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The People's Chair

The People's Chair

This is not theatre this is a f*** protest

Antje Schupp
Christoph Rufer
Carrie Shelver

In 2021, #EmptyChairs collaborated with Swiss-based artists Antje Schupp and Christoph Rufer in a project titled “This is not theatre, this is a f*** protest”. 

The collaboration tested the boundaries between theatre and protest / art and advocacy and produced a series of experimental outputs or try-outs: a theatre performance-workshop, a mini-exhibition and an installation of the People’s Chair. The production invited audience/participants to imagine what a People’s Council could / should look like by asking the question: if you had a seat in the People’s Council, what would you say? 

Audience-participants were invited to record their ideas on their chairs and to use these chairs as part of a protest-art installation outside the theatre venue. 


Rufer and Schupp proposed the campaign work with the symbol of a People’s Chair. 

The People’s Chair is the antithesis of the empty chairs inside UN meetings and buildings which are often formal, relatively expensive and heavy. By contrast, the monobloc chair, which is ubiquitous and universal, affordable and sustainable, was chosen as the people’s chair. 

The People’s Chair try-out installation exhibited four chairs that had been worked on by activists and human rights defenders to record their visions for a People’s Council. 

Viewers were invited to interact with the chairs by reading the messages written on the chairs, a second ‘blank’ chair was placed across from the people’s chair - in a conversational arrangement. The ‘blank’ chairs also had a QR code which allowed the viewer to watch videos, made by activists and human rights defenders in different locations across the world, talking about the barriers to participation in UN human rights processes and their visions for a more just and equitable system.




Photos ©Nicolas Gysin &Gregor Brändli