Department of Drama, Theatre and Performance


Phone: +44 (0)20 8392 4133


Ernst Fischer was born and brought up in Munich, Germany, where he studied chemistry, social work and puppetry and was a member of the Freies Theater München for two years. After relocating to London in 1979 he obtained an Honours degree in Performing Arts at Middlesex University (1986), an MA in Drama and Theatre Studies at University of London, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College (1991), as well as a diploma from the Ivor Spenser International School for Butler Administrators;(London, 2001). He wrote his PhD thesis on 'the uncanny space of living-room theatre and domestic performance' at University of Roehampton (2003), where he is currently employed as a Creative Research Fellow.

As both a gay man and as a foreigner in this country, I am particularly concerned with issues of belonging, domesticity and homeliness. In general terms, my work seeks to explore how we occupy as well as 'uncannily' disrupt a variety of spaces - from our own bodies to social conventions and political/ideological systems. My performance work - generally categorised as 'live art' or 'body art' - has been heavily influenced by Butoh, which I studied in Japan, London and Vienna. More recently, however, the focus of my work has shifted to collaborations with exiled writers and asylum seekers on issues relating to race, diversity and Human Rights.

Performance Practice
Ernst has been actively involved in theatre and performance making for more than three decades and in a variety of roles and genres:

  • Body/Live Art: From working with, the now legendary, Austrian Happening artist Herman Nitsch in the 1970's to collaborating with/assisting contemporary body art practitioners Franko B. and Kira O'Reilly (1996 -2005) to performing his own very successful solo shows (most recently at the Hayward Gallery, London and at ANTI Festival in Kuopio, Finland, 2006)
  • Queer Performance: From co-founding Pink Feet-Warm Bodies (1986), an "influential" (City Limits, (1987)) gay dance company to touring Britain and the USA with Gay Sweatshop (1997) to appearing regularly at Duckies' cabaret at the Vauxhall Tavern, London (1998-2001)
  • Domestic Performance: Staging - between 1986 and 1997 - some 13 performances with friends and neighbours in his flat in Brixton, South London, which, for the occassion, was renamed Brixton heArt Room.
  • Butoh: Performances at a number of International festivals (Riverside Studios, London, 2002; Jackson's Lane Theatre, London, 2000; Snia Viscosa, Rome, 1996; Schloss Broellin, Germany, 1995; Chisenhale Dance Space, London (1994))
  • Acting: From appearances in several independend films (Germany, 1985; Britain, 2000 and 2002) to the portrayal of both Rosenkranz and Guildenstern in Hamlet?, directed by Julia Bardsley at the Young Vic Theatre (1994)
  • Mime & Physical Theatre: From appearances at the London International Mime Festival (1995 and 1997) to performing at the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT) in 1999
  • Performance/Photography: Long-term collaboration with photographer Manuel Vason, exploring issues of performance collaboration and documentation (2000 to present)
  • Socially engaged Performance: Co-founding (with Helen Spackman) Leibniz, a fluid group of international artists and performers, with whom he has so far created two major large-scale projects - The Book of Dust (London 2004 and 2005; Glasgow 2007) and The Book of Blood (London, 2006; Nottingham, 2007; Glasgow and London, 2008).
    The company has been invited to develop a site-specific performance project for an international theatre and live art festival in Anzio, Italy in August 2008 and to take part in Deformes, the 2nd International Biennale of performance in Chile, November 2008.
    Dr. Fischer also has a close working relationship with the London-based organisation Exiled Writers Ink, for whom he has so far directed two theatre productions:
    • AND THE CITY SPOKE (in collaboration with eight writers exiled in various European countries) - The Space/Hampstead Theatre, London, 29&30/10/04; Mazowiecki Centrum Kultura, Warsaw (Poland), 22/3/05; Wybrzezak Theatre, Gdynia (Poland), 23/3/05; Centro di promozione Sociale "Il Quadrifoglio" - 4th Convegno Nazionale "Culture e Letteratura della migrazione", Ferrara (Italy), 15/4/05
    • A MOUTHFUL OF AFRICA (a dinner performance for Africa Beyond), Oxford House, London, 7. June 2007.



Research interests

Dr. Fischer is available to supervise PhD theses in the areas of Domestic/Private Performance, Intimacy and Performance, Performance Documentation, Live Art practices, Butoh and Physical Performance, Practice-based Research.


Dr. Fischer has taught Asian Theatre Forms and Feminist/Queer Performance as well as directed many practical performance projects at Middlesex University (1987 - 2002); he was a visiting lecturer/skills tutor (Butoh & Physical Theatre, Social Aspects of Performance) at London Metropolitan University between 2000 and 2005 and, as associate lecturer at Roehampton University, taught on the Performance Ethics, Thinking Through Theatre, Studio-based Theatre Production and Advanced Theatre Practice modules.

At the moment he teaches on and supervises two practical performance modules: Independent Performance Project (IPP) - autumn semester - and Studio-based Theatre Production (STP) -spring/summer semester - as well as supervising extended dissertations. In addition, he is working on developing and publicising his own practical research work (performance, exile and Human Rightsand performance documentation) as solo performer and with his company Leibniz.

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