Not just a mirror. Looking for the political theatre today -  - ebook
Opis

Der englischsprachige Band Not Just a Mirror setzt sich mit grundlegenden Fragen des politischen Theaters in der Gegenwart auseinander und stellt künstlerisch-politische Strategien und Praktiken von Theatermachern aus aller Welt vor - u. a. Chto Delat, Milo Rau, Kretakör, Faustin Linyekula, Public Movement, Christoph Schlingensief, Akira Takayama. Mit Beiträgen von Julian Boal, Boris Buden, Matan Cohen, Annie Dorsen, Galit Eilat, Monika Ginterdorfer, John Jordan, Alexander Karschnia, Hervé Kimenyi, Beatrix Kricsfalusi, Bojana Kunst, Hans-Thies Lehmann, Judith Malina, Florian Malzacher, Tala Jamal Manassah, Oliver Marchart, Carol Martin, Giulia Palladini, Roman Pawlowski, Jeroen Peeters, Goran Sergej Pristaš, Christian Römer, Sylvia Sasse, Francesco Scasciamacchia, Michael Sengazi, Vassilis Tsianos, Margarita Tsomou, Franck Edmond Yao u. a.

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NOT JUST A MIRROR:LOOKING FOR THE POLITICAL THEATRE OF TODAY

EDITED BY FLORIAN MALZACHER

NOT JUST A MIRRORLOOKING FOR THE POLITICALTHEATRE OF TODAY

PERFORMING URGENCY #1

A publication by House on Fire

House on Fire is supported by theCulture Programme of theEuropean Union.

The European Commission support for the production ofthis publication does not constitute an endorsement of thecontents which reflects the views only of the authors, andthe Commission cannot be held responsible for any usewhich may be made of the information contained there in.

House on Fire are:

Archa Theatre (Prague), BIT Teatergarasjen (Bergen),brut Wien (Vienna), Frascati Theater (Amsterdam),HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin), Kaaitheater (Brussels),LIFT (London), Malta Festival Poznań, Maria Matos Teatro Municipal/EGEAC (Lisbon) and Théâtre Garonne (Toulouse).

Edited by

Florian Malzacher

Performing Urgency Series Editor:

Florian Malzacher

Graphic Design:

R2

Copy Editing:

Harriet Curtis

Editorial Management:

Laura Lopes

Translations:

Daria Kassovsky (121), Ângelo Santana (70, 92, 151, 166), Artur Zapalowski (176), Žarko Cvejić (136)

Photos:

Michael Bause (183), Jörg Brüggemann (184), Felipe Camacho / Mapa Teatro (142, 144), Chto Delat (118), Leo Eloy / Fundação Bienal de São Paulo (124), Estate Christoph Schlingensief (163), Etcetera Archive (122), Konrad Fersterer / Residenztheater München (128, 129), Masahiro Hasunuma (168,169), IIPM / Maxim Lee (154), Sergey Illin & Alexander Pilyugin (148), Janez Janša / Janez Janša / Janez Janša (132), Knut Klaßen (67), chantel cherisse lucier (88), Jonas Mekas / Courtesy of The Living Theatre Archive (82), Agathe Poupeney (139, 140), Tóth Ridovics (158), Teatr.doc Archive (178), The Freedom Theatre (188), Tõnu Tunnel (173), Mike Yao (64)

Printed in Santo Tirso (Portugal) by Norprint

ISBN: 978-3-89581-395-5

Legal deposit: 398867 / 15

© 2015 the authors and House on Fire

For reprint and subsidiary rights, please contact Alexander Verlag Berlin

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

Publisher:

Alexander

Verlag Berlin

Fredericiastraße 8 D-14050 Berlin

Co-publisher:

Live Art Development Agency

The White Building

Unit 7, Queen’s Yard

White Post Lane, London E9 5EN

Introduction

ESSAYS & CONVERSATIONS

Florian Malzacher

No Organum to Follow: Possibilities of Political Theatre Today

Carol Martin

History and Politics on Stage: The Theatre of the Real

Jeroen Peeters

Incidents and Incitements: Ecology and the Micro-politics of Spectatorship

Monika Gintersdorfer in Conversation with Hervé Kimenyi, Lloyd Nyikadzino, Michael Sengazi & Franck Edmond Yao

‛We came by surprise, went to schools in the morning and to bars in the evening’

Julian Boal

Behaving like Guerrillas, Wary of the Enemy: A Historical Perspective on the Theatre of the Oppressed

Annie Dorsen in Conversation with Judith Malina

‘Poetry is “no poverty”, and “no poverty” is poetry’

Margarita Tsomou and Vassilis S. Tsianos

The Art of Being Many

John Jordan

Performing Against the Suicide Machine: Notes for a Future Which is Not What it Used To Be

INVENTORY OF ARTISTIC STRATEGIES

Chto Delat?: Trivialising Politics as Political Theatre

Francesco Scasciamacchia

Etcétera…: A Theatre of Errors

Galit Eilat

Oliver Frljić: A Performer After Theatre

Boris Buden

Janez Janša: A Portrait of the Artist as a Public Person

Bojana Kunst

Faustin Linyekula: The Right to Opacity

Goran Sergej Pristaš

Mapa Teatro: The Politics of Montage

Giulia Palladini

Public Movement: The Art of Pre-enactment

Oliver Marchart

Milo Rau / International Institute of Political Murder: When the Director Becomes a Spectator

Sylvia Sasse

Árpád Schilling / Krétakör: The Art of Dramatic Resistance

Beatrix Kricsfalusi

Christoph Schlingensief: Failure as Chance

Alexander Karschnia

Akira Takayama: To Hide, not to Disappear

Hans-Thies Lehmann

Teater NO99: Crossing the Line

Christian Römer

Teatr.doc: A Theatre Without Acting, A Theatre Without Fear

Roman Pawłowski

Theater Hora: The Pleasure of Failure

Benjamin Wihstutz

The Freedom Theatre: Lessons from a Refugee Camp

Matan Cohen & Tala J. Manassah

House on Fire

Authors

INTRODUCTION

The time seems out of joint. Economical disasters, outrageous social imbalance, growing right wing populism, millons of people forced into migration, various religious fundamentalisms, and unprecedented ecological catastrophes to come. But theatre — in the past often considered to be the political art per se — is struggling to find its place in the current events and debates. Unsure of how to relate to society adequately, it often seems to doubt its own political relevance. While some theatre makers seek answers still in narration-driven mimesis, others overestimate the reception-changing powers of aesthetics.

The crisis of representation in democracy has hit the representation machine of theatre at its core. But at the same time, amidst all the uncertainty and prevailing old strategies, a social and political turn in theatre has become very visible. Artists who have been engaging in their work for many years with the political struggle suddenly become the focus of attention, whereas others have just recently shifted their own work towards social, ecological, and economic issues. So how can theatre today again become a powerful medium of not only mirroring society but being a part of changing it?

For better or worse theatre has, in its forms and contents, always been an expression of its time. The Greek polis gathered in the Theatre of Dionysus to debate its values in an architectural setting that anticipated many of today’s parliaments. During the Baroque period the monarch was the focal point of the performance whilst the choreography on stage was in line with the social choreography of the absolutist society. And it was not by chance that the awakening of the European bourgeoisie was accompanied by the emergence of the bourgeois theatre as an aesthetic but also cultural-political and institutional phenomenon.

The avant-gardes of the twentieth century went more than one step further when they considered theatre as a tool to challenge or even change society. The quotation borrowed as the title of this book — ‘Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it’ — is attributed either to Marx, Mayakovski, or Brecht, the latter wishing for theatre to be a moral institution of class struggle where the distinction between spectator and actor would dissolve. In contrast, Antonin Artaud imagined the dissolution of this border as subversive intoxication; and the Futurists forced the audiences of their serate futuriste with drastic means into what we today would call participation. Even if such desires often remained more radical on paper than in practice, the most consequential theatre makers always understood theatre as a medium in which social and political practices could be tried out; in which societies in all their — actual or imagined — varieties are performed, expanded, verified, or even re-invented.

Today — after a strong period of mostly narrative theatre in the 1970s and 1980s, followed by post-dramatic forms emphasising the medium itself by focusing on its form since the 1990s — there is a strong desire for a theatre that not only gets a grip on pressing political issues but also becomes a political space, a public sphere, in itself. There is no common organum to follow. We are in a period of trying out, of finding out — artists as well as the audiences. But there are enough bits and pieces (and sometimes even big chunks) of impressive artistic work and political engagement that allow us to imagine or even feel the powerful potential of engaged theatre again. Not Just a Mirror takes a look at how theatre today can unfold its fundamental agonistic vigour in very different geographical, political, and artistic contexts. A potential that cannot be immediately integrated into the system nor bound to merely conceal social dysfunctions and sore spots, but that is opening spheres of negotiation and debate in which contradictions are not only kept alive but above all can be shaped and articulated.

The book opens with an introductory text outlining the situation of possible and existing political theatre today as a public sphere of social experimentation, followed by essays mapping the terrain from different topical angles. While Carol Martin takes a look at how ‘the real’ is presented and represented in a wide spectrum of verbatim and documentary theatre, Jeroen Peeters traces the symptoms of a new ecological thinking in current performances. Julian Boal revisits the Theatre of the Opressed that his father created and practised in Latin America in the 1960s and beyond, and shows where and how his approaches are still valuable today. A conversation between Monika Gintersdorfer and Hervé Kimenyi, Lloyd Nyikadzino, Michael Sengazi, and Franck Edmond Yao offers an insight into the often difficult situation of performance in Ivory Coast, Congo, and Rwanda. In her very last interview, Judith Malina — legendary head and soul of the Living Theatre —together with Annie Dorsen runs the gamut over decades of artistic and political engagement, fiercely and ever-optimistically connecting the past with the present. Two essays then directly link political activism with theatre: Margarita Tsomou and Vassilis S. Tsianos analyse the theatrical and performative forms that can be found in the recent anti-austerity movements in Athens, while John Jordon gives a very personal account of his belief and disappointment in theatre as a political tool.

The second part of the book consists of 15 shorter essays by authors coming from theatre as well as political studies, philosophy, or visual arts. This section plays with the idea of an inventory of artistic strategies in progress and looks in depth and one by one at current practices, covering a wide geographical as well as aesthetic range of sometimes even contradictory approaches. Many of them are inseparable from the concrete political and social contexts the artists are involved in: Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula not only creates pieces with many references to the politics in his country but also to the infrastructure around them. The Freedom Theatre in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin highlights strong gestures of self-empowerment being practised over many years, while the straightforward verbatim performances of Teater.doc aim to spread information that is supressed by Russian mainstream media. Árpád Schilling’s Kretakör company took the political crisis in Hungary as a call to use their own artistic know-how for direct social engagement, though in a very different way to Akira Takayama, who deals almost anthropologically with the neglected traumas of post-Fukushima Japan. The Columbian Mapa Teatro have, for more than 30 years, been poetically mixing facts with fiction in their laboratory for social imagination in the middle of Bogotá.

Who is representing whom in which way and with what right? These questions — addressed to the political systems as well as at theatre itself — are at the centre of the work made by many of the artists introduced in this book. For example, Swiss Theater Hora’s actors with cognitive disabilities answer them in a very different way to Milo Rau’s re-staging of three recent Russian trials against art and artists. The game of representation is pushed even further when three Slovenian artists rename themselves after the powerful nationalist politician Janez Janša, playing a complex game with identity and authorship.

Closer to straightforward activism is the Argentinian group Etcétera… , subverting real politics by confronting terrorism with their own concept of errorism. St. Petersburg collective Chto Delat? — consisting of theatre and film makers, visual artists, and philosophers — brings new life to the old Brechtian Learning Play, and the Israeli Public Movement uses choreography as a means to cut deep into the tissue of political representation, often directly intervening in the public sphere.

Expanding the stage far into the realm of news and social media by provoking vehement discussions can still be a powerful technique — as shown by Croatian theatre director Oliver Frljić, who likes to put not just his finger but his whole hand into the wounds of society. Or by the Teater NO99, who by (almost) founding their own party in the wake of Estonian general elections fuelled debates not only in the cultural sections of the newspapers, but echoed an earlier artistic project that also took the form of a political party: the legendary Chance 2000 of the late German artist Christoph Schlingensief.

Not Just a Mirror is the first part of the publication series Performing Urgency, commissioned by European theatre network House on Fire which will continue half-yearly. Performing Urgency focuses on the relationship between theatre and politics, and asks: How can theatre engage in contemporary social and political issues without compromising art or politics? What kind of knowledge or impact can art generate that activism and theory alone cannot? What are the processes and methodologies of political theatre today? It aims at a broader discussion of the conditions, aesthetics, concepts, and topics of contemporary performing arts.

This book is dedicated to Judith Malina and Christoph Schlingensief, the two late protagonists of Not Just a Mirror. Their presence as artists and as human beings can be felt still so strongly, as they remain core figures of the political theatre scene of today.

Florian Malzacher

ESSAYS & CONVERSATIONS

FLORIAN MALZACHER

NO ORGANUM TO FOLLOW:POSSIBILITIES OF POLITICAL THEATRE TODAY

Some people are yelling at each other with red faces, others try to stay calm whilst convincing bystanders of the threat of foreigners taking over their country. How Austria stands alone against the rest of the world. An old man almost cries while shaking a newspaper that repeats in large letters the same discussion on its front page. Some Korean tourists watch the strange spectacle without a clue.

15 years ago, when German theatre maker Christoph Schlingensief set up his now legendary container-installation Bitte liebt Österreich! (Please Love Austria!, 2000) right in the centre of Vienna, Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel had just made his devil’s pact with the right wing demagogue Jörg Haider, and the other EU-countries were discussing sanctions against the fellow member state. Austria debated passionately about immigration policy, as well as about the limits of art. And Europe watched with some bewilderment.

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