Traveller through the realms of memory
Swiss Theatre Award 2020
Mats Staub was born in 1972 in Muri near Bern. He studied theatre, journalism and religion in Bern, Fribourg and Berlin. He worked as a journalist for various publications between 1996 and 2001, and as a dramatic advisor at the Theater Neumarkt in Zurich from 2002 to 2004. Since then he has developed art projects at the intersections between theatre and exhibition, and between science and literature. Today, Mats Staub lives and works both in Berlin and at the locations where his long-term projects are being developed. He travels frequently, and his projects grow incrementally as he moves from place to place. For his audio installation “My Grandparents | Memory Bureau”, for example, he interviewed more than 300 people in 14 cities about what they knew of their grandparents. In 2010, “My Grandparents” was turned into a book. In 2014 he gathered 1,000 important events together into another publication “Zehn wichtigste Ereignisse meines Lebens”, continuing the eponymous web-based art project in a different medium.
The spark that led Mats Staub towards a career as an artist was a workshop entitled “Tell yourselves a story”, which he attended on a scholarship at the Festival Theaterformen in Braunschweig and Hanover in 2000. His first project, “5000 Love Letters”, which was created at the Theater Neumarkt in Zurich in 2004, allows visitors to listen to letters written by lovers of all ages over the course of 100 years. It was followed by a Russian version in St. Petersburg, while for the Wiener Festwochen culture festival in Vienna in 2006 he sought out love letters from all over Austria that were presented at five coffee houses in the capital. Mats Staub is involved in a number of ongoing projects, including the “Memory Bureau” (since 2008) and “21 – Memories of Growing Up” (since 2012). Within his works he is both listener and questioner – which requires a long attention span. For his latest long-term project, “Death and Birth in My Life” (2019) – created after the death of his brother in 2014 – Mats Staub is expanding his artistic practice: in this video installation two people, accompanied by Staub, share their existential experiences with each other.
“From Kinshasa to Adelaide via Santiago de Chile, Edinburgh and Vienna, Mats Staub’s artistic projects take us on a journey to the four corners of the globe, inviting us to take time to listen and watch. Without recourse to facile spectacles, Mats Staub has, over the years, developed an exceptionally coherent poetry that gives us portraits of intense humanity. With refined delicacy and meticulous formal rigour, his works explore our most intimate and personal dimension, confronting us with the multi-layered complexity of our times.”
Cristina Galbiati, jury member