Mental illness, performance society
and toxic positivity

by Christiane Mudra

November 24, 2022, located at private apartments in Munich

Berlin premiere: September 17, 2023

SELFIE & ICH (SELFIE &I) is based on investigative research and conversations with people living with mental illness, thereby offering insight into their experiences, feelings and desires.
A patient file from the post-war decades further illustrates the embattled reform efforts in Germany's psychiatric hospitals as well as the stigmatization and shame in the immediate vicinity of those affected.
The evening sheds light on mental burdens, examines preconceptions as well as the hesitancy surrounding mental illness, and questions the omnipresent assessment of individuals based on their private and professional "performance."
SELFIE & ICH dissects the tension between appearance and reality and, last but not least, sheds light on the systemic distortion of our performance-oriented society.


The audience moves in small groups through several apartments in Haidhausen, where performers embody anxiety disorders, burnout, depression, anorexia, schizophrenia and alcohol addiction.
The intimate setting allows the audience to sense the loneliness and isolation of the city dwellers behind the facade of a performance-based society.
Through 3D audio recordings, the protagonists’ interview-based streams of consciousness are spatially mapped: Their voices encircle audience members and make it possible for them to slip into the role of the first-person narrators.
This effect is accentuated by the original recordings of interview partners as well as the implementation of psychoacoustic tools. Sound is also transmitted at specific points via seats or objects and involuntarily triggers a physical reaction in the participants.


About 27.8% of adults in Germany are affected by at least one mental illness each year. This corresponds to 17.8 million people. The most common disorders are anxiety disorders, followed by depression and dependency disorders. WHO projections show that in the highest-income countries, three-quarters of the illnesses that most affect quality of life will be mental by 2030.
At the same time, our society is characterized by boundless positivity that increases the pressure on the individual. Happiness has become a status symbol, the beaming smile the norm. In social media posts, the staged life is presented as a product of success. Assessment models influence "self-worth" around the clock and distort reality. The toxicity of this forced positivity is reflected in happiness mantras on teas, shower gels or kitchen rolls.
In the Nazi era, people who were not fit for work were considered "unworthy of life." Old or sick people are still told that they are no longer worth anything. Today, many "high-performers" can also be found in psychosomatic clinics.
What roles do work performance and social norms play in self-worth and the social evaluation of people?
Every third person in Germany is affected by a mental illness in the course of their life.
Against this backdrop, "SELFIE & ICH" wants to let those affected have their say in order to educate people about mental illness, promote empathy, break down preconceptions and dissolve the hesitancy surrounding mental illness.
The ultimate goal of the evening is to advocate for a more inclusive, more social society and a more humane, recovery-oriented psychiatry.


"With "Selfie & Ich" Christiane Mudra has developed a clever evening of theater on the subject of mental illness. (...) Mudra neither serves voyeurism, nor does she force the audience into distress. The impressive evening tells what is and opens the door to a greater understanding. (...) For her research, Mudra spoke with those affected and developed four characters from interviews with six to eight people who suffer with each mental illness . They talk about themselves, experts of their own cause - that is one strength of the evening, which can be seen until December 4.
The other is that Mudra knows how to translate her research into theatrical language. (...) At the end of the evening, one is agitated, but closer than ever to understanding"

"Christiane Mudra has developed a theater project of a different kind: The audience is guided into private apartments, where they learn about the feelings and desires of people who suffer with mental illness - all are victims of performance society and toxic positivity.
(...) While alcohol consumption in Germany has been declining slightly for years, it is increasing among one group: among female academics with a high socio-economic status - so says the sound collage that Christiane Mudra has composed most carefully from information, interview fragments with those affected and the flowing thoughts of her protagonists. (...)
Between selfie and I yawns an abyss, says Mudra with her performance. She guides her audience (...) in sound and performance through the otherwise hidden psychological effects of the highly-tuned neverending performance and confronts them throughout the Haidhauser evening, at one point interweaving audio recordings of a person suffering with Schizophrenia. This individual case along with all the other people behind the apartment doors in "Selfie&Ich" will stay with you for a long time."

Sven Ricklefs, B2 Kulturwelt, 25. November 2022

"The stories are taken from interviews with those affected, and the feeling of having penetrated their intimate lives heightens the senses, but also stirs them up. This dramaturgical trick is supported by sophisticated 3D sound design. (...)
Then you hear the documentary about a man (...) who only narrowly escaped euthanasia. (...) Especially in this attempt at creating a space of holistic understanding, an experience as unusual as it is intense."

"Mudra bedient dabei weder Voyeurismus, noch zwingt sie die Zuschauer in eine Betroffenheit. Der beeindruckende Abend erzählt, was ist, und macht die Tür auf zu einem größeren Verständnis. (...) Für ihre Recherche hat Mudra mit Betroffenen gesprochen und aus Interviews von je sechs bis acht Erkrankten vier Figuren entwickelt. Sie sprechen über sich selbst, Experten der eigenen Sache - das ist die eine Stärke des Abends, der noch bis zum 4. Dezember zu sehen ist.
Die andere ist, dass Mudra versteht, ihre Recherchen in Theatersprache zu übersetzen. (...) Am Ende des Abends ist man aufgewühlt, aber dem Begreifen so nah wie nie."

"Christiane Mudra hat ein Theaterprojekt der anderen Art entwickelt: Das Publikum wird in Privatwohnungen gelotst, wo es von Gefühlen und Wünschen psychisch Kranker erfährt – alle Opfer von Leistungsgesellschaft und Glücksterror.
(...) Während allgemein der Alkoholkonsum in Deutschland seit Jahren leicht zurückgeht, steigt er bei einer Gruppe an: Bei Akademikerinnen mit hohem sozioökonomischem Status – so heißt es in der Sound-Collage, die Christiane Mudra höchst sensibel aus Informationen, Interviewsplittern von Betroffenen und den dahinfließenden Gedanken ihrer Protagonisten komponiert hat. (...)
Zwischen Selfie und ich gähnt ein Abgrund, sagt Mudra mit ihrer Performance. Sie führt ihr Publikum (...) in Sound und Darstellung an die sonst so wirkungsvoll versteckten psychischen Auswirkungen der hochgetunten Dauerleistung heran und konfrontiert es auf den Spaziergängen durch den Haidhauser Abend über Audio mit dem authentischen Fall eines Schizophreniepatienten.
Dieser Fall und auch jene Menschen hinter den Wohnungstüren von "Selfie&Ich" werden einem noch lange nachgehen.

Sven Ricklefs, B2 Kulturwelt, 25. November 2022

"Die Geschichten entstammen Interviews mit Betroffenen und das Gefühl, in deren intimen Lebensbereich eingedrungen zu sein, schärft die Sinne, wühlt aber auch auf. Dieser dramaturgische Kniff wird unterstützt von einem ausgefeilten 3D-Sounddesign. (...)
Dann hört man die Dokumentation über einen Mann, (...) der nur knapp der Euthanasie entging. (...)
Gerade in diesem Versuch der Vollumfänglichkeit ein ebenso ungewöhnliches wie intensives Erlebnis.


Research, text and direction: Christiane Mudra

Gabriele Graf
Sebastian Gerasch
Melda Hazırcı
Murali Perumal
Other speakers: Stefan Lehnen, Christiane Mudra

3D Sound Design: Martin Rieger
Technical advice and collaboration Research Tina Hofmann
Equipment: Sarah Silbermann
Structure-borne sound and light design: Peer Quednau
CGI/VFX: Yavuz Narin
Graphics: Jara López Ballonga
Photos: Verena Kathrein
Assistant director: Daniela Gancheva
Production: ehrliche arbeit - free cultural office
Press: Kathrin Schäfer KulturPR

Uraufführung gefördert von   

im Rahmen der Optionsförderung

Berlin-Premiere unterstützt durch das NATIONALE PERFORMANCE NETZ Gastspielförderung
Theater, gefördert von der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und
Medien, sowie den Kultur- und Kunstministerien der Länder

sowie vom Kulturreferat der Landeshauptstadt München und der Schulze-Fielitz-Stiftung.

in Kooperation mit