Bleak and durational dramaturgies
The Danish-Austrian performance ensemble SIGNA, led by Signa Köstler and Arthur Köstler, has since their first experiments with performance installations at the turn of the millennium established themselves as a ground-breaking and provocative force in the European theatre avant-garde. Their bleak, durational, site-specific and participatory performances have been shown in Denmark, Germany, Austria, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Estonia, Spain, Sweden, Russia and Argentina. They have been selected twice for the Berliner Theatertreffen, first in 2008 with Die Erscheinungen der Martha Rubin, and most recently in 2022 with Die Ruhe. Their performances have often been the center of heated public debate, as in 2010, when they challenged ethics of spectatorship by inviting the audience to visit and to some extent partake in the debaucheries of Villa Sálo – a work based on Pier Passolinis controversial movie Saló (1975). They have also been the object of a noteworthy range of scholarly work, in recent years especially in the context of the field of “immersive theatre”. Their performances usually involve a large number of performers, some of whom have by now become “veterans” recurring in several productions, others recruited short-term for the specific production. In this way, the experience and production methods are disseminated to other practitioners throughout Europe, some of them forming their own companies and taking the line of practice in other directions (such as Sisters Hope and Wunderland in Denmark).
Signa Köstler (then Signa Sørensen, b. 1975) created her first installation, Precious Fallen, in 2001, and founded SIGNA together with Arthur Köstler (b. 1972) in 2004. The company is based in Copenhagen. Both Signa and Arthur have their training in the visual arts: Signa read Art History, Film and Media Studies at the University of Copenhagen, and Arthur studied Media Arts at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. However, it is often their former occupations in service jobs like “hairdresser, stripper, champagne girl, newspaper deliverer, cleaning person” (signa.dk, accessed 6.3.2023) they highlight when describing their competences. This signals both their emphasis on the specific kind of practical and social skills needed to create the detailed participatory dramaturgy of their work, but also perhaps a solidarity with everyday labour rather than with “high culture”. Their reservations towards theatre as institution is only one of their legacies from the poetics of 20th century experimental theatre – Brecht, Artaud, Schechner etc. SIGNAs work stands out as radical experiments with creating extensive and intensive environments, fantastic dystopias of naturalistic detail, in which we, the audience and the performers, are confronted with – and lured into the exploration of – the dark and painful sides of human nature.
SIGNA are the Associate Artists of EASTAP23, and their keynote-session will be framed as a dialogue between Signa and Arthur Köstler with scholars Liesbeth Groot Nibbelink and Thomas Rosendal Nielsen. The dialogue will unravel and discuss how the practice of SIGNA contribute to the development of bleak, durational and distributed dimensions of dramaturgy for the 21st century. --- Liesbeth Groot Nibbelink, Utrecht University, and Thomas Rosendal Nielsen, Aarhus University
Read the Interview with SIGNA HERE
Read more about SIGNA at their website: https://signa.dk/index.html
On Community, Research and Dramaturgy
There is this common saying that suggests that we can see better from the periphery. The centre tends to obfuscate our perception. In effect, it is not difficult to find traces of the dominant occidental-western-northern hemispheric cosmovision in most of theatre and performance scholarship, even where this particular field defines itself as anti-disciplinary and subversively undisciplined. Yet research largely published in other languages than the dominant English tends to be overlooked.
Lola Proaño Gómez has been for many decades a vocal scholar discussing the interweaving links and heritage of political theatre in contemporary south American theatre, adopting a multidisciplinary approach, connecting contemporary theatrical aesthetics with its historical-political context and, also, with feminist theory. Since 2011 Emeritus Professor at Pasadena City College, she is now researcher at the Instituto Gino Germani, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Universitad de Buenos Aires.
Having earned her Ph.D in Latin American Theatre (University of California, Irvine), and a Master in Philosophy (California State University, Los Angeles), Lola Proaño Gómez wrote numerous works that have defined and expanded current debates on politics and performance in South American theatre, addressing topics such as the pernicious effect of neoliberalism and globalization in arts and communities, investigating the strength and presence of community theatre and its poetics of survival and resistance, and exploring theatrical imagination and utopia as political forces. Her books such as Poética, Política y Ruptura: Argentina 1966-73 (2002); Poéticas de la globalización en el teatro latinoamericano (2007), Estética comunitaria. Miradas desde la filosofía y la política (2013) and Antología de teatro latinoamericano: 1950-2007 (2010) are characterized by her multidisciplinary perspective. They can surely help us as European theatre scholars to expand our general perception of the world, and help us to better deal with the social sensibility that we can find in contemporary performing arts around the globe. --- Rui Pina Coelho, University of Lisbon
At EASTAP 23, Associate Scholar Lola Proaño Gómez will present her keynote lecture “The Dramaturgy of Research: Discerning Liberation in the Scenic Practices of Latin America, 1983–2021”:
I propose that in a theatrical context, the aesthetics of liberation produce scenes that build and articulate imaginary, visual, or textual bridges between the subject’s opening to the world (aesthesis) and its impact on subjectivity, giving rise to a stage production (poiesis) that favors the conservation and improvement of life. In themselves, these scenarios are liberating processes that, from within the system, stage the possibility of a counter or alternate hegemony: they make visible what the status quo has normativized, they announce the social disarticulation of late capitalism, and they raise the need and possibility of a different future and sociopolitical system to provide a better life.
As an academic, I believe it is necessary to consider the dramaturgy of research in order to seek possible, multiple, interdisciplinary, and contextualized ways of extracting the liberatory politics at work, though often not evident, on and off the stage. In my lecture for EASTAP, I will exemplify this observation by looking at the independent theater scene of the neoliberal nineties in Latin America as well as the communal/community theater scene in Argentina (1983–present). --- Lola Proaño Gómez
I am not on the internet, I am the internet: Meet Jäger Ooms
The Belgian artists Anna Franziska Jäger and Nathan Ooms (both *1996) graduated from the KASK and PARTS schools and have been collaborating for six years. Their works interrogate questions of (inter-)subjectivity in a mediatised society that provides us with scripts for acting as authentic self, and puts us in carefully curated ‘ambient’ environments. Their productions Bartlebabe (2021) and Ambient Theatre Fury: The Death of Dialogue and How to Avoid It (2022) are constructed from material found on Social Media, or generated through AI-chat bots. In 2021, they were invited to deliver the ‘State of the Youth’-speech at the opening night of the Dutch Theatre Festival.
At EASTAP 23, Jäger Ooms will present an Artist Talk and a Workshop: Interpreting and staging the internet
In this presentation we will take our practice as theatre makers as a departing point to reflect on the hyper mediated reality we find ourselves in. Our latest theatre works consist, each in their own way, of online content translated to the analogue reality of the stage. Through language, performativity and montage, we seek to understand what is hidden behind the appearances of online personae and their algorithmic/templated expression and communication. How can the interchangeable language of the internet, where the actual content is often subordinate to the form or act of expression, when brought to stage, open itself up to interpretation again? And perhaps reveal something about the conditions that produce them?
As we engage directly with online content as a source for creation, what interests us is how the internet functions as (non-)context. How can theatre, when used in its most bare form - moving and talking bodies on stage in front of an audience - guide us to a better understanding of the fragmented reality we find ourselves in? How can we understand the internet as a metaphor for a world without context?