This article combines the research agenda of the acts of citizenship literature with reflections on emancipatory theatre. I examine the Centre for Political Beauty’s activity-based artwork ‘The dead are coming’ which problematizes the cruelties of the European border regime in symbolically charged spaces in the German public. Focusing particularly on the roles available to ‘actors’ and ‘spectators’, and the directionality of the message conveyed through the artwork, I examine how the performance subverts the ‘sites’ and ‘scales’ of citizenship. My analysis indicates that the artwork’s subversive potential emerges not only from the political vision conveyed by the artist collective, but also from the way in which others become involved in the performance. Acts of political beauty thus most extensively challenge instituted citizenship’s orientalist anchoring, reverse status-based role allocations and subvert the structural violence of borders when the performance enables the enactment of novel forms of political agency and solidarity.