Numen/For Use – The scenography behind Erde

Numen/For Use is a collective working in the fields of conceptual art, scenography, industrial and spatial design.

The group first formed in 1998. as a collaborative effort of industrial designers Sven Jonke, Christoph Katzler and Nikola Radeljković under the banner For Use.

In 1999. they establish Numen as a collective identity covering all projects actualised outside the sphere of industrial design.

The group’s early enterprises are characterized by experiments with impersonal design and radical formal reduction, deeply rooted in the tradition of high modernism and mainly applied to various synergetic total-design projects in Croatia.

From 2004. onwards, after setting up a large scale site-specific project for the production of “Inferno” in the National Centre for Drama in Madrid, Numen/ For Use become intensely involved with scenography. Further realisations in theatres across Europe ensue.

Since 2008. the collective turns its focus towards configuring objects and concepts without a predefined function, an activity resulting in the more hybrid and experimental works such as the N-Light series and Tape Installation.

Parallel to these publicly exposed ventures, the group wins several international awards for their accomplishments in the field of industrial and set design.

Komische Oper, Staatsballett Berlin, 2017

Ballet: Nacho Duato
Music: Pedro Alcalde, Sergio Caballero, Richie Hawtin, Alva Noto and Mika Vainio
Scenography: Numen + Ivana Jonke

The starting point of research for the visual concept of “Earth” was Anthropocene – a contested new geological epoch marked by major human impact on the planet’s environment. Our set design addresses the topic of anthropogenic climate change by engaging some of its key tropes; increased atmospheric CO2, global warming, burnout of fossil fuels, plastic trash and the impending extinction of species. The distinct three phases of the set are aligned in order of apparent succession, starting with the end times and ending in post-human renewal.


In the first phase the entire stage is locked into a transparent plastic cube, defined by membranes running along its outer edges. The cube is suffused with condensation and slowly filling with thick aerosols suggesting a biosphere of a planetary body. This is a basic model for a closed ecosystem whose atmosphere sustains life, quite literally – a model for Earth. When the soft clouds of nitrogen and ozone and carbon dioxide reach the critical level, the structure will collapse leaving its inhabitants bare, exposed to the cosmos and the dark vacuum. The cube has open passages for entrance/exit and lighting on each side of the portal, but this remains invisible to the audience, for whom the system is seemingly sealed. The fourth wall is made of fully transparent plastic film while the rest of the membranes are a thicker, frostier foil, producing an ethereal, milky atmosphere within.


Once the transition point inside the cube is reached, enter next phase; an Euclidean 3D grid of blue laser beams silently invades the entire theatre space. The membranes of the cube collapse and the accumulated haze expands into the audience area, making the blue matrix clearly visible. The residue of plastic foil is evacuated through the side passages and the stage is left empty, with light vectors as the only remaining element, subverting everything to its cold, senseless geometry. This is a post-world stage marked by the sense of homelessness and inhuman detachment.


In the next image, in stark contrast to the abstract nature of the previous two – a life-size, hyperrealist fragment of primordial forest slides forward onto the edge of the proscenium – a breathing, living slice of real organic growth, almost touching the audience. This is the last scene and the New Earth.

For more pictures and the Making-of:

All images © Numen/For Use