Parliament of Things – Urging Radical Forms of Political Representation

Peter Aers & Lotte van den Berg
Building Conversation - Art Centre Vooruit, Gent

With their diverse Parliaments of Things, the theatre collective Building Conversation makes a case for the rights of objects. They are inspired by Bruno Latour, who argues that modern man refuses to recognise the rights, autonomy and agency of objects. He argues for a vision of the world in which the value (not the worth) of objects and other entities plays an active role. In developing this form of conversation, Building Conversation distances itself from anthropocentric thinking, which places man in the centre of the universe, and investigates the relation between ourselves and things. Can we speak on behalf of things? Building Conversation develops the Parliament of Things in close collaboration with Partizan Publik, a campaign bureau in Amsterdam that’s also inspired by the work of Bruno Latour and founded the Embassy of The North Sea. 

On 24 November 2020, Bruno Latour was awarded the Spinozalens prize in Amsterdam. In the runup to this presentation ceremony, the Embassy of the North Sea is organising the educational- and public programme Welcome to the Parliament of Things together with the International Spinozaprijs Foundation. Part of the programme is a programme for senior secondary general and pre-university education (havo and vwo) in collaboration with Building Conversation.


Peter Aers is a performance artist. He obtained a M.A. in Philosophy at Ghent University and Geneva, and studied the Jacques Lecoq method of acting in Brussels. He has developed 'Everything Depends on How a Thing is Thought', a series of conversational performances which deal with pain, the future, and crime and punishment. Central to his process of creation as well as the performances themselves, are the people who take part, how they choose to communicate, and the relationship between these individuals and the community they are part of.

He is part of Building Conversation. Inspired by conversation techniques from all over the world they execute and perform different conversation formats together with participants in cities all over Europe. Doing so, the collective explores, together with everybody who wants to join, how we talk and how we could talk with each other.

The conversational performances have been performed at art festivals, art institutions and prisons, schools, psychiatric hospitals, etcetera. The Pain of Others was selected for Het TheaterFestival 2019.


Lotte van den Berg has won several awards, amongst which the Erik Vos prize and the Charlotte Kohler prize. Her work can be seen at various renowned European theatre festivals and her work is also performed in America, Canada and Africa. Her visual language is sober, bare. Images, movements and scenes are, through a dedicated attention for detail, condensed to their essence. Van den Berg moves between the worlds of dance, theatre and film, creating thus an open and very personal style, which invites the audience to contemplate different perspectives and angles. She works with professionals but also with people and amateurs, on location and in theatres and she chooses to be inspired by what surrounds us, what takes place in everyday life. In fact, someone wrote: ‘Van den Berg blows a bubble round the ordinary to grasp its naked essence.’

(UIT: In 2014 Lotte van den Berg founded Third Space, a small and very flexibel organization with which she currently creates her work, based in Amsterdam.) Lotte is part of Building Conversation, a platform for dialogical art. Florian Malzacher writes about it: “What is left of theater when we reduce it to its core? For the Dutch director Lotte van den Berg, theater is first and foremost an agreement to communicate with certain, often very different rules. No small talk, but – inspired by the political philosopher Chantal Mouffe – an agonistic negotiation of different opinions: To share a conflict without entirely resolving it. Over the years, Lotte van den Berg in her work step by step got closer to that core. Now, with “Building Conversation“, she took the last, logical step. Together with the visual artist Daan ’t Sas, they free theater from all As If and realize it as what it is: A place of communication, of meeting each other, a room where conflicts are shown and experienced.” Inspired by communication techniques from all over the world, models and frames for dialogue are developed in collaboration with different artist, all related to the question: how do we talk about the future.