The Days of the Commune

Actors, activists and artists re-perform Brecht's Days of the Commune in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Artistic legacies
  • Performance
  • Politics / Economics
  • Public culture
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions



Jean-Michel Rabaté, Aaron Levy, Rachel Heidenry


Department of English and the Program in Cinema Studies, School of Arts and Sciences, and the Annenberg School for Communication/ Provost Interdisciplinary Arts Fund at the University of Pennsylvania

Opens to public



4017 Walnut
Philadelphia, PA 19104


50% Formal - 50% Informal

Slought is pleased to present The Days of the Commune, a cinematic installation by artist Zoe Beloff in the Slought galleries from March 30 - May 30, 2013. An opening event and party featuring the artist and 20 participating actors, activists and artists will take place on Saturday, March 30, 2013, from 5:00-7:00pm. Live songs with musical accompaniment will be performed, followed by a historical overview of the 1871 Paris Commune and a public conversation featuring the artist in conversation with Deborah Matzner, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Wellesley College. A new publication from Slought featuring a film of the performances and a booklet will also be available. Free copies of the publication will be awarded to those wearing exceptional costumes in the spirit of the 1871 Paris Commune.

The project revisits Bertolt Brecht's play The Days of the Commune (1871) written in response to the 1871 Paris Commune, arguably the first great modern occupation where working people took over their city and turned it into a progressive democracy of the people. In the spring of 2012, Beloff brought together a group of actors, activists and artists to re-perform the work in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Rather than stage the play in a theater, Beloff and her collaborators performed the work scene by scene in public spaces around New York City, starting in Zuccotti Park. These public rehearsals ran from March through May, the months of the Paris Commune's brief existence in the spring of 1871.

Like the Occupy Wall Street movement, Beloff approached The Days of the Commune as a radical theater of the people and a "work in progress." With the inclusion of film, drawing, posters, costumes, and props, Beloff's installation suggests a protest waiting to begin and invites the public to re-imagine what would happen if a new kind of people's democracy took over the city today.

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Zoe Beloff grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. As an artist, she works with a wide range of media including film, projection performance, installation and drawing. She considers herself a medium, an interface between the real and the imaginary. Each of her projects aims to connect the present to past and to illuminate the future in new ways. Much of her recent work explores the utopian idea of social progress.

Her work has been featured in a variety of international exhibitions and screenings, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the MUHKA museum in Antwerp, and the Pompidou Center in Paris. She has been awarded fellowships from Guggenheim Foundation, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, The Radcliffe Institute at Harvard, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is a Professor in the Departments of Media Studies and Art at Queens College CUNY.

Voice of a mayor: This is the Hôtel de Ville, the City Hall of Paris. You have occupied it by military force. Will you kindly tell us, by what right?

Voice: By the right the people gave us, Monsieur Mayor! Consider yourselves as the people's guests and you'll be welcome here.

Voice of a mayor: Do you know what that answer means? That everyone will say, "These people want revolution."

Voice: What do you mean "want?" This is the revolution. Look around you!

-- Bertolt Brecht, The Days of the Commune (1871)

Related publications
Zoe Beloff

Artist Zoe Beloff and over 30 actors, activists and enthusiasts perform a street production of Bert Brecht's The Days of the Commune (1949), in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.

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