Poking around in the black hole

HAU 3 Miriam Yung Min Stein ventures on a microscopic examination of her own life in “Black Tie”

Von Christine Wahl

27.11.2008 / Tagesspiegel

When Miriam Yung Min Stein spat into a small tube from the 23andMe company and then took a swab from inside her cheek with the “genome collector” of a second company to get more information about her genetic identity, she could look forward to some very entertaining test results: female, brown eyes, significantly increased risk of prostate cancer – those were more or less, in summary, the results of the analysis.
Hearty laughter at the breakfast table in the WAU, which is more or less the Hebbel am Ufer theatre’s canteen. The young journalist and author, who was adopted as a child from South Korea and taken to Germany, was trying out the two market leaders of genetic testing for the new Rimini Protokoll project. The companies, with headquarters in Iceland and California, charge a princely fee for their services– a test costs up to a thousand dollars – and in return send very neatly designed tubes to spit into, as Rimini Protokoll’s group tells us. But then they diagnose female clients with an increased risk of prostate cancer – at least they still do. “The tests aren’t very refined yet, but they’re already flirting with future possibilities”, says Daniel Wetzel.
“The plan is for a kind of genetic Facebook.” In America, says Helgard Haug, researching your genetic identity has already replaced psychoanalysis as the latest lifestyle trend. But regardless of the degree to which the process is perfected in coming years, this scrap of uncertainty, the ‘black hole’ at the beginning of every biography, will hardly disappear completely. And exactly this point interests Haug and Wetzel in their new production “Black Tie”. How do you tell your own life story without the usual ‘myth of origin’? Will biographies be written differently in future as a result of globalisation and migration?
Miriam Yung Min Stein‘s story began at a German airport in 1977.
Of the time before that, in South Korea, where she – as the adoption agency later informs her – was found as a baby in a cardboard box in the street, she knows only probabilities, no facts. This young woman, who warmed up for her big Rimini Protokoll appearance in Christoph Schlingensief‘s “Kunst und Gemüse” (“Art and Vegetables”) four years ago, stands entirely alone on stage in “Black Tie”: a caesura in Rimini’s work. These researchers into reality have so far opened as many perspectives as possible onto their topics with various ‘experts of the everyday’, but now a microscopic examination of a life is to follow. Miriam Yung Min Stein seems ideal for this solo role, even when only talking to her. Not only because this barely thirty-something former music video producer and maker of advertising films in Hollywood already has plenty of experience to relate. It’s also because she can animatedly and reflectively talk about “the eternal conflict between nature and nurture”, about the frictions that emerge for a child with a Korean-looking body in a blonde Osnabruck family.
Stein has also delved into the issues around migration, international adoption and this highly complicated topic, which Daniel Wetzel calls “aid imperialism”, well beyond her own story. This forms the second strand of this Rimini evening. Are the well-meaning helpers, who want to improve this inherently wicked world a little with adoptions, anonymous sperm donations or Christmas parcels for orphans, aware of the black holes that their help also creates? Which areas of conflict are inundated with relief efforts and why, and which go empty-handed? And what gives us the unswerving certainty that others will be happy to have our worn-out pullovers?

With her intelligent way of telling her story, Miriam Yung Min Stein will connect these two levels in a manner guaranteed to be most illuminating.


Black Tie