg To Call For Political And Social Responsibility

"With our performance we wanted to send a symbol of solidarity and political participation out to the world."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is hosting leaders of the G20 leading economies in Hamburg for a two-day summit ending July 8. Attendees include President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, and demonstrators are out in full force. One particularly creative group of about 1,000 actors dressed up as "zombies" on July 5, and slowly made their way through Hamburg's streets in silence, covered in gray clay.



Protesters with the 1,000 Gestalten collective dressed as zombies for a performance in Hamburg, Germany.
Protesters with the 1,000 Gestalten collective dressed as zombies for a performance in Hamburg, Germany. 1,000 Gestalten

The performance piece, which featured its own choreography and lasted for about two hours, was orchestrated by the 1,000 Gestalten (which translates to 1,000 figures) collective, a Germany-based group that was formed in February 2017.

According to their website, the 1,000 Gestalten are calling for "more humanity and self-responsibility." As you can see in the video below, the "zombies" eventually shed their gray costumes, which were meant to symbolize the loss of belief in solidarity, and reveal colorful outfits underneath.

"A visually stunning transformation will be created, an image of awakening and collective, supportive action," 1,000 Gestalten said via a press release of the clay shedding portion of the performance. "[This is a] symbol of a society that confronts political challenges and jointly fights for solidarity, tolerance and constructive discourse."

Once one "zombie" shed his clay layer, others soon followed. By the end, all of the "zombies" were colorful and happy as they ran through the streets of Hamburg cheering. "The figures don't know different," Sven Kämmerer a member of the 1,000 Gestalten collective, tells A Plus. "They don't know that they are locked in these shells, and it's the same thing in our society: The first step of solving any problem is acknowledging there is one. That's also true about tackling the problems in our society, about our lack of solidarity and the lack of political influence of the civil society."

Kämmerer also pointed out that even though the protesters are dressed as "zombies," their costumes are meant to convey a universality — the idea that anyone can join the movement and have their voice heard.

"We cannot wait until change happens from the world's most powerful, we have to show political and social responsibility — all of us — now!" a spokesperson for the collective said in a statement. "We want to put back in memory how compassion and public spirit conveys identity for a society." 

People from more than 85 cities across Europe registered to be performers and volunteers in this unique protest, and more than €20,000 (about $23,000) in donations were raised via a crowdfunding campaign.

Protesters with the 1,000 Gestalten collective during a performance in Hamburg, Germany.
Protesters with the 1,000 Gestalten collective during a performance in Hamburg, Germany. 1,000 Gestalten

And it paid off. Kämmerer tells us over 1,600 people watched the performance live, while thousands of others have seen it around the world thanks to social media. 

"As we started planning this performance, there was the belief that even during a G20 summit it's possible to send positive and inspiring images into the world, images, that give a confident civil society a say," he explains. "The message of our performance is: No change can start from some political elite, it starts with you and me. With our performance we wanted to send a symbol of solidarity and political participation out to the world. We believe that we accomplished just that."

"Our performance was not about world leaders. It's about each and every one of us in our society. We want people to remember how compassion and public spirit conveys identity for a society," Kämmerer adds. "Our campaign is a symbol for the fact that many people do not want to put up with the destructive impact of capitalism any longer. We are not the passive audience in this big messed up power play. We all have something to say, and we will have a say."

Protesters with the 1,000 Gestalten collective celebrate at the conclusion a performance in Hamburg, Germany.
Protesters with the 1,000 Gestalten collective celebrate at the conclusion a performance in Hamburg, Germany. 1,000 Gestalten


Kämmerer says the performance was inspired by different artists and various forms of protest around the world. He hopes the work of 1,000 Gestalten will have a similar impact on others, telling A Plus, "We want to see our images inspire other people. We want other people to engage, do similar projects in their city and make our idea for a different way of living reality."

If the tension in Hamburg is any indication, people are definitely politically engaged. According to Yahoo, protests in the city have gotten so intense leading up to the G20 Summit that German police have had to use water cannons to disperse the massive crowds. People are protesting against globalization, corporate greed, a failure to tackle climate change, and more.

"In the end, we realized that it's important to send other images out to the world during the G20 summit," Kämmerer concludes. "Not politicians, not violence, not a besieged city — but a peaceful, creative group of people that celebrate humanity." 

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