1‘Transnational’, ‘international’ and ‘world’ are frequently used as synonyms; to avoid confusion we use ‘global history’ throughout this paper.
2See Thomas Zeller, ‘The Spatial Turn in History’, German Historical Institute Bulletin, 35 (2004), 123–4; Denis Cosgrove, ‘Landscape and Landschaft. Lecture delivered at the “Spatial Turn in History” Symposium German Historical Institute, February 19, 2004’, German Historical Institute Bulletin, 35 (2004), 57–71; Doreen Massey, For space (London: Sage, 2005); George G. Iggers and Q. Edward Wang, A Global History of Modern Historiography (London: Pearson/Longman, 2008).
3Margaret Dikovitskaya, Visual Culture: The Study of the Visual After the Cultural Turn (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006); Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Nicholas Mirzoeff (ed.) The Visual Culture Reader (London: Routledge, 1998); idem, An Introduction to Visual Culture (London: Routledge, 1999); Barnard Malcolm, Approaches to Understanding Visual Culture, (Houndsmill: Palgrave, 2001); J.A. Walker and S. Chaplin, Visual Culture: An Introduction (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997); James Elkins, Visual Studies: A Skeptical Introduction (London: Routledge, 2003); Sarah Pink, The Future of Visual Anthropology: Engaging the Senses (Abingdon: Routledge, 2006). On the application of visual culture studies to historical study, see Gerhard Paul, Visual History: Ein Studienbuch (Berlin: Vendenhoech & Ruprecht, 2006); Monika Dommann, ‘Vom Bild zum Wissen: Eine Bestandsaufnahme wissenschaftshistorischer Bildforschung’, Gesnerus, 61 (2004), 77–89; on the ‘pictorial turn’, coined by W.T. Mitchell in 1992, see Sybilla Nikolow and Lars Bluma, ‘Science Images: Between Scientific Fields and the Public Sphere’ in Bernd Hüppauf and Peter Weingart (eds), Science Images and Popular Images of the Sciences (London: Routledge, 2008), 33–51: 36.
4See, for example, Valeska Huber, ‘The Unification of the Globe by Disease? The International Sanitary Conferences on Cholera, 1851–1894’, Historical Journal, 49 (2006), 454–74; cf. Hans Zinser, Rats, Lice and History: Being a Study in Biography (Boston: Atlantic Monthly, 1935); William McNeill, Plagues and Peoples (Oxford: Blackwell, 1977).
5See, for example, Caroline A. Jones and Peter Galison (eds), Picturing Science, Producing Art, (New York: Routledge, 1998); Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, ‘Visual Representation and Post-Constructivist History of Science’, Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences, 28 (1997), 139–71; Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (eds), Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002); Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, Objectivity (New York: Zone Books, 2007); Lisa Cartwright, Screening the Body: Tracing Medicine’s Visual Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995; Nick Hopwood, ‘Pictures of Evolution and Charges of Fraud: Ernst Haeckel’s Embryological Illustrations’, Isis, 97 (2006), 260–301; Bert Hansen, Picturing Medical Progress from Pasteur to Polio: A History of Mass Media Images and Popular Attitudes in America (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2009); Bernard Lightman, ‘The Visual Theology of Victorian Popularizers of Science: From Reverent Eye to Chemical Retina’, Isis, 91 (2000), 651–80; Ann Shteir and Bernard Lightman (eds), Figuring it Out: Science, Gender, and Visual Culture (Hanover: Dartmouth College Press, 2006); Hüppauf and Weingart, op. cit. (note 3).
6For example, on the condom as a material object, see Nicole Vitellone, Object Matters: Condoms, Adolescence and Time (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008). For more historically focused studies on scientific and medical objects in global contexts, see Simon Schaffer, ‘Instruments as Cargo in the China Trade’, History of Science, 44 (2006), 217–46; Harold Cook, Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine and Science in the Dutch Golden Age (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007).
7Throughout this paper we use ‘AIDS posters’ as shorthand for ‘HIV/AIDS posters’. This is the generic terms used by vendors, collectors and exhibiters for posters relating not just to AIDS, specifically, and the need for precautionary measures such as condoms, but also, to issues such as homophobia. Our use of ‘poster’ follows Harold Hutchinson, The Poster: An Illustrated History from 1860 (London: Studio Vista, 1968), 1: ‘[E]ssentially a large announcement, usually with a pictorial element, usually printed on paper and usually displayed on a wall or billboard to the general public.’ However, the meaning of ‘the public’ in this connection was to some extent challenged by AIDS posters (see below note 72).
8Felix Studinka, ‘Foreword’ in Poster Collection: Visual Strategies Against AIDS, International AIDS Prevention Posters (Zurich: Museum für Gestaltung Zurich and Lars Muller Publishers, 2002), 5.
9For illustrations of AIDS posters see: Roger Cooter and Claudia Stein, ‘Protect Yourself’ in Public Health Campaigns: Getting the Message Across (Geneva: World Health Organisation, 2009), 66–88; Hugh Rigby and Susan Leibtag, HardWare: The Art of Prevention (Edmonton: Quon Editions, 1994); Becky Field et al., Promoting Safer Sex: A History of the Health Education Authority’s Mass Media Campaigns on HIV, AIDS and Sexual Health, 1987–1996 (London: Health Education Authority, 1997); Becky Field and Kaye Wellings, Stopping AIDS: AIDS/HIV Public Education and the Mass Media in Europe (London: Longman, 1996); Jürgen Döring (ed.), Gefühlsecht: Graphikdesign der 90er Jahre (Hamburg: Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, 1996); Edition Braus, ‘Aids Plakate International Bildsammlung 1985–1997’, a CD-ROM produced by Stiftung NeoCortex for Medizinische Fakultät der Universität, Basel (n.d.); and the websites of the institutions mentioned below (note 16) holding the largest collections of AIDS posters.
10Roger Cooter and Claudia Stein, ‘Coming into Focus: Posters, Power, and Visual Culture in the History of Medicine’, Medizinhistorisches Journal, 42 (2007), 180–209.
11Constance Classen and David Howes, ‘The Museum as Sensescape: Western Sensibilities and Indigenous Artifacts’, in Elizabeth Edwards, C. Gosden and R. Phillips (eds), Sensible Objects: Colonialism, Museums and Material Culture (Oxford: Berg, 2006), 200.
12Aihwa Ong and Stephen J. Collier (eds), Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005).
13We do not therefore engage here with the claim made by various theorists, that it is now impossible to talk of AIDS/HIV without referring to mutually metaphorised models and theories of globalisation. According to some, it is now impossible to even conceptualise ‘globalisation’ without also thinking in terms of the AIDS pandemic. See Dennis Altman, ‘Globalisation and the AIDS Industry’, Contemporary Politics, 4 (1998), 233–45; Richard Brock, ‘An “Onerous Citizenship”: Globalisation, Cultural Flows and the HIV/AIDS Pandemic in Hari Kunzru’s Transmission’, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 44 (2008), 379–90.
14Cf. Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics, Gabriel Rockhill (trans. and intr.), (London: Continuum, 2006). Throughout this paper we adhere to the crucial distinction established by Paul Forman between ‘postmodernism’ as a body of thought critical of modernity from ‘postmodernity’ as an era in which we still live. Further, we follow him on the fallacy of thinking the former the cause of the latter: ‘(Re)cognizing Postmodernity: Helps for Historians—of Science Especially’, Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte, 33 (2010), 1–19.
15We reflect on this problem in another paper: Roger Cooter and Claudia Stein, ‘Visual Imagery and Epidemics in the Twentieth Century,’ in David Serlin (ed.), Imagining Illness : Public Health and Visual Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011).
16The Wellcome Library, London; the Library of the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, Maryland; and the Deutsches Hygiene Museum, Dresden. A collection of 625 AIDS posters from 44 countries is held at UCLA, and can be accessed online: http://digital.library.ucla.edu/Aidsposters/. There is perhaps another paper to be written on the interior politics of such purchases within economic climates of retrenchment, and on the demands this then places on the kind of advertising deployed for the exhibitions—in the Hamburg case a website image of a punchy young woman conveying gender and alternative life styles—and on the actual display of the objects in the interest of maximising the public passing through the turnstiles. This is not our concern here, though it might be noted that financial stringencies connect to the contemporaneous articulation of a wider problematic on the purpose and function of museums internationally, on which see James Cuno, Whose Muse? Art Museums and the Public Trust (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).
17Designed by Yossi Lemel of Israel and photographed by G. Korisky, 1993, reproduced in Döring, op. cit. (note 9), 145.
18The black-and-white photo entitled ‘Final Moment’, by the American photographer Therese Frare, appeared in Life in November 1990. See Oliviero Toscani, Die Werbung ist ein lächelndes Aas, Barbara Neeb (trans.), (Mannheim: Fisher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2000), 58; and Cooter and Stein, op. cit. (note 10); and idem, op. cit. (note 15).
19On the past and present ambiguous status of the condom as both a legal and morally approved hygienic product, and as an illegal and morally disapproved means to birth control, See Paula Treichler and Kelly Gates, ‘“When Pirates Feast…Who Pays?” The Pirate Figure in Trojan Brand Condom Advertisements, 1926–1932’, unpublished paper presented at the American Association for the History of Medicine 83rd Conference, Rochester, Minnesota, 30 April 2010, and see http://www.chicagohumanities.org/en/Genres/History/2010-History-of-the-Condom.aspx, accessed 12 October 2010. See also Vitellone, op. cit. (note 6).
20Döring, op. cit. (note 9), 13. The 1996 exhibition was partly organised around HIV/AIDS; its other three themes were ‘Heads’, ‘Bodies’ and ‘Human Rights’.
21The 1896 exhibition took place three years before Roger Marx formulated the idea for such exhibitions in the journal Les Maîtres de l’Affiche, and proposed a Musée moderne de l’Affiche illustrée: Margaret Timmers (ed.), The Power of the Poster (London: V&A Publications, 1998), 12–13. On the late nineteenth-century poster movement in Germany, see Jeremy Aynsley, Graphic Design in Germany 1890–1945 (London: Thames and Hudson, 2000), 30. Aynsley mistakenly dates the Hamburg exhibition as 1893 (p.31), and misattributes Das Moderne Plakat by the curator of the Dresden Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (1897) as the first German book on posters (pp.31, 35; the first such being that by Justus Brinkmann cited in note 23 below).
22For cultural politics in Hamburg and Brinckmann’s role as a patron of the arts, see Carolyn Kay, Art and the German Bourgeoisie: Alfred Lichtwark and modern painting in Hamburg, 1886–1914 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002); on Brinckmann, see Heinz Spielmann, Justus Brinckmann (Hamburg: Ellert und Richter, 2002).
23Justus Brinckmann, Katalog der Plakat-Ausstellung: Hamburg 1896 Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (Hamburg: Lütcke & Wulff E. H. Senatsbuchdruckerei, 1896), 92. Similar motives lay behind ‘Mr Robert Newman’s Promenade Concerts’ (later known as the ‘London Proms’) to bring ‘quality’ music to the masses at low cost (1 shilling per concert), the first of which was held in August 1895. For contemporary expression of similar views in Germany and Britain, see Detlef Hoffmann, ‘The German Art Museum and the History of the Nation,’ in Daniel J. Sherman and Irit Rogoff (eds), Museum Culture: Histories, Discourses, Spectacles (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), 3–21; and Seth Koven, ‘The Whitechapel Picture Exhibition and the Politics of Seeing’, in Sherman and Rogoff, idem, 22–48. A further part of the purpose of poster exhibitions was to educate people to the technology of graphic design. For example, in 1931, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Exhibition of British and Foreign Posters asserted that ‘this Museum is concerned less with the economic aspect, the publicity value, of the poster than with its technical method and the artistic impulse which finds expression in the special means employed. From a Museum point of view, therefore, this Exhibition of Posters might almost equally well be described as an exhibition of lithographs and of lithographic technique.’ Quoted in Timmers, op. cit. (note 21), 19.
24On the systematic collection of posters by national institutions as evidence of democratised and populist culture, and as challenge to the traditional arts, see Aynsley, op. cit. (note 21), 30ff, and Jim Aulich and John Hewitt, Seduction or Instruction?: First World War Posters in Britain and Europe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), 11–34.
25Döring, op. cit. (note 9), especially 187.
28Interview 26 July 2010.
29Interview (CS) with the assistant curator of the exhibition, Hendrik Lunganini, 21 June 2006.
30Richard Hollis, Graphic Design: A Concise History (London: Thames and Hudson, 1994); Jeremy Myerson and Graham Vickers, Rewind: Forty Years of Design and Advertising (London: Phaidon Press, 2002).
31Döring, op. cit. (note 9), 15. Such comments—including the idea of Zeitgeist—are strikingly resonant of those on ‘degenerate art’ by the Nazis; see Stephanie Barron (ed.), ‘Degenerate Art’: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany (New York: Harry Abrams, 1991).
32Döring, ibid. Another way to interpret these views is in terms of ‘epistemic virtues’, as elaborated by Daston and Galison, op. cit. (note 5). As Daston and Galison insist, within the culture of science and in cultural more generally, old epistemic virtues are never simply discarded or confronted head-on by new ones, but rather, are retained often long after the creation of new ones.
33Döring, ibid., 16.
34Jonathan Crary, Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle and Modern Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000).
35For Sontag’s intellectual and political context, see Sturken and Cartwright, op. cit. (note 3), 151–78. On the Frankfurt School, see Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923–50 (London: Heinemann, 1973).
36Susan Sontag, ‘Posters: Advertisement, Art, Political Artifact, Commodity’, introductory essay to Dugald Stermer, The Art of Revolution: 96 posters from Cuba (London: Pall Mall Press, 1970), vii–xxiii: viii. The following comments on Sontag are drawn from Cooter and Stein, op. cit., (note 10), 188–90.
37Sontag, ibid., viii.
40Susan Sontag, AIDS and Its Metaphors (London: Penguin, 1990), 75ff.
41For a critique of Sontag’s use of the metaphor of disease, see Allan Brandt, No Magic Bullet: A Social History of Venereal Disease in the United States since 1880 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985) 193, n.7; idem, ‘Emerging Themes in the History of Medicine’, The Milbank Quarterly, 69 (1991), 199–214: 204.
42For the images and historical commentary, see http://www.avert.org/his87_92.htm.
43Simon Watney, Policing Desire: Pornography, AIDS and the Media,  3rd edn (London: Cassell, 1997), 15–16.
44A good account is provided by Matt Cook, ‘From Gay Reform to Gaydar, 1967–2006’ in Matt Cook et al. (eds), A Gay History of Britain: Love and Sex Between Men Since the Middle Ages (Oxford: Greenwood World Publishing, 2007), 179–214.
45Cook, ‘The 1980s Backlash’, ibid, 204–14. Commenting on this backlash, Watney, op. cit. (note 43), 18, quotes Dennis Altman, ‘“the risk to gay identity seems greater in countries such as Great Britain and the Irish Republic, where the gay movement has less legitimacy and seems less able to withstand a new ideological onslaught, backed by real fears and dangers.” We are now facing that onslaught… which threatens not only our health but our very social identity, as the term “gay”, wretched away from the older pejorative discourse of “homosexuality”, is reloaded before our very eyes with all the familiar connotations of effeminacy, contagion and degeneracy.’ On representations of gay men in the UK media at this time, see Keith Howell, Broadcasting It: An Encyclopedia in Film, Radio and TV in the UK, 1923–1993 (London: Cassell, 1993).
46See, for example, the AIDS posters reproduced in Sander Gilman, Picturing Health and Illness: Images of Identity and Difference (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1995), 124–8.
47For a statement on how Western medicine achieved and sustained this ‘Biblical’-like position in the twentieth century, see David Armstrong, A New History of Identity: A Sociology of Medical Knowledge (London: Palgrave, 2002). For how it lost it through the debate over HIV as the cause of AIDS, see Joan H. Fujimura and Danny Y. Chou, ‘Dissent in Science: Styles of Scientific Practice and the Controversy Over the Cause of AIDS’, Sociology of Science and Medicine, 38 (1994), 1017–36; Steven Epstein, Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996). Subsequently, it was biomedicine in general, rather than the medical profession in particular, that came to define ‘life’—see Nikolas Rose, The Politics of Life Itself: Biomedicine, Power and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007).
48See Cooter and Stein, op. cit. (note 15).
49The campaign cost 70 million US dollars. See Torsten Sevecke, Wettbewerbsrecht und Kommunikationsgrundrechte: Zur rechtlichen Bewertung gesellschaftskritischer Aufmerksamkeitswerbung in der Presse und auf Plakaten am Beispiel der Benetton-Kampagnen, (Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Band 14, 1997), 24.
50Joan Gibbons, ‘Reality Bites’, Chapter 4 of Art and Advertising (London: I.B. Tauris, 2005), 75–96.
51The reactions were overviewed in ‘Benetton—Advertising History’ entry for 1992, online: http://www.ucad.fr/pubgb/virt/mp/benetton/pub_benetton.html, accessed 16 March 2003. See also Döring, op. cit. (note 9), 128–9. The Guardian was forced to defend itself in an editorial of 24 January 1992; see Lorella Pagnucco Salvemini, United Colours: The Benetton Campaigns (London: Scriptum Editions, 2002), 92–3.
52Naomi Klein, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (London: Flamingo, 2000), 279–309; Kalle Lasn, Culture Jam: How to Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge—and Why We Must (New York: HarperCollins, 1999). The term ‘culture jamming’ was coined in 1984 by the San Francisco audio-collage band Negativland.
53The image is reproduced in Francis Beckett, ‘Protest Politics’, AIDS Matters, 8 (1992), 5.
54Klein, op. cit. (note 52), 281–2.
55Watney, quoted in Gilman, op. cit. (note 46), 115; see also ‘The Rhetoric of AIDS: A Dossier Compiled by Simon Watney, with Photographs by Sunil Gupta’, Screen, 27 (1986), 72–85; Douglas Crimp, ‘Portraits of People With AIDS’ in Crimp, Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992).
56Paula A. Treichler, ‘AIDS, Homophobia, and Biomedical Discourse: An Epidemic of Signification’, Cultural Studies, 1 (1987), 263–305: 263–4. The essay is reprinted in her How to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999).
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Eichmann in Jerusalem as Epic Theatre
My presentation will discuss how Hannah Arendt “recycles” Brecht in her political philosophy through the example of Eichmann in Jerusalem. Arendt’s account of the trial continually emphasizes the theatrical elements of the trial. For this reason, Eichmann in Jerusalem is often read as complete rejection of theatre from the domain of the law. In my presentation, I argue that this interpretation misses the significance of contemporary theatre, and especially Brecht, for Arendt. If we read Arendt within the context of contemporary theatre we see that Arendt does not reject the use of theatre techniques in the courtroom per se. Instead, she positions herself against one form of theatre (an Aristotelian drama that invokes suspense, empathy and catharsis) and for another form of theatre (the epic theatre of Bertolt Brecht, whose poem “O Germany” serves as the epigram of the book). In Eichmann in Jerusalem, Arendt offers a Brechtian restaging of the trial itself.
Upcycling Brecht? Verbatim Theatre and/as Epic Theatre Practice
Verbatim theatre, a subgenre of documentary theatre, pledges to commit itself to only use spoken evidence or verbatim witness accounts for its playtext and is chiefly influenced by Bertolt Brecht. In the tradition of Brecht it wishes to educate and emancipate its spectators and to enable playwrights to take direct responsible action. Moisés Kaufman in particular pays tribute to Brecht in the introduction to The Laramie Project, acknowledging that “The Street Scene” was pivotal in the play’s creation: “[it] gave me an idea about how to deal with this project, in terms of both its creation and its aesthetic vocabulary” (Kaufman 2001: vii). In I Am My Own Wife Doug Wright directly emulates “The Street Scene” when Charlotte, the protagonist, gives an eyewitness account to a ‘collection of spectators’ of how a Nazi attack took place (see Brecht 1940: 371). Verbatim theatre uses a high degree of self-reflexivity to foreground its devising process, thereby aiming for a critical perspective. Thus, it meets Brecht’s ideal of distance, but maintains a productive connection to the spectators. I argue that Brecht’s epic theatre is upcycled by verbatim theatre, because it refrains from using a Puntila-esque sledgehammer and instead finds a balance between critical distance and emotional connection.
The Berliner Ensemble Stages The Playboy of the Western World
In May 1956, under Brecht’s supervision, Peter Palitzsch and Manfred Wekwerth directed J.M. Synge’s Irish classic, The Playboy of the Western World (1907). This paper examines how the company breathed new life into a play that caused a riot at its premiere, but then became little more than a harmless, quirky comedy. The intellectual approach to, rehearsal and direction of The Playboy tell much about the dialectical treatment of what Brecht called a ‘realistic’ text, and the production itself shows how certain received understandings of Brechtian stagecraft were actively jettisoned in the name of offering the audience a challenging piece of theatre. The paper thus sheds light not only on a particular production, but also on a series of staging principles that help dispel certain myths about Brecht’s directing strategies.
A Model Family in a Model Home or a Tale of Fictitious Capital
Working in Los Angeles, Brecht wrote numerous film treatments in which he attempted the impossible, to challenge the formulas of the film industry and create works that were both popular and radical. I conceive of his notes as “potential”, as starting points for a new kind of film in our century. I will present my work based on Brecht’s scenario “A Model Family in a Model Home” inspired by an article in Life Magazine (1941) that described a competition for Ohio’s most typical farm family. The prize was a week’s stay in a model home at the State Fair. The only drawback, this home was open to the public, turning it into a stage in which the family was forced to perform their daily life. My project consists of an installation, drawings, objects and a speculative film that begins with Brecht’s ideas about working people and the home as a stage upon which larger political and social forces are played out. Moving into the postwar period, I explore the concept of “the model home” as a catalyst for the suburban expansion that led to uncontrolled speculation, massive foreclosures and the rise of “zombie subdivisions”.
Brecht and the recycling of the avant-garde in the GDR
In the early days of the GDR Bertolt Brecht played a crucial role in supporting returning German Avant-Gardists and incorporating them in his later projects. In particular returned Avant-Gardists from their Western exile, such as John Heartfield, Hanns Eisler and Paul Dessau, relied on the backing of Brecht. This fact became an important reason that the playwright manoeuvred himself into a problematic position in the GDR cultural political scene in the 1950s, especially during so-called Formalism Debate. Brecht, who might not be categorized as an Avant-Gardist himself per se, stressed the fact that the Avant-Garde had a valid place in the new Germany. In this quest, the writer was seated zwischen den Stühlen during his time in the GDR, as Werner Hecht recently pointed out.
In this paper I will apply Hal Foster’s hypothesis in The Return of the Real (1996) that (in contrast to Peter Bürger’s thought) an aesthetical transmission of the historical Avant-Garde after 1945 was possible. I will argue that in the context of the 1950s Brecht’s “issues of authority” (Stephan Parker) are key in the process of undermining the premises of the cultural dogma of Socialist Realism. He became the engine behind the recycling of the Avant-Garde in the GDR. In order to document the continuous project of the new Institution Kunst, I will investigate his involvement in two debates, related to Dessau’s music for The Condemnation of Lucullus and to Eisler’s libretto Johann Faustus.
When Eddie & Bert met Bill: 'Bingo' The Game's Up!' Brechtian dramatic strategies in Edward Bond's radical revisiting of Shakespeare.
In one of Edward Bond's major plays of the 1970s he engaged in a radical revisiting and interrogation of Shakespeare in his play 'Bingo - Scenes of Money & Death' (1974).
This paper will explore Bond's employment of Brechtian dramatic strategies in that play but also, crucially, reveal the ways in which Bond was also engaged in a radical re-evaluation of Brecht.
Training the Audience: Brecht and the Art of Spectatorship
Brecht argued that it was not enough to develop a new kind of theatre, but that theatre practitioners also needed to cultivate the art of spectatorship. Drawing on new archival material, this paper investigates how episodes in Die Mutter, Mutter Courage, and Der kaukasische Kreidekreis can be viewed as training exercises in Brechtian spectatorship. The episodes hold contrasting examples of ‘culinary’ and ‘critical’ spectatorship up for scrutiny, providing negative and positive role models for the audience. They also posit a connection between acting and spectatorship, as the characters-as-actors recycle their observations of social behaviour, using them to construct their own performances. However, the uses to which the characters put their observations vary: Die Mutter and Der kaukasische Kreidekreis present us with a taxonomy of ‘dramatic’ and ‘epic’ performances, suggesting how actors can make the transition from the former to the latter, and to what effect. The paper finishes by asking what we can learn from real-life audience reactions to the plays’ first postwar stagings at the Berliner Ensemble, and why the audiences of Mutter Courage repeated some of the spectatorial errors that Brecht’s plays parodied on stage.
“Altes wird aufgerollt”: Paul Dessau’s posthumous collaborations with Brecht
“Diese Technik der Übernahme, das Sich-selbst-Zitieren ist auch von Brecht. Er hat einmal zu mir gesagt: “Weißt du, wenn man etwas Gutes gemacht hat, soll man es wieder aufnehmen und in anderem Rahmen nochmal verwenden.” (Dessau) From their first collaboration in 1943, the Deutsches Miserere (settings of Kriegsfibel poems), through to 1956, Paul Dessau was Brecht’s most dedicated and innovative musical collaborator, providing compositions for a wide range of works: Mutter Courage, Der kaukasische Kreidekreis, Das Herrnburger Bericht, the opera Die Verurteilung des Lukullus, dozens of songs. This “Musikarbeit”, as Dessau termed it, continued after Brecht’s death with orchestral music (In memoriam Bertolt Brecht, 1957), the peace cantata Appell der Arbeiterklasse (1960), film music (the Vietnam War blood donor film 400cm3, 1966), and songs for and with children including the Tierverse cycle, the subject of Dessau’s only book publication, Musikarbeit in der Schule (1968). This paper will look at these posthumous collaborations, both the new compositions using Brecht texts and the recycling of old ones:
“Altes wird aufgerollt, von mir bewußt in Neues umgewandelt – ein Vorgang, der legitim ist und an dem ich besonders viel lerne für die weitere Arbeit.“ (Dessau)
Rediscovering the familiar – Teaching Brecht in HE education
During my work as a lecturer in drama and performance, I have witnessed a generalised misunderstanding and/or resistance to Brecht and his performance theories, largely stemming from the limited insight they have received in school or college, mostly caused by syllabus constraints. The proposed practical seminar will blend anecdotal observations, particularized theories and applied educational devices, accumulated from my experience of teaching Brecht at the University of Cumbria. During the seminar I will facilitate selected workshop techniques that have counter-acted these barriers while teaching on the BA (Hons) Performing Arts course. I will demonstrate how I enable students to engage with socio-political themes, promote to them the importance of historical context within theatre, enhance their understanding of symbolism and the representational, demote emotion as their a creative objective and develop them as thinking practitioners. The seminar will also explain why Brecht is a key practitioner for students for their personal and cerebral development as well as within their creative, theatrical toolkit.
The influence of epic theatre in Group Theatre of Sao Paulo
Brecht was almost unknown in Brazil until after his death. It was in the 1960s that the playwright began to have greater visibility among Brazilian artists, influencing three major groups of political theatre of the time and gained further strength after the declaration of the civil-military dictatorship. With the end of dictatorship in the 1980s, came the weakening of the Brazilian political theatre. As a result, in the 1990s, artists from Sao Paulo organized themselves against the commodification of the theatre, formulating the so-called Manifest of Art against Barbarization. This organization transformed the theatrical reality of the city, generating a phenomenon known as group theatre of Sao Paulo. This phenomenon is characterized by the resumption of political theatre and by revisiting Brecht, modifying it to the Brazilian reality. The group theatre concept has as its influence the Berliner Ensemble and all other European ensembles. The aesthetic used by these groups is epic par excellence, showing the relevance of Brecht as a distinguished playwright to the context.
Marco Castellari: Die neue italienische Brecht-Welle
In den letzten fünf Jahren scheint das italienische Theater Brecht wiederentdeckt zu haben. Gerade das Mailänder Piccolo Teatro – in den Nachkriegsjahrzehnten unter Giorgio Strehlers und Paolo Grassis Führung die Brecht-Bühne Italiens schlechthin – hat mit Luca Ronconis umjubelter Heilige Johanna-Inszenierung (2011/12) den augenfälligsten Anstoß gegeben. Als Kulminationspunkt der neuen Brecht-Welle im Bel paese kann die für April 2016 ebendort annoncierte Dreigroschenoper betrachtet werden, durch die der Regisseur der Stunde Damiano Michieletto gleichzeitig den 60. Todestag Brechts und das 60. Jubiläum von Strehlers legendärer Opera da tre soldi-Inszenierung begehen wird. Der Vortrag, der auch andere neuere Brecht-Inszenierungen zwischen Rom und Mailand berücksichtigen wird, soll einerseits den Recyclingsmodi nachgehen, welche die italienischen Adaptionen aufweisen, und andererseits nach den Gründen fragen, die diese italienische Brecht-Aktualität zu erklären vermögen.
The interpretation and misinterpretation of the Verfremdungseffekt on the modern Xiqu stage – take the Yueju opera Good Person of Jiangnan as an example
The epic theatre and the Verfremdungseffect are Brecht's constructive misreading of Mei Lanfang's brilliant Jingju performance, and widely recognized as a critic of the “culinary theatre” of his age. Since the 1980s, Chinese Xiqu productions that include elements from different theatre traditions are flourishing on the stage, such as the Kunqu opera Macbeth (1984), the Bangzi opera Medea (1993). What arouses my curiosity is that the Yueju opera Good Person of Jiangnan adapts not only the drama text of Brecht's Good Woman of Szechwan but also endeavours to practice interpretation of the V-effect, which is quite rare, since most of such performances are trying the “western story, eastern body” mode.
The V-effect requires making the action strange, alien, remote or separate, therefore the director could naturally adopt any devices that preserve or establish the distancing. In my presentation I would explain in detail Good Person of Jiangnan's stage interpretation of the V-effect, especially those based on the traditional Xiqu role category and the performance skills. Yet the adaptation of the “story” as well as the “body” ensures no critic of our age. Against the context of modern China as the “World's Factory”, it surprises me that from this performance arise very few discussions about the reality and most audiences criticize it as non-authentic Yueju opera or defend it as following the intercultural, modern tendency. When and how could the Yueju opera transgress the “brilliant scholar, beautiful lady” mode and take part in the social transformation, as Brecht expected for the V-effect, remains a big question.
Wer ist der „Zweifler“? - Über den Zusammenhang von Bild und Gedicht
Zu dem Gedicht Der Zweifler (1937) lässt sich Bertolt Brecht von der Figur auf einem chinesischen Rollbild inspirieren, die er ebenfalls als “Zweifler“ benennt. Die Frage, wer dieser “Zweifler“ im chin. originalen Rollbild ist, fasziniert den Leser und Forscher des Brecht’schen Gedichts. Die genaue intermediale Beziehung zwischen Brechts Gedicht und dem originalen Rollbild ist jedoch unklar. Im Zusammenhang mit der Bildfigur steht darüber hinaus ein auf dem originalen Rollbild notiertes chin. Gedicht, das sich philosophisch von dem Brecht’schen Gedicht Der Zweifler unterscheidet. Im Zentrum dieses Vortrages steht die Frage, inwieweit sich die Vieldeutigkeit des origninalen Bildes und der Bildfigur auf die Interpretation des Gedichts von Brecht auswirkt. Meines Erachtens ist es nicht erfolgversprechend, das Brecht’sche Gedicht auf Grundlage einer eindeutigen Identifikation der Bildfigur im Original zu interpretieren. Denn zum einen bleibt es Spekulation, wer die Figur überhaupt ist oder inwieweit Brecht sie tatsächlich identifizieren konnte. Zum anderen lässt sich die These vertreten, dass die Bezeichnung der Figur als “Zweifler“ in erster Linie der Bildwahrnehmung und der anschließenden Stilisierung Brechts entspringt. Die sich fest in einen Umhang hüllende Figur – in beobachtender und von oben nach unten-rechts blickender Körperhaltung mit auseinanderstrebenden Füßen und gekrümmten Schultern – ist im Gedicht Brechts als “Zweifler“ stilisiert: Er solle wiederholt als eine kritische und warnende Instanz für die Praxis des Kollektiven fungieren. Dieser Vortrag versucht, einen sicheren Zusammenhang zwischen Bildfigur und Gedicht herzustellen.
Chou, Christine Jing-Chia
Revision and Critique on the Tradition: Unfamiliar Side of Brecht to the Chinese World
The Chinese World is proud of the basis of Brecht’s efforts on ‘art of spectatorship’ (Zuschaukunst) were to some extent based on what he saw in the full sign performances of the well-known Chinese jingxi star Mei Lanfang. Although Brecht’s term ‘alienation effect’ is widely well-known, the biggest problem in teaching ‘Brecht’ in the Chinese world is the fact that Brecht’s theatre theory and practice were not conventional. The subject of teaching ‘Brecht’ includes Aristotelian Poetics tradition versus Brecht’s ‘non-Aristotelian’ theatre, and his method of substituting ‘phobos’ and ‘eleos’. Furthermore, Brecht revised and critiqued on the German tradition regarding what Goethe and Humbolt meant by ‘Bildung’, an inner self-cultivation and an emphasis on cultivating the mind, was later interpreted by Thomas Mann as being that which makes human free. By contrast, Brecht’s intention was to create a paradigm shift, in which social and political action was integral in his theatre -- only through the acknowledgment of an appeal to the masses is social change possible. The impasse both in theatre and in sociopolitical reality urged Brecht to explore new directions. Throughout his experiments he was conscious of the vital importance of foreign theatre traditions, he made up his mind about their usefulness, but did not abandon the real self of his culture.
Compared with Brecht’s critical attitude and boldness of starting a new performance-audience relation, the Chinese world has different relationship with tradition that criticism and critical discussion are unfamiliar. Scholars in China were never encouraged or interested in overthrowing the authority of the canons in favour of their own ideas. Instead, they sought to enrich the authority of the tradition by claiming a clearer understanding of their original meanings. After all, Confucianism had developed since the Han period (206 BC–AD 220) and became the central philosophical orthodoxy in social, political, and cultural matters, the literati inherently had the duty of being active scholar-officials. Embracing the Confucian Weltanschauung and pedagogic concept, inwardly concerned social stability, while outwardly acting as a Great Wall by asserting cultural superiority over neighbouring cultures, Confucians revised and at times reedited the canons that were the source material for ethical-moral education and developed concepts in theatre theory.
Therefore, Brecht’s revision and critique on tradition becomes an important cognition in teaching ‘Brecht.’
Eclectic Brecht? : Assessing Calcutta Repertory Theatre's Galileor Jivan (Life of Galileo)
This paper tries to assess, analyse and gauge the strands of cultural/aesthetic transposition that Brecht's play "Life of Galileo" undergoes in its Bengali rendition (Galileor Jivan), performed by the Calcutta Repertory Theatre (CRT) in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India in 1980. Galileor Jivan becomes an important case study because it provided the opportunity for a rare confluence of styles of theatre making in the history of Bengali theatre through the collaboration of Fritz Bennewitz (a director steeped with GDR legacy), and the leftist progressive amateur group theatre movement in Calcutta. Here it must be mentioned that the CRT did not exist as a group independently but was formed as a collaborative project of six major theatre groups in Calcutta. One needs to contexualise and simultaneously question (and therefore the question mark in the title) the tenacity of the concept of 'Eclectic Brecht' in terms of the contradictions and the syntheses in generating transformative theatre aesthetics aimed at social intervention brought about by the collaboration. By stressing on the eclectic approach towards cultural/aesthetic transposition of the Brecht play in West Bengal (a state in India), this paper tries to methodologically historicise traits of dialectics inherent in theatre aesthetics in the context of Bennewitz's directorial strategies and its dialogue with actorial/theatrical strategies of the Bengali proscenium theatre in Calcutta of the time.
Recycling Lenin’s The Imperialist War: The Struggle against Social-Chauvinism and Social-Pacifism
For his polemic (ca. 1929) against “the [at that time] most progressive . . . bourgeois faction, the ‘Frankfurtistic’” (BFA 21, p. 305), Brecht recycled a section of Lenin’s The Imperialist War: The Struggle against Social-Chauvinism and Social-Pacificism which he had marked in his own copy (now at the Bertolt-Brecht-Archiv) of Lenin’s Sämtliche Werke, Vol. XVIII (Vienna-Berlin: Verlag für Literatur und Politik, 1929). In his polemic, Brecht says “Lenin has supplied the answer concerning the connection between war and civil war” (BFA 21, p. 305).
Brecht’s views, at that time, on the War (“in its forty-year run-up and its leap into revolution”—BFA 21, p. 305), what it teaches (“a new way of seeing things”— BFA 21, p. 305), and its connection with “the new dramatics” (BFA 21, p. 304) neatly parallel Lenin’s thoughts.
In my paper I explore how this recycling of Lenin influenced the development, during this time, of dialectical dramatics (epic theatre) and evaluate Werner Mittenzwei’s observation, from 1967, that, between 1928 and 1933, Brecht transitioned into the revolutionary working class (“Die Brecht-Lukács-Debatte,” Sinn und Form, 19.1: 237).
Castorf Destroys Brecht: Considerations Regarding Der Jasager, Die Massnahme and Baal
During his years as a playwright and director Brecht reworked and deconstructed, often radically, the works of previous playwrights and writers. Given the fact that there was no Shakespeare or Lenz estate, Brecht had virtually free reign to manipulate and alter the preexisting texts as he saw fit, using them as politically and socially charged statements without fear or challenge from the sources.
Enter Frank Castorf, whose radical work branded him as a “text destroyer” as he violently and deliberately tore apart pre-existing works, mixing them with multiple additional sources, rock and other interpolated music, and multimedia as well as other sources from outside the original work of the playwrights with which he dealt.
This paper will consider three of Castorf’s productions of Brecht, Der Jasager and Die Massnahme at the Volksbühne am Rosa Luxembourg Platz, and Baal at the Residenz Theater Munich that was a finalist at the 2015 Berliner Theatertreffen. While the first two productions were huge departures from the Brecht “originals,” BAAL created such an outrage from the Brecht estate that it was challenged and banned from the stage, aside from a handful of performances from February to May 2015. Taking a look at the nature of all three performances this presentation will look at the rationale for the severe challenges against Baal and the ultimate decisions to ban it from performance.
Brecht and Nature: Recycling the Environment?
“Was sind das für Zeiten, wo / Ein Gespräch über Bäume fast ein Verbrechen ist …!” The word “fast” is key here, for even in the worst of times Brecht allowed himself, mainly in his poetry, to talk about nature. My paper will explore how this was so based on a set of questions. How is nature revealed vis-à-vis the cynicism of the “Cities”? In the wake of the havoc wreaked by two world wars? Are its properties recycled in order to accommodate the new order of modernity (as in T.S. Eliot or Gottfried Benn)? Or are they conserved using other kinds of intervention? Instead of resorting to “industrial” methods of recycling, was Brecht more like the gardener who composts his botanical waste in order to have it retain its essential ingredients as it yields new and different fruit?
Furthermore, which earlier traditions, aside from the Volkslied, did the materialist Brecht mean to use or recycle? He observed nature with the accuracy of a Breughel and the Dutch landscape painters. And his nature imagery – wind, water, earth, sky – is poetically no less cohesive than that of, for all their differences, his predecessor Goethe. In this respect he was able to recapture that “schöne widersprüchliche einheit” which after Goethe split into a “profane” and a “pontifikale Linie” (AJ 8/22/40). In so doing he did not conform to conventions of modernity, nor did he heed Adorno’s dictum concerning poetry after Auschwitz. Hence after his death the avid “recycling” and celebration of nature in GDR poetry that was so profoundly influenced by his own.
Der Künstler im Zeitalter der ludischen Kombinatorik: Zu Schlöndorffs Baal-Verfilmung
“Der liebste Ort auf Erden war ihm immer der Abort“ heißt es in Brechts “Baal“. Es war nicht zuletzt die Ästhetik der Hässlichkeit, die den “abstoßenden“ Mann als Liebesobjekt vieler Frauen zeigt, die Volker Schlöndorff, den jungen Regisseur vom Zeichen des Oberhausener Manifestes zur Fernsehadaption des ersten Dramas von Brecht veranlasste. Nicht ohne Bedeutung ist es, dass das Manifest aus dem Widerstand gegen die Heimatfilmästhetik des sog. “Papas Kinos“ erwachsen ist. Brechts “Baal“ war darüber hinaus ohnehin ein perfektes Beispiel für ein anti-bürgerliches Drama und konnte somit den kritischen, linksorientierten Ton der rebellierenden Generation von 1968 treffen. Bei Brecht kann der Künstler geradezu als notwendige Instanz gelten, vor der sich das Bürgertum bewähren und dank der es sich definieren lässt. Anfang der 70er Jahre schien es allerdings nicht mehr aktuell zu sein. Marcuses Schriften waren damals schon längst bekannt und breit rezipiert worden. Nicht lediglich die “Herabsetzung der höheren Kultur zur Massenkultur, sondern die Widerlegung dieser Kultur durch die Wirklichkeit“, wie es bei Marcuse heißt, waren nun die Maßstäbe der Kultur schlechthin. Dies kam u.a. darin zum Ausdruck, dass während noch zur Zeit der Entstehung von “Baal“ der Held eine antagonistische Stellung zu der bürgerlichen Welt nehmen wollte, so nun wurde jedes Anderssein durch das gesellschaftliche Universum einverleibt.
War die Besetzung der Hauptrolle durch R.W. Fassbinder – ein junges kompromissloses Genie jener Zeit, der sich auch im Privatleben – ganz “baalmäßig“ – eher schlampig und hedonistisch – zeigte, Ausdruck der Larmoyanz nach verlorener Welt oder spielgelt sich darin eine tiefere Reflexion über den Wandel von Werten und Wertvorstellungen über die Kunst, den Künstler und die Gesellschaft in einer Welt, in der der Kultur die Baudrillardsche “kombinatorische Beschaffenheit“ zugeschrieben wird.
Der Beitrag will zeigen, wie das Drama von Brecht den Recyclingprozessen im Zeitalter der ludischen Kombinatorik unterworfen wird und zu welchen Re-interpretationen es führen kann. Fischer, Sylvia
Epic Theatre and Eight-Inch Heels: The Unlikely Alignment of Drag Superstar RuPaul and Brecht
“Epic Theatre and Eight-Inch Heels” explores the surprising alignment between Bertolt Brecht and world-famous drag icon, RuPaul. Nowhere are Epic Theatre and its Brechtian tenets enacted in a more unexpected and entertaining way than in contemporary drag culture, particularly in Rupaul's TV series Drag Race. Rupaul's career is rooted in the outrageous and powerful artifice of drag, and its impact on identity discourse and gender politics; her influence is felt internationally and generationally through the phenomenon of Drag Race.
“Eight-Inch Heels” will be a multimedia piece that builds upon my recent work in Salon Magazine on Drag Race and its role in expanding the visibility of the LGBT community through the enactment of Epic Theatre's tenets. The piece will demonstrate that Drag Race employs Brechtian devices such as radical separation, the V effekt, and gestus. Brecht and RuPaul both use forms of drama that display their own staging to critique the sociopolitical barbarity surrounding them, whether Stalinism or homophobia. By discovering Brecht in drag, “Eight-Inch Heels” exhibits the contemporary relevance of Brecht to the radical politics behind the hashtags, hairpieces and Autotune of Drag Race. Brecht might agree with RuPaul’s assertion, “We’re born naked, and the rest is drag.”
Brecht’s poems for children as seen by today’s kids
Brecht wrote a number of poems for children, not only for his own kids, educating and amusing. In 1968, Helene Weigel invited school children to illustrate Brecht for his 70th birthday, with great results. However, language and attitudes change quickly with young people, so it is a question how today’s kids see those poems. For the Brecht Festival Augsburg of 2014, a painting competition for school children in grades 3-6 was initiated. Suggestions were offered but they were free in their choice of text, as well as size and technique of their art work. 1,400 children from all over Bayerisch Schwaben and all types of school participated. A jury picked 56 pictures for an exhibition in the local theatre, and a book was published. The wide response and the quality of the pictures show that the poems are still well understood today. Favourites were texts that celebrate the imperfect or unorthodox, like “Onkel Ede”, “Der Pflaumenbaum” or “Lied vom Kind, das sich nicht waschen wollte”. Examples will be shown in the presentation.
Engaging with Brecht: Producing Mother Courage in Higher Education as a Test of His Methodology
In the spring of 2015 Texas Tech University produced Mother Courage and Her Children using Brecht’s methodologies as explicated by David Barnett in his book Brecht in Practice. This essay examines how an application of Barnett’s writings to Brecht’s classic work helped the group discover new ways of creating theatre collaboratively and engage with the text at a deeper analytical—and dialectical—level. This exploration includes the production team’s use of music, sound, costume, lighting and scene design to create Verfremdung, as well as the writing of the overall Fabel of the play and how the ensemble of actors tested the Fabel, creating tableaux of Arrangements for each Micro-fabel to clarify the Gestus of each scene. The use of Brecht’s methods for creating greater character complexity through an emphasis on sociological over psychological detail are also discussed as is the attention given to each figure’s various Haltungen and how the ideas of contradiction and “Not…but” were applied. Finally, the realization of the team’s ideas in performance and the spectators’ views of the work are examined.
Translation, Adaptation, and Implementation of Brechtian Theater Aesthetics in the Turkish Context
Following a military coup in 1960, parliamentary democracy was established in Turkey and a new progressive constitution guaranteed freedoms of thought and expression, political activity and organization. Immediately thereafter, one of the questions intensely debated concerned the function of literature. Foundational texts of Marxism saw publication in Turkish, and the translation of Bertolt Brecht’s theoretical and literary work made possible the adaptation of his work for the Turkish stage. This paper examines the engagement, translation, and implementation of Brechtian theories of epic theatre and dramaturgical practices in the Turkish context, particularly focusing on leading literary and dramatic journals. Key figures in these debates were literary critics like Özdemir Nutku and Metin And, as well as dramatists like Haldun Taner and Vasif Öngören. Ultimately, by searching for new forms for a progressive Turkish theatre, Turkish intellectuals emphasized the necessary adaptation and thus transformation of Brechtian techniques to properly reflect Turkish socio-political realities, while at the same time foregrounding intersections between epic theatre and traditional Turkish folk theatre—and thus striving for a synthesis between the two traditions.
Degenerate’ Opera? The Contemporary Reception of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
The contemporary reception of Brecht’s work during the Weimar Republic is an area of Brecht studies that has been somewhat neglected (though the same point applies to other key theatrical or operatic works from this period, such as Krenek’s Jonny spielt auf!). My paper attempts to rectify that anomaly to some degree by analysing the reception of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, paying particular attention to National Socialist and right wing responses to the opera (if indeed it is an opera!), with reference to reviews in newspapers and periodicals. My attempt to make sense of these responses draws on Hans Robert Jauß’s classic essay ‘Literaturgeschichte als Provokation der Literaturwissenschaft’/’Literary History as a Challenge to Literary Studies’. I argue that Jauß’s key category, the ‘horizon of expectations’, is in need of fundamental revision, and propose replacing it with the notion of ‘horizons of (artistic) discourse’. In so doing I draw on M. H. Abrams categorisation of conflicting concepts of poetry in The Mirror and the Lamp, and conclude by briefly considering contemporary responses to the Leipzig production of Mahagonny with reference to Abrams’ model, in an attempt to identify the multiple horizons of discourse that inform its reception. The full version of the paper analyses the full range of critical responses to the Leipzig premiere from far left to far right, and presents a much more detailed account of theoretical issues pertaining to reception theory and cultural analysis – in other words, recycling!
A Play By Any Other Name: The Ragged Cap a.k.a Señora Carrar’s Rifles: The First Brecht Production in the Southern Hemisphere?
“He made suggestions. We/Took them on”. In 1938 the members of the New Theatre League in Newcastle, an industrial port city 100 miles north of Sydney, did just that. Just one year after the world premiere in Paris of Señora Carrar’s Rifles, starring Helene Weigel, the play – and Brecht – debuted in Australia. Indeed, this may well have been the first Brecht play to be produced in the southern hemisphere. While the standard account of Brecht reception in Australia describes the first Brecht production as taking place in Sydney in 1939, this earlier production has been entirely absent from the theatrical record, until now. It has been overlooked, probably in large part because the participants retitled the play, naming it instead The Ragged Cap. Ironically, by their own act of “revamping or recalibrating” the Brechtian source material, they erased Brecht from the theatrical record and with that their own place within it as Brecht pioneers “downunder”. The work of the Newcastle NTL in the late 1930s is barely known today, but for nearly four years from early 1937 the Newcastle NTL was a vibrant and active contributor to the national and international project of the New Theatre Leagues – changing the world through theatre.
The Gestus of Communism
When reconstructing the recycling of source material, we tend to think of individual authors and works; but very often, recycling also involves acts of translation across art forms and audiovisual media. In the case of Brecht, we can see this process in the making of a particular habitus or, to use his term, gestus. In my presentation, I propose to reconstruct the field of visual, musical, and performative practices that, during the Weimar Republic, produced the gestus of communism in art and politics. To be defined as a particular way of looking, speaking, standing, and moving, this gestus of communism is inseparable from the habitus of militant masculinity closely associated with, and actively promoted by, the KPD. We can see its emergence in three areas: the representation of the communist agitator in Weimar painting; the choreography of class consciousness in dances by Jean Weidt; and the performative style of communist agitprop, especially the Rote Sprachrohr. These practices identified with the communist lifeworld not only allowed Brecht to further develop gestus as a dramatic technique and critical device; it also facilitated the kind of re-gendering that makes Kuhle Wampe (1932) a reflection on the performance of gender and politics—and their problematic connection within proletarian culture.
“[S]he made suggestions. We took them”: Brecht’s Women Colleagues as Muse for adaptation and translation
Students of literature have been interested in the idea of collaboration for some time. Traditionally, the aim of scholars studying collaboration was to understand exactly who wrote what and to correct attributions accordingly. Some scholars set out to establish collaborators as authors in their own right. This strategy has yielded some insights into the previously unacknowledged contribution of collaborators, and interesting as a potential challenge to the ideology of individual authorship.
For the more specific case of writing together I would like to examine various forms of co-writing with Bertolt Brecht, what its meanings are for the participants and how it affects the texts in question. Various forms of co-writing have been quite common throughout literary history, even at the height of the cult of the solitary genius in romanticism. Stillinger also revealed the different forms multiple authorship can take: “[T]he young Keats being refined, polished and restrained by well-intentioned friends and publishers; the middle-aged Mill being spruced up by his wife for attractive autobiographical presentation; Coleridge constructing his philosophy with lengthy extracts taken over verbatim without acknowledgment from the Germans; Eliot seizing on the revisions and excisions of his mentor” (Stillinger 1991: 182). Brecht’s women colleagues seem to have inspired many of Brecht’s plays, providing “revisions and incisions”, even texts in translation for their collaboration, and adaptation of works from John Gay and Shakespeare. In my paper I’d like to look at Elisabeth Hauptmann’s, Ruth Berlau’s and Margarete Steffin’s suggestions for adaptations and “recycling” of materials in Brecht’s plays.
From critical to confessional? “Sexual dependency” re-imagined
“I don’t ever want to be susceptible to anyone else’s version of my history,” photographer Nan Goldin wrote in 1986, in the preface to her collection “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.” Goldin’s preface never mentions the Brecht-Weill song of that title, sung by Mrs. Peachum in Die Dreigroschenoper. On the surface, Goldin’s urban drug--culture photo series can only be imagined at a long stretch as a recycling of Brecht’s text. The photographs appear to operate in the confessional mode, as an insistence on Goldin’s subjective vision, without the critical distancing Brecht worked to foster. On closer inspection, however, Goldin’s photo captions work similarly to Brecht’s “Spruchbänder” or placards announcing action before it occurs onstage; a title such as “Shelley leaving the room” or “Nan after being battered” reifies and thereby exposes the social – and particularly gendered – inequities of urban life in the 1970s and early 80s. Drawing on transmediality studies by Irina Rajewsky and Regina Schober, this paper argues that textual elements of “reportage” cross media between the Brecht-Weill song and the Goldin project, in order to reveal a critical aspect of images often dismissed as “heroin chic.”
Post-Brechtian Aesthetics in Contemporary British Drama
Bertolt Brecht, whose epic theatre has shaped the development of British political drama ever since the Berliner Ensemble’s first visit to London in 1956, has continued to inspire playwrights in Britain even beyond the watershed years of the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the wake of the sweeping philosophical and political transformations of the time, fundamental interrogations into the forms and functions of political art have considerably influenced contemporary appropriations of Brechtian epic theatre in Britain. As a consequence, post-Brechtian aesthetics have been characterised by a turn to the experiential and affective, thereby spurring an oscillation between critical distance and emotional implication of the audience. The resulting ambivalence represents a key strategy in post-Brechtian theatre, as the example of Scottish dramatist David Greig illustrates. In both The American Pilot (2006), a reworking of the Brechtian parable, and The Events (2013), which bears similarities with the Lehrstück, Greig combines both V-effects and affective appeals to the spectators to create a political theatre that powerfully responds to the philosophical and political challenges of the twenty-first century.
“Das hat Brecht nicht verdient”: Frank Castorf’s ‘Baal’ as an Act of Vandalism
This paper will explore Frank Castorf’s staging of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Baal’ (2015), and its near-immediate cancellation by the Brecht estate. After the show’s run was halted at Munich’s Residenztheater, Castorf’s ‘Baal’ was permitted one final performance, closing the prestigious Berliner Theater-Treffen. Aside from a scramble for tickets, the controversy resulted in a media storm and hundreds of online (and offline) discussions, all asking similar questions: has Castorf ‘vandalised’ Brecht’s ‘Baal’, or, indeed, Brecht’s legacy? These debates, simply through the framing of their questions, constitute the act of adaptation as a destructive force. Conversely, Brecht’s own theoretical approach to adaptation urges that artists should not live in fear of “destroy[ing] the classics,” and that a “fear of vandalism turned people into philistines.” With the tensions between ‘philistine’ and ‘vandal’ encapsulated in the complicated cultural expectations of a Brecht work re-staged, this paper will question the implications of innovatively recycling Brecht – and examine the point at which aesthetic decisions become matters of legality.
Brecht’s ‘Material Value’: Frank Castorf Recycles Baal
To take the slogan “Recycling Brecht” seriously, one has to examine Brecht’s ‘Theory of Material Value.’ At the end of the 1920s, Brecht sketches a model for an appropriation of the classical canon that maybe described as a practice of gestural citation, situated within a context of an all-embracing cultural practice of repetition and transgression. Brecht’s special dealing with works by Marlowe, Shakespeare, Villon, Schiller, Hölderlin, et al. finds its echo in contemporary theatre productions that re-introduce his material or utilitarian value into the present. A prominent example is Frank Castorf’s staging of Baal at the Residenztheter in Munich (2015), which was prohibited by Suhrkamp publishers and Brecht’s inheritors alike. Based on theoretical considerations on the concepts of material value and recycling, my paper will investigate how Castorf’s exemplary production appropriates and deploys Brecht’s ‘raw materials’ – which I will describe as 1) a historicising practice by relocating the dramatic events to Vietnam, 2) a trans-medial ‘separation of elements,’ 3) an opera-like intensification of ‘conditions,’ and 4) a scenic re-enactment of theatre and film classics.
Held, Phoebe von
Eternal Returns: Strategies of Adaptation in Fleischhacker
In this intervention I will look at the process of adaptation in Jae Fleischhacker, which interests me as a project of radical experimentation and as Brecht's first attempt to carve out the principles of epic drama, a drama fit to react to the challenges of capitalism. Brecht and Elisabeth Hauptmann’s journey through the Fleischhacker material ran through a complex process of re-writing and adaptation, which started with The Pit by Frank Norris (1903) as the main source material for the Fleischhacker scenes, and led to the intra-authorial adaptations of The Bread King, a Hollywood film proposal written in 1941, as well as the short story Der Hamlet der Weizenbörse (1940). I will investigate the adaptive mechanisms, moments and strategies that Brecht pursued in this re-writing process: where lay the moments of transformation; which textual materials and aesthetic forms survived the process of adaptation, and which were rejected on the path towards epic theatre? What were the key thoughts that moved this process forward and what were the dead ends that inhibited conclusion. This inquiry is part of my research for a translation and staging of Fleischhacker.
Wozu ist Brecht noch ¨brauchbar¨, z.B. in Paraguay?
These: Aufklärung ist heute noch nötig - und möglich. Seit 27 Jahren -jedes Jahr-, lese und analysiere ich die Stücke Brechts mit meinen Studenten im Fach ¨Deutsche Literatur¨ -in der Philosophischen Fakultät der Staatlichen Universität Asunción-, und was ich versucht habe in all diesen Jahren, ist etwas Aufklärung in ihren Köpfen zu pflanzen/fördern, und dafür ist die Intelligenz, die in den Brechtschen Stücken überall erscheint, mein Hauptwerkzeug gewesen. (z.B., in Form von Dialektik, die ständig Thesen und Antithesen gegenüberstellt, oder in Form von Ironie und Sarkasmus, die die Realität illuminieren, um so die Manipulationen der Mächtigen, die uns gefährden/bedrohen, aufzudecken.)
Meine Absicht ist also, meinen Studenten zum selbstständigen/kritischen Denken zu motivieren, denn obwohl das als etwas leichtes angesehen werden kann, ist es etwas sehr schwieriges -siehe heute die verrückten Fundamentalisten-, und noch mehr in einem Land mit so tiefen autoritären Wurzeln, wo die Menschen nur an Gehorsam, Wiederholung, Lüge und Korruption, gewöhnt sind.
So hoffe ich die Studenten zu verändern -die Änderbaren-, und durch sie ihre Familien, ihre Schüler -die meisten sind LehrerInnen-, und die Gesellschaft insgesamt.
The Queer Verfremdungseffeckt; or the rejection of Heteronormative Realism
The central concern of this paper is how Brechtian and queer theory has intersected and facilitated generations of Queer playwrights to counter hegemonic discourses of heteronormativity. I will apply Brechtian methodology to plays and performances considered Queer. "Brecht is the key figure of our time, and all theatre work today at some point starts or returns to his statements and achievements," claimed Peter Brook. This is evident in the early Queer Theatre movement, which utilized Brecht’s key theories as points of departure in its rejection of heteronormative realism, providing a unique intersection of gender, sexuality, race and class.
Drawing from a corpus of plays from Theatre Rhinoceros, Split Britches and Gay Sweatshop. These companies were chosen because their works predominantly revolve around the formation, assertion and subversion of gender and sexual identities. As such, they elucidate many of the theoretical issues at stake in this research. The foundations for my theory are found in selected works by Willet (Brecht on Theatre 1978), Elin Diamond (Unmaking Mimesis 1997) and Butler (Gender Trouble, 1990).
“Producing Something with the Other’s Talents”: Brecht, Community, and Zusammenarbeit in Exile
It has long been known that in his writing, Brecht recycled tropes, plots, and language not only from the literature of the past but also from his contemporaries and comrades. Yet the mechanics, meanings, and ethics of this intellectual style, if hotly debated, have been much less well understood. Drawing on extensive historical research into the period of Brecht’s exile in Denmark (1933-1939), this paper posits a stable, efficient, and effective group of Mitarbeiter (co-workers) that included Brecht, the actress Helene Weigel, and the writers Walter Benjamin, Margarete Steffin, and Karin Michaëlis. It illuminates the working and personal relationships amongst these Mitarbeiter to demonstrate how a system of intellectual collaboration and literary borrowing was developed and utilised by the participants. Examining the fine detail of several collaborative projects through an analysis of manuscripts, journals, and correspondence, the paper also considers philosophical and ideological commitments, in particular socialism, broader anti-capitalism, and anti-fascism, to show how sharing, repurposing, and recycling were understood by this group. The paper asserts that this kind of recycling was understood by Brecht and his co-workers not only as an anti-bourgeois impulse, but also—in interpersonal relationships and in broader political terms—as an ethical and creative good.
The Brechtian Legacy: Contemporary Performance
At the end of Delbo’s play a Holocaust survivor states, “We wanted to be heard, we wanted to be understood,” but she also realized that audiences will never understand. Lawrence Langer points out in The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination that “the paradox for the artist is that its exclusiveness, the total absence of any shared basis of experience that would simplify the imagination’s quest for a means of converting it into universally available terms…” made it impossible for Delbo to offer a complete understanding of her experiences in Auschwitz-Birkenau. This paper explores Langer’s paradox by contextualizing Delbo’s play utilizing a consciously recycled staging of Brecht’s notions of Verfremdungseffekt.
While Delbo’s text is autobiographical, it fails in a purely realistic staging given the enormity of the history and our lack of shared experience. While modern audiences can visit the sites of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we can never truly understand what happened. Therefore the production process involved exploring ways to bring Delbo’s poetry to life without attempting to create unattainable stage realism.
This presentation explores the production process, the in-depth dramaturgical work, historic research, the experience of working with Holocaust survivors, and our efforts to recycle Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt to insure that actors and audience understood that they were experiencing events on a stage and not in reality.
Tracking the Inexplicable Rise of Corrupt Power: Perceptions/Receptions of Brecht’s Ui
It is not uncommon to condemn historic Germans for not having the foresight to recognize the potential catastrophic consequences of allowing Adolf Hitler to assume national office. His early political career was characterized by vitriolic, Nationalistic rhetoric that fanned fear, anger and xenophobia in his country. Comparing two enormously successful Berliner Ensemble productions of Brecht's parable on the early years of Hitler's régime, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, offers valuable insight into how Germans understand, construct and confront images of Hitler’s cultural legacy. Brecht was among the first artists to recognize and boldly tackle the personification of evil and his 1941 play paved the way for other, evolving versions of Hitler’s notorious legacy. The two very different 1959 and 1995 Berliner Ensemble productions of the script were among the most successful in the history of the company. Although Brecht’s original 1941 text remained largely fixed, the performance of the central character radically altered over time. The 1959 Palitzsch/Wekwerth production portrayed Hitler as a foolish puppet empowered by the greed and corruption of the capitalist system; a Marxist interpretation. Meanwhile, Heiner Müller's 1995 production highlighted the ascent of a dangerous psychopath who dominates a fractured political system; a post-modern, Freudian interpretation. Both shows privileged evolving German perceptions of corrupt power and political context over historic fact. This paper explores how two German directors fashioned and catered to contemporary perceptions of Hitler and paved the way for ever-evolving cultural insight into the machinations of power and evil.
Image and action: Brecht in actor training
This presentation describes a practical approach successfully developed in response to two decades in which our political context was transformed - from polarised confrontation, through the neo-liberal ascendancy and socialist failure to the disappearance of political alternatives.
In teaching this entailed a shift from texts like The Mother and the Lehrstücke, and abandonment of intensive lecture-based input (especially Marx), drawing instead on students’ performative drive and moral engagement with character and situation in practical text analysis. Treating theory as always provisional and arising from practice. Politicising by stealth.
The method adopted was designed to develop actors’ dramaturgical consciousness and adapted from Boal’s early technique of Image Theatre. Students create and test sequences of freeze-frame images in in terms of causality, sympathy-antipathy and moral judgement.
They then break down short scenes from Fears and Miseries into images, identifying turning points and contradictions, alternative outcomes (real and ideal), and the “Not … But”.
Discussion is kept to a minimum, primarily through an exchange of images. Students are encouraged to discover how the impact of the scene depends on their engagement as actors, and how, in the process, they take ownership of the dramaturgy.
The final stage of the work, based on Mother Courage, and Brecht’s notes and Model Book photographs, demonstrates how Verfremdung is activated and the spectator’s critical attitude engaged through the actors’ practice.
Mann ist Mann und Kabuki
Die Truppe von Tsutsui, die sich “Kabuki“ nannte, gastierte im Oktober 1930 in Berlin. Brecht hatte Gelegenheit, den Kabuki-Klassiker Kanjinchô zu sehen. In Mann ist Mann, 1926 geschrieben, Ende 1930 / anfang 1931 umgearbeitet und im Februar 1931 von Brecht selbst inszeniert, kann man deutlich den Einfluss vom “Kabuki“ erkennen. Das Stück zeigt das Schicksal eines irischen Packers in Indien, der sich in eine Kampfmaschine verwandelt.
In Kanjinchô wird Yoshitsune, der zuerst als Pilger verkleidet war, auf der Bühne blitzschnell in einen Träger verwandelt und in Mann ist Mann wird dieselbe Technik verwendet. Die Verwendung von übertriebenem Makeup weist auch Parallelen zum Kabuki auf.
Um den Diener Benkei riesengroß aussehen zu lassen, wurde er im Kabuki mit Füllmaterial versehen, bekam hohe Geta-Sandalen und eine große Nase. In der Aufführung von Mann ist Mann von 1931 erscheint ebenfalls ein riesiger Mann, der ähnlich wie im Kabuki ausgestopft ist und auch sehr stilisiert spielt. Eine solche Inszenierung im Kabuki-Stil könnte von Tsutsuis ”Kabuki“-Aufführung inspiriert worden sein.
Die “Mitate“ – das japanische Verb “mitateru“ heißt “etw. für etw. halten“ – benutzt man oft in der japanischen Theaterkunst. In Mann ist Mann schafft man mit einem montierten, künstlichen Elefanten ein Spiel im Spiel. Das ist eine Art von ”Mitate“-Spiel. Gleichzeitig kann man sagen, das ganze Stück sei ein ”Mitate“- Spiel.
“Betrayal and Homage”: War Primer 2 and the Problem of Appropriation
Bertolt Brecht, like many leftist critics and Marxist theorists, was inherently skeptical about the ability of mass-produced imagery to document underlying causes of human relations (see, for example, his seminal essay “Dreigroschenprozess”). This paper examines the ‘updated’ adaptation of Brecht’s somewhat lesser studied collection of 69 ‘photograms’ (War Primer, 1955). This War Primer 2, published in 2013 by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin (London: MACK Publishing) as the “belated sequel”, takes on mass media images from around the world that visually document the so-called ‘War on Terror’, juxtaposing these - as Brecht did during his exile years - against highly critical poetic epigrams, instructing the reader on how to ‘read’ photographs against the grain of convention. How is War Primer 2 both an “act of homage and an act of betrayal” (Broomberg/Chanarin) to Brecht’s original work? Where do these works diverge in terms of content and intention, and what can we learn from this? Can we consider Broomberg and Chanarin’s version as a functional example of the process of “Umfunktionierung”, or is it something else? What can we as critical thinkers and consumers of ubiquitous mass media imagery take away from this collection? Although it seeks to appropriate Brecht’s voice, the War Primer 2 employs Brecht’s premise and technique without calling the original into question.
Ipanema, José de
Brazilian Radical Theatre: Dialect of Images and Physical Actions
The Radical Brazilian Theatre (TRB) is a poetic developed since 1988 by Ricardo Guilherme from Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil. The main target of this work is to establish a productive kinship between its principles and modern conception of Brecht’s key theories. With a history of more than fifty plays, TRB transubstantiates Gestus and Verfremdungseffekt presenting on stage, with the single help of actor’s body and voice, a critic viewpoint of contemporary agenda.
Its strong narrative profile and special commitment to learning process and social change through theatre as a tool of increasing awareness are connected to the decision of Guilherme to stay at his homeland, away from cultural mainstream and establishing from there a Brazilian, northeastern, unique, political positioning. The radical acting is an original way of conceiving Brechtian inheritance and to provoke critical reasoning of the audience while putting the actor as the main source of theatricality. Video, sound, as well as any other machinery or scenario, are considered obstacles to the imagination of spectators, who have an active role on appreciating a radical play. This anthropocentric view of theatre considers the actor as the most important artistic tool, the only capable of interfering in the political passiveness of spectators.
Recycling luxury: The Lindbergh texts
In a comment from 1929, Brecht plans to publish various texts. The price will be relative to the value, so that luxury items are expensive and those of importance («Wichtiges») cheap (GBA 26, 291). For instance, the very popular «Dreigroschenoper» is labelled expensive and a book for children («Kinderbilderbuch») cheap, perhaps because of its educational value. But «Lindberghflug», too, is labelled expensive, which is quite strange. Is this Lehrstück not important? What makes it luxurious? In its first printing (April 1929) it is called a «Radio-Hörspiel», only later (June 1930) a «Radiolehrstück»: did the play stop being luxurious when it was turned into a Lehrstück?
Brecht rewrote this work several times, and there are at least 11 texts (some of which are identical). It started as a “recycling” of Charles Lindbergh’s book “We” (1927) and ended in a version called “Der Ozeanflug” (1950/1959) where Lindbergh’s name is demonstratively crossed out. What happened to the work along the way?
The Method of Recycling in Bertolt Brecht’s Die Heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe helps us to understand the message of his play
Today industrial factories recycle old machines to create new machines with its parts. Bertolt Brecht (1898 –1956) the German poet works in this same sense. He puts parts out of the old theatrical plays, novels and biographies and composes with them a new play for the spectators. He wants to help them to understand the new public social situation of the human beings and also that the spectators change their minds for better human interactions.
I want to show the method of recycling old plays by Brecht with his plays Das Leben Edwards II and Die Heilige Johann der Schlachthöfe. The goal of his plays is that the spectators do not only amuse themselves by the plays, but that they change their understanding of themselves and of the social political society. They have to leave the theatre as changed human beings.
There is a relationship between the poet and his time. He picks up the problems of the social society and points them in his plays. He wants to change the minds of the spectators so that they will become responsible human beings.
Bertolt Brecht lived in the time of social political and mental changes after World War I, in which the social and human question were negotiated. A new method of theatre was necessary to change the self-evidence of the spectator in the view of the new social political situation. Brecht chooses the epic-rational method for his plays in the sense of Horaz “delectare et prodesse.”
Brecht shows in his play Das Leben Edwards II that the egoistical lifestyle of a human beings is a problem for the society. Already 1920 he criticises the play of Friedrich Schillers “Don Carlos” that his imagination of freedom has nothing to do with the imagination of freedom of the workers in the book of Upton Sinclair The Jungle. Brecht means, that the conception must be concrete for the reality. Brecht tries to show this with his play Die Heilige Johann der Schlachthöfe Brecht recycles like industrial factories the old plays of Skakespeare, Goethe, Schiller, novels and biographies, the evolution of Karl Marx Kapital and the financial help of the Salvation Army and makes with their parts a new play with a human message for the society.
Brecht explains the demand for himself and his poets to describe and represent the truth in the time an in the reality about the social conditions to demonstrate the subject of the spectators the object of the social tensions and demand them to think about them.
Brecht knows the philosophical remarks of Immanuel Kant “pictures with out conceptions are empty.” He recycles his play “Die Heilige Johanna…” with many pictures and contents its hero Johanna with revolutionary ideas. The Johanna of Brecht is not that of Schiller. Its figure is changed by the thought of the figure Faust by Goethes play. Johanna wants to find out. “Why are the worker always poor?” Why can they not change their situation?” Brecht addresses with his new method of a play the spectators.
Transmedia documentary and Brecht: The case of 18 days in Egypt
One manifestation of the digital revolution has been the emergence of the transmedia documentary – a genre that treats single subjects in different media and through relatively self-contained forms that employ the Internet as the distribution platform. The genre's realist mandate, the user interaction it affords, and its inherent opposition to medium specificity all evoke Brecht's ideas: from those expounded in The 'Threepenny' Trial to the ideas put forward in the Lehrstück theory fragments. 18 Days in Egypt – an outstanding transmedia work about the toppling of Hosni Mubarak – corresponds to Brecht's thought and practice in some of its formal procedures, as well as in its political engagement.
Curiously, the list of sound ethical and aesthetic questions 18 Days promises to address excludes a question concerning implications of a media work's possible co-option by dominant culture, which Brecht considered crucial. Underlying this disregard seems to be the notion that the dichotomy between dominant and counter-dominant cultures is no longer relevant in our postmodern era, when the production and dissemination of media texts is available to all with access to the computer and the web. I use Brecht and 18 Days to interrogate the applicability of the mentioned view to documenting such events as the Egyptian uprising, which suggest that history may not be over after all.
Waking the Dead: George Tabori's Reframing of ‘The Jewish Wife’
“The Jewish Wife” is one of the few texts by Brecht focused on the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. For Hungarian-Jewish playwright George Tabori’s relationship to Bertolt Brecht, the scene from Furcht und Elend des Dritten Reiches is of particular significance, as evidenced by Tabori’s multiple attempts to reframe “The Jewish Wife,” which exemplify his aspiration to reconceive Brechtian theatre in a post-Holocaust world. In the fall of 1961, while residing in New York, Tabori first suggested to his then wife, the Swedish actress Viveca Lindfors, using the text for a session in Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio. Lindfors’ successful performance, which highlighted the protagonist’s irreducible despair and suffering over the more abstract critique of middle class capitulation, was then featured prominently in the subsequent off-Broadway production of Brecht on Brecht, a collage of Brecht texts that Tabori had compiled and translated. Two decades later, the scene reappeared in Tabori’s Bochum production of his Jubiläum (1983)—a play commemorating the Holocaust, commissioned on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Nazi seizure of power—in the form of a postmodern reflection on the link between past and contemporary anti-Semitism. Close to another two decades passed until Tabori directed the scene once again, also in the context of a commemoration, this time the Berliner Ensemble’s annual remembrance of the first deportation of Berlin Jews in October 1941. The BE performance was staged as a joint production with Christoph Hein’s one-act Mutters Tag, a variation or continuation of Brecht’s “The Jewish Wife,” in which Tabori played an aging Jewish writer whose dead mother appears to recall her fate and express concern over his welfare in the country of her murderers. In my paper I discuss Tabori’s changing relationship to Brecht’s text and explore its position in Tabori’s own theatre, which draws on Brecht while reconfiguring his work in light of the Holocaust.
Entfremdung instead of Verfremdung: Appropriation and Refunctioning of the Epic Theatre Theory and Practice in the New German Stage
Common Ground by Yael Ronen & Ensemble (Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin), Das Fest after the film of Thomas Vinterberg & Mogens Rukov, directed by Christopher Rüping (Schauspiel Stuttgart), Die lächerliche Finsternis , by Wolfram Lotz, directed by Dušan David Parizek (Akedemietheater, Wien) - all three performed at the “Theatertreffen” in Berlin, 2015 – as well as The Dark Ages written and directed by Milo Rau, and Urteile By Christine Umpfenbach and Azar Mortazavi, directed by C. Umpfenbach (both at the Residenztheater, Munich 2015) – are all paradigms, to be analyzed in my paper, of a prevailing trend in a dominant, mainly young section of the new German theatre today (especially, but not exclusively, in ensemble devising groups) of appropriating major constituents of Brecht’s socio-political Epic Theatre’s theory and practice in order to restructure and refunction them from within, a quarter of a century after the Fall of the Wall and the demise of all ideologies.
This intentionality attests itself, first and foremost, in adopting Brecht’s anti-realistic techniques, but rejecting his belief that by renouncing the illusionist theatre, “the old narratives“ and defamiliarizing Reality, the stage will be capable of exposing the postulate, dogmatic “truth” about the social circumstances, thereby imposing it on the spectator (under the deceptive guise of presenting it as his/her own choice) and urging him/her to change them (in the article “Towards a New Drama”). Absorbing epic devices such as storytelling, direct confrontation of and with the audience, repudiation of the commitment of the actor to embody only a single, psychologically motivated, developing character, resorting to third person delivery and quotation tactics, occasional usage of the past tense, verbal cross-dressing, Gestus, etc. -- the performers of the German new theatre advocate, in a typical postdramatic spirit, a polyphonic, non-exclusive battery of truths, thus relativizing them, trading the instrumental-didactic-dogmatic character of the epic theatre and its messianic Marxist-moralistic optimism for the nihilist determinism of apocalyptic or carnivalesque eclecticism and open-endedness of an apparent “work in progress”, in contrast to the effect of a recycled, well-rehearsed and “closed” production that Brecht demanded (moreover, Brecht believed in the power of “facts”, in the “scientific” theatre as redeemer of truth; the new projects deny this perception altogether. Not only are facts subject to various interpretations, i.e. “truths”, but they hamper the need for “Einfühlung” and “Mitleid” – suffering with the “other” - emotional Enlightenment-period notions that Brecht outright rejects, and the new German theatre attempts to elicit). Indeed, once and again the new German theatre suggests the option of reconciliation (as in The Dark Ages and Common Ground) between agents of opposing political entities, however in the wake of Brecht’s “Der Vorhang zu und alle Fragen offen”, the principle, political questions remain unresolved.
On the other hand, the new political theatre of social awareness challenges what might be termed Brecht’s “genus” approach of dialectically confronting socio-economic stereotyped types stigmatized according to social stratification (such as, the good proletarian versus the wicked bourgeois capitalist) – and solicits the idea of Man as an unikum, and society (e.g., the cast) as a conglomerate of diversities.
Another strategy that the new politically and socially minded new German theatre borrows from Brecht in order to invert, subvert and recodify is that of historicization, detachment of the evidence, in order to endow the spectator with an emotionally uninvolved perspective on social life through a remote fable. Notwithstanding the current negative connotations of the exploitation of the spiritual commodities of “exotic” cultures – as Brecht so often does – considered nowadays a detestable colonialist and paternalistic act of hegemonic Europeans, most of the productions analyzed in my paper convert Brecht’s practice into the historiciazation of the performers’ own real or imagined biographies, thus applying epic acting techniques to the rendering of their own life-stories: they quote themselves, reflect upon their own behaviour from a critical distance, and reduce their psycho-physical complexity into a schematic Gestus. Thereby they “comply” with Brecht’s indoctrinate dictum of abolishing the “hypnotic magic” of Realism, by paradoxically putting Reality itself, namely, their own presence on the stage, demanding the spectators’ primarily non cerebral involvement in their narratives.
Consequently, the major transcodification attempted by representatives of the new German theatre relates to the realm of the implied spectators’ (or textually inscribed target audience’s) responses, imbued in Brecht’s two key-notions: Verfremdung and Entfremdung. Whereas the V-effekt denotes emotional alienation in order to allow the spectator to reflect upon his/her social circumstances, Entfremdung might refer to the very opposite. The prefix Ent denotes in German cancellation, obliteration, abortion, elimination. In other words: In a blatant contrast to its habitual elucidation, Entfremdung might literally denote the abolition of defamiliarization (or – de-depersonalization), or perhaps of strangeness (i.e., de-estrangement), through the epic technique. The new German theatre that via the measures of the epic theatre requires empathy – Mitleid, Empfindung – replaces the V- with the E-effekt: Instead of defamiliarizing the familiar, these productions – as I will demonstrate in my lecture – familiarize the defamiliarized.
Ludic philosophy in Brecht’s drama and prose
Brecht can be considered a philosophizing thespian in that he distrusts the hypnotizing common sense and emphasizes the necessity of knowledge and critical distance in theater. As a thespian, he cannot but philosophize amidst the social and interactive events, thereby stressing the necessity of the embodied, situated and performative nature of the critical distance and thought. Moreover, he insists that knowledge and seriousness include the aspect of joy, amusement and lightness. I argue that these characteristics of Brecht’s thinking can fruitfully contribute to the definition of what can be called the ludic thought. To this purpose, I will first analyze the possibility to connect Brecht with some aspects of Nietzsche’s philosophy of play. I will especially mention Nietzsche’s stress on joyful, passionate and always situated thinking that falls into neither consuming escapism nor superficial relativism. Second, I will argue that ludic thinking can reveal a special structure of subjectivity and social ethics. I will demonstrate this on the example of Nietzche’s ethics of play and Brecht’s ludic figure of Mr. Keuner.
Learning Provocations: On Cinematic Lehrstücke
Brecht wrote his major essay on film Der Dreigroschenprozeß, while he was developing his theory for a pedagogical theatre - the Lehrstück. Despite the obvious differences between theatre and cinema, it is striking that he mused on the potential of the new media (film and radio) to close the gap between transmitters and receivers of information. Yet notwithstanding Brecht’s reception on the part of the Francophone and Anglophone film theory of the 1970s, or even his influence on Noël Burch’s “Oppositional Version of the development of film style” there has been almost no research on cinema’s potential to produce lessons “for the producers” as per the utopian aspiration of the Lehrstücke. Peter Schepelern describes Aki Kaurismäki’s proletarian trilogy as a Brechtian Lehrstücke on account of the films’ minimalist style and their schematic plots, while Nikolaj Lübecker suggests that Lars von Trier’s Dogville has a Lehrstück dimension because of its “didactic engagement with the problem of Dogville”. However, both use the term in passing without elaborating on its implications.
Contemporary films such as La Commune (Watkins, 2000), The Act of Killing (Oppenheimer, Cynn, 2012), and Caesar Must Die (Taviani Brothers, 2012), capitalize on the pedagogical aspiration of the Brechtian Lehrstücke by asking their protagonists to reenact actions and subsequently to reflect on them. In this paper, I intend to supply some fresh insights into Brechtian cinema by using as case studies The Act of Killing, and La Commune. The paper hypothesizes a pathway capable of offering some fresh perspectives on the aforementioned films as well as on making us rethink the currency of Brecht’s pedagogical experiments.
Brecht after Brecht: Broomberg and Chanarin and the Politics of the Changeable Text
Following on from my paper ‘“Don’t start with the good old things, but the bad new ones”: Broomberg and Chanarin occupying Brecht’ for the AGS last year, this paper follows my continuing work with artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, as they inhabit, transform, occupy, and recycle Brecht’s 1955 Kriegsfibel. Their War Primer 2 montages images from the ‘war on terror’ with Brecht’s original photo-epigrams, directly into 100 copies of John Willett’s 1998 English edition literally inhabiting its pages. The limited edition artist book was published by Mack Books in 2011, and a free to download e-book version was published in 2012 by Mapp Editions. War Primer 2 has been exhibited extensively, most recently at MOMA, New York, and was (controversially) awarded the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013. However, this paper focusses more on the transformative processes involved. War Primer 2 in fact is only a stage in their sequential reworking. Earlier versions of the Brecht project have been based on independent images entitled Poor Monuments and Portable Monuments, and the artists (themselves previously embedded war photographers) are developing an opera version of the work, starting with Eisler’s original settings of 15 of the Kriegsfibel, and incorporating moving images of contemporary terror (wikileaks, press videos, mobile phone footage of major events etc.) to create a powerful rethinking of Brecht for the contemporary age. The project was premiered in London 2013 (a taste is available on the web) and is in development. In January 2015 they developed a new take on the material at the Tate Modern - a performance involving procession, poetry and military drumming with army cadets. This paper explores the simultaneous appropriation and critique of war imagery in their work; the, perhaps problematic, aesthetic effect; and examines how the impetus of Brecht’s original is constantly reformulated, shifting genre and approach as it goes, as a powerful challenge to the politics of the contemporary image. But finally it attempts to tease out the ways in which the artists rethink, remember, inhabit and recycle Brecht.
Mit Eisler im Arbeitszimmer und Dessau in der Küche: Brechts “Wünschelrutenprinzip“ in der Musik
Mit seinem Recyceln ganz unterschiedlicher musikalischer Phänomene, Stile, Gattungen, Moden, Produktionsästhetiken – reichend von Bach, Mozart, Bänkelsang, Wandervogel, Kabarett, Operette, Jazz, Wagner, Busoni, Adorno, Schönberg oder Cage – schuf Brecht sich allmählich ein privates Werkarchiv stets wiederverwertbarer Muster für seine aktuellen Anforderungen als Lyriker, Dramatiker und Regisseur. Seine Arbeitsmethode einer weiträumigen, internationalen Suche nach Wiederverwertbarem ist das „Wünschelrutenprinzip“, wie es der finnische Komponist und Dirigent Simon Parmet treffend beschrieben hat. Es bedeutet ein vorurteilsfreies Sichten und Durchmustern ganz heterogener Musikarsenale nach deren Nützlichkeit für Brechts Texte.
Dabei geht es keineswegs nur um den Gebrauchswert eines bestimmtes Musikwerks oder eines Musikstils, einer Gattung, eines Instruments oder gar eines spezifischen Klangs: vielmehr greift Brecht auch auf hochkomplexe Produktionsästhetiken zurück – so auf Wagner, der ihn mit seinem Gesamtkunstwerk und der damit ausgelösten gesellschaftlichen Rezeption empfindlich provoziert. Kein anderer Komponist hat ihn so umfassend beeinflusst beim Aufbau seiner Gegenwelt: Brechts Theaterimperium, das er am Ende seines Lebens mit Helene Weigel realisieren kann, ist ohne Bayreuth nicht denkbar. Hier mischen sich kritisch aufgegriffene und umgedeutete Adaption mit Kulturerbe, mit Produktionsgeschichtlichem, multimedial Verwertbarem und Verkäuflichem zu einem neuen Zusammenhang, der die „Marke Brecht“ entschieden mitprägt. Gerade der Brecht besonders am Herzen liegende Musikbereich weist prominent auf die Methode des Recycelns, Aneignens, des in neue Kontexte Stellens, des Kenntlich- und Unkenntlichmachens hin. Inzwischen werden die „klassischen“ Songs seiner Komponisten erneut recycelt und als Hip-Hop, Jazz oder Rock und in den weltweiten Verwertungskreislauf rückgeführt.
Mein Vortrag soll sich mit Brechts ganz unterschiedlichen wie folgenreichen Methoden seines Recycelns innerhalb des Musikbereichs beschäftigen, die bei der eigenen Musik wie in der Zusammenarbeit mit Komponisten zur Wirkung kommen.
Brecht zum Gebrauch: Einige Thesen
Ich lege hier kurz einige Thesen zur Arbeitsweise Brechts und deren heutige Produktivität vor, die ich in einer konkreter aufgearbeiteten Form zur gemeinsamen Diskussion vorschlagen möchte.
Vielleicht liegt da ein möglicher Grund, warum eine ernste Auseinandersetzung mit Brechts Arbeit in Italien, aber nicht nur in Italien, immer noch ausbleibt, selbst wo die Auseinandersetzung mit seinem Werk scheinbar intensiv ist: aufgrund einer eingefleischten, selbstverständlichen und vielleicht nicht ebenso harmlosen Idee von Kunst und Dichtung, die Brecht praktisch und theoretisch radikal in Frage gestellt hat und die mit Zähnen und Nägeln, durch Forschungsstipendien, schöne, verschönende Übersetzungen und staatlich finanzierte Produktionen immer noch verteidigt und befördert wird.
Laut dieser Idee unterschiede sich Kunst von Arbeit und Technik und Wissenschaft eben dadurch, dass wer künstlerisch tut, nicht wirklich weiß, worum es geht, warum er es tut, wozu, und was für Folgen es haben kann. Brecht versucht zum Grunde des zeitgenössischen Theaters, der Literatur, der Kunst im allgemeinen, des Denkens, des Erkennens, des gesellschaftlichen Mitlebens zu gehen. Das ist, was Kunstamateuren, träumerische Kunstverbraucher und dichterische Denker ihm nicht verzeihen können: denn so gehe das Geheimnisvolle, das Nutzlose der Kunst, nämlich die Kunst selbst, zugrunde.
So wie diese Kunst ist die ganze Gesellschaft jetzt: Das scheint Brecht fast 35 Jahre früher als Guy Debord gewahr zu werden. Dazu war kein prophetisches Vermögen nötig. Denn zur Zeit Brechts hat unsere Zeit schon angefangen: Durch die technische Komplizierung des Geschehens auf jeder Ebene ist die wirkliche Tragweite der sozialen Phänomene schwer zu fassen und schwer zu widerstehen geworden. Unsere Produktionsmittel und unsere Produktionsverhältnisse, die Arbeitsteilung, die verallgemeinerte Warenform, die Delegierung auf die Technik und auf das Technische der Organisationsapparate in jedem Bereich, begünstigen einen abstrakten, ja unverantwortlichen Umgang mit allen Mitteln, selbst den nicht-technologischen. Alles Tun und Denken, alles Reden und Mitteilen, egal auf welchem Gebiet auch immer, kann sich selbst nicht mehr verantworten.
Da ist, wo Brecht eingreift, wo „ein Rest noch zu tun ist“: Wo gedacht und geschafft wird, sei es auch philosophisch gedacht und künstlerisch, literarisch geschafft wird, ist man noch nicht fertig. Ein Rest ist zu tun, und ein unentbehrlicher: es soll so etwas wie eine Materialprobe aufgestellt werden, so wie man Materialproben in der Technik aufstellt, schreibt Brecht einmal in einer Notiz, um die Festigkeitsgrenze von Metallen nachzuprüfen. Man soll nämlich die Bedingungen bereitstellen, unter welchen das Gedachte, das Geschriebene, das Gesagte, jeweils in seiner Tragweite und in seiner Unzulänglichkeit hervortreten kann.
Aus dieser Perspektive sind alle Werke unfertig, nicht nur diejenige, die fragmentarisch geblieben sind. Alle müssen jedes Mal bearbeitet werden, wo Bearbeitung nicht einfach die soundsovielte ästhetische Variation, oder eine Gelegenheit zum Selbstausdruck mehr ist: damit der Zusammenhang in dem sie gedacht, gelesen werden, in sie eingreift und damit sie ihrerseits in den Zusammenhang eingreifen können. Das hat Brecht aus dem alten, vortechnologischen, handwerklichen Mittel des Theaters gelernt und dies Wissen (nach dem Fatzer-Text) auch irgendwo anders angewendet, als wo es gefunden worden ist: Man muss sich an den Kontakt mit der jeweiligen Situation halten.
Wenn Denken und Erkennen in diesem „Eingriff“ und nicht in einer angemessenen Darstellung der Wirklichkeit ihren Schwerpunkt haben, müssen alle Denkformen und Produkte (Werke, Erkenntnisse, Wissenschaften, Techniken) auf die Probe der jeweiligen Situation gestellt werden und umgekehrt: ihre „Haltung“ zur Situation (denn auch Gedanken und Bilder und Texte „verhalten sich“) soll herausgearbeitet werden. Das verschiebt den Akzent von der Darstellung, sowohl in wissenschaftlichem wie im künstlerischen Sinne, auf einen Gebrauchswert der Darstellungen.
Wenn dieser Hinblick auf die Haltung des Geschriebenen, auf das Eingriffspotential fehlt, fehlt Brecht zufolge das wirklich Unentbehrliche: alles andere kann entbehrt werden, bis auf dies eine Element. Das wäre das echt künstlerische Moment oder das Moment, wo wirklich gedacht wird, nämlich wo nicht illusionistisch gekünstelt, wo nicht über die Situation derer hinaus gedacht wird, die solchen Künsten und Gedanken ausgesetzt sind.
Nicht alle können zum Künstler, Wissenschaftler oder Philosophen werden, aber jeder kann und muss dazu fähig werden, Werke und Wissen, Handlungen und Denkhaltungen in diesem Sinne zu testen. Dies technische unentbehrliche Moment kann erlernt, soll geübt werden und lässt sich nicht vereinzelt, auf eine repräsentative Weise hervorbringen: dafür ist eine kollektive Arbeit immer schon impliziert, dazu müssen möglichst viele fähig werden und möglichst oft muss das zustande gebracht werden, denn eingegriffen wird nicht einmal für alle.
McDowell, W. Stuart
Bards at the Gate
Shakespeare and Brecht have much in common. Poets, playwrights, producers of their plays, and, yes, political thinkers. On the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 1616, and the 60th anniversary of Brecht’s passing in 1956, I intend to consider Shakespeare’s Coriolanus on the stage in contrast with Brecht’s Coriolan. Several aspects will be considered. Does Brecht’s re-writing of Coriolanus effectively facilitate the inclusion of Verfremdung in the story-telling of the drama in performance; in contrast, how do Shakespeare’s dramatic techniques strengthen his own rewriting of history? In what ways did the extended, collective rehearsal process of the Berliner Ensemble and the virtual director-less productions of Shakespeare’s original Globe spring from the exigencies of each respective text? What can we learn about these two bards’ depictions of the eponymous character and the plebeians at the gates of Rome from the lavish BE production at the Theater am Schiffbauerdam vs. how we imagine the story might have been staged on Shakespeare’s bare, thrust stage? My paper draws upon my observations of rehearsals and performances of Coriolan at the BE in the 1960s including interviews I conducted with Manfred Wekwerth, Peter Kallisch, and Helene Weigel, and upon my experience with productions of Shakespeare’s and Brecht’s works as Artistic Director of the Riverside Shakespeare Company of New York City.
Dancing Feet, Metric Feet: Fred Astaire, Brecht and a thirties socio-cultural quickstep
This paper takes as its starting point a reference by Brecht in his essay Über Reimlose Lyrik mit Unregelmässigen Rhythmen to 'ein amerikanischer Unterhaltungsfilm' – in fact SHALL WE DANCE, though (deliberately?) unidentified by Brecht – in which a performance by Fred Astaire is cited as an instance of the links between jazz , the new sounds of the techno-mechanical era and their connection to irregular rhythms in poetry. While the essay itself dates from 1938, a year after the film's release, and was published in Moscow in the final edition of DAS WORT in 1939, the inclusion of a reference in the essay to jazz and American culture raises a number of intriguing questions – especially given the heated debate in Russia in the 1930s concerning jazz and its perceived links to 'formalism'.
The Antigonemodell 1948 and the Couragemodell 1949 trace Brecht’s theatrical reintroduction into post-war Europe after his years of exile. Brecht’s models fascinate because of their double performance: part on stage, part by means of the book. Using these two as key examples, this paper argues for the revaluation of the model book genre as an alternative kind of theatrical performance in print. The Modellbuch played a key role in the artistic practice of the Berliner Ensemble: compiling it was a main training task for Brecht’s assistant directors; sending it out to other theatres across Germany as a binding performance blue print a way for re-educating the theatrical community. The Modellbuch, I would like to argue, did not so much record and store a production as recycle, revision, and reframe the advent of performance itself. It modelled a theatrical utopia.
The Castrated Schoolmaster
The contribution raises the question why the planed Modellbuch on Brecht’s staging of the „Hofmeister“ (The Tutor) by Lenz has not been published despite the fact that pictures, commentary, protocols etc. had already been produced and five copies of a preliminary Modellbuch had even be given to theatres who were interested in copying the production of the Berliner Ensemble. As I will argue documents on the production process of the “Hofmeister” show that despite its great success Brecht himself considered the production to be a compromise and even a defeat. This new perspective is important in the context of the more general hypothesis that to Brecht himself everything he produced for the theatre after his emigration was by no means comparable to what he had achieved in the early 30’s, namely in his learning plays, in “Fatzer”, “Brotladen” and “Maßnahme”. From here a new reading of Brecht’s staging of “The Tutor” can be developed of which I will give a short outline in my lecture.
Neureuter, Hans Peter