Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do




Mike Lawrence at entrance to University College for Drama


University College Drama Program

University of Toronto

Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse

79A St. George Street

Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3H7

November 20-21, 2009


November 20, 2009


Pia Kleber


This conference, taking place on the twentieth anniversary of major changes in Europe, is envisioned as an international and interdisciplinary forum on cultural changes in and challenges to Europe as a new, reconfigured cultural community since the crumbling of the division between what were once “Western” and “Eastern” Europe. Although focused primarily on performing arts, it will gather those specialists in literature, theatre, visual arts, film, mass media, architecture, urban planning, political science, history, and economics who can enrich the discussion on performance. All these specialists will be asked to address the major concern of this meeting, that is, the response of the performing arts to the cultural and social challenges posed by the systemic transformations in the former “Eastern Europe”, by the enlargement, integration, and the redefinition of the European Union, by identity and memory politics in individual countries and in the region.

In its discussion of theatre, playwriting, performing arts, television, video, and visual arts (installations, for example), the conference puts particular emphasis on two central players in the transformation of Europe: on Germany and Poland. Poland initiated these transformations with the Solidarity movement in 1980-1981 and with the 1989 Round Table agreement that set an example for dismantling communism in the Soviet block. With the fall of the Wall and the subsequent reunification of Germany, the most recognizable symbols of the real end of the cold war and of the whole concept of Eastern Europe entered the symbolic cultural market and further changed the map of Europe. The reconfiguration of the Polish-German relations has shifted dominant paradigms and has become a distinct marker of the reintegration of Europe.

In addition to panels, round tables, and open floor discussions, the conference will also showcase theatre performances, art exhibitions, and film screenings from the new Europe.

Each panel and round table will include 20-minute papers or 10-15-minute presentations of historians, economists, artists, and scholars in the performing arts, theatre, visual arts, and media, and will center on a particular aspect of the remaking of Europe and on the relationships of performing arts to these changes.

Tamara Trojanowska (University of Toronto).

To identify the two key organisers was quite easy, for Pia Kleber with her shining red hair could be seen from far away while Tamara Trojanowska could be best noticed through her bright eyes sparkling behind her glasses.

Once on stage Pia Kleber rested herself on Tamara's shoulders and said it is better for her to start the introduction. However, before she gave Tamara the floor, she recalled that November 9th had many connotations in the history of Germany.

Tamara Trojanowska recalled that when she took over the administrative job from Pia to run the college for drama, she had not really foreseen that it would lead to such an incredible program as this conference ‘Europe performing’.


Sabine Sparwasser

Indeed, this thought of Pia Kleber about the 9th of November resonated with the German consul Sabine Sparwasser who was new to her job in Toronto.

Sabine Sparwasser found herself at times speaking like a fish seeking to surface in troubled waters to gain some air. As a matter of fact she works in a kind of a glass acquarium on the 25th floor where the German consulate is now located. It has been designed like a glass 'dock system' which no one can enter before the doors behind have been closed. One has to wait until the other door is opened to be let in. Everything is out of glass so it is possible to see through. Apparently these precautionary measures are installed to make sure no one can make a security breach. To think of it that photos depicting the coming down of the fall were exhibited there in Nov. 2009 photos is a bit of a contradiction: there finally the opening of borders, here the erecting of new ones. That indicates a trend in another direction. Someone amongst the participants recalled that the Goethe Institute in Johannesburg had started after the end of Apartheid to take down its walls surrounding its premise as a a new sign of openness.

The consul admitted in elequent English that Germany had thought about making this memorable day when the Berlin Wall came down into a national holiday. Today she was glad it turned out to be just another day. She recalled that the East German people had voted already with their feet long before that day by crossing over what was once a sharp border. They did it without betraying themselves for the first time.

Tenor of her opening remarks was that so many celebrations have taken place to mark the 20 years after the fall of the wall, but each time she had to speak, she reminded herself and others what tremendous gain in freedom this fall of the wall has meant for both East and West Germany, but also beyond that for the whole of Europe.

Marek Ciesielczuk

As diplomat he articulated a surprising wish, namely that we no longer base our relationships on a lie. That created silence in the room. His thoughts went out to borders of the past, how they were crossed with a lie as to what the other side wanted and therefore more often protected violently if not provoking violence leading to war if crossed by force. Once German forces crossed the Polish border in 1939 it meant the official beginning of Second World War.

The wish to avoid the lie can be understood in terms of what Martin Jay has described as the European love for ‘mendacity’. It has become a philosophical form especially when Heidegger negates the masses who are according to him not willing to say "I do it" but "one does it". He took that to be a sign of a lack of willingness to shoulder responsibilities. Out of that he concluded the need for a leader willing to take risks and to be innovative and hence in need to be given the Right to make mistakes.

After 1945 upon returning from exile, Adorno remarked in 'minima moralia' that a German cannot lie but must convince himself to say the truth. There have been in history many kinds of perpetrators out of conviction. In German they are called 'Überzeugungstäter'. They enter actions and claim thereafter to no longer remember what they have done or else they have a justification of everything.

If a political lie is designed not to reveal the truth to people, then because it includes very often a political justification for the standpoint of the elite vis a vis the people. The latter are negated in their identity. Very often that negation is justified by the claim that these people do not wish to hear the full truth. It was said as well by Max Schurr, the doctor of Sigmund Freud, but in a different context. He experienced as a doctor that all people demand to hear the truth about their health condition, but few are capable of handling it when told the truth.

The justification to withhold the truth has guided many governments in the past and in the present. It has brought about the so-called spin doctors of information for which often Rove, the political advisor to President Bush, is cited as prime example. Once things are distorted to such a point that it becomes difficult to tell the truth, then one has to resort to the imagination as did the Polish Journalist Kapuscinski when in Etiopia and no longer able to tell who was on whose side.

One outstanding case of a conscious lie was when Powell testified in front of the Security Council of the United Nations and practically in front of the whole world attested that the United States had indeed sufficient evidence to be able to prove that Saddam Hussein had in his possession weapons of mass destruction. This lie was used to justify the going to war in March 2003. Only later did Powell reveal that this had been a fabricated claim which did not hold up to any demand for solid evidence. The consequences of his 'lie' to safeguard the wishes by President Bush to go to war are tremendous. One needs only to think about the death of thousands of innocent civilians and the destruction of Baghdad to comprehend to what a lack of political courage can lead to.

The open demand for public truth within public space as asserted, for example, by Michael D. Higgins has been countered by a thoughful Johanna Schall who coming from East Germany cautions about the use of "Prawda". Indeed truth was a key concept of Communist ideology in the past by which many other truths were suppressed. It was only the party which knew what was truth. Johanna Schall responded to that when told a quote by Robert Musil who said once a society has lost any sense of truth and therefore bases all decisions on probabality calculations, then in the end it will have terrorism. He implied people want to know the truth with which they associate a kind of lawfullness i.e. a respect of the law by everyone.

Panel I: Cultural Politics in the Times of Change


Christine Merkel

Expanding into the global world, Christine Merkel recalled what else happened on 9th of November, including the death of Chomeiny in Iran and many other scores.

She then gave an outline as to how UNESCO succeeded in advancing cultural diversity.

As to culture altogether, Christine Merkel seems to say that it may be all just a dream especially if one does not understand the past, cannot restructure the present or look into the future. She emphasized the need to understand the text on cultural diversity and what important political process went with it since now a majority of states have signed onto that declaration! To her mind, it will be important to advance such notion of cultural expressions which has both an economic and human rights dimension. After the fall of the wall, she would refer to newsletters as those issues by Peter Inkei of the Budapest Observatory in order to get to know better what is happening within the cultural fields of Eastern Europe.

If the purpose of this conference taking place in Toronto, Canada is to understand Europe performing without a wall, then before dealing with that topic, a reminder is needed first of all. Canada is linked to Europe not only through its many immigrants who came from Europe, but equally many Canadian soldiers died in First World War in places like Vimy Ridge or fought side by side other troops in Second World War. Also anyone attending school in Canada could read the historical map of Europe insofar as waves of immigrants were linked to events like the squashing of the workers in East Berlin in 1953, the uprising in Hungary and especially in Budapest in 1956, the squasing of Prague Spring in August 1968 and martial law being declared in Poland in December 1980. It prompted families to seek a new life in Canada and subsequently new faces appeared in the class room from those who made it through immigration.

One way to analyse what happened since Second World War in West Berlin, Poland and other places like Prague is to look at the specific demands people made in phases when everyone dared to go out into the streets and demonstrate. In Prague '68 they articulated not only demands to hold free elections and to abolish the secret police, but to do something about the youth. At that time they had started to let their hair grow long. Pier Paolo Pasolini called it the language of the hair as part of the protest. Nothing more needed to be said by this youth when they walked into a hotel foyer in Prague and crossed through it to sit down at one of the couches. Everyone starred at them but was equally embarrassed.

In respect to what happened in Prag 1968 again three demands made up the election platform of Richard von Weizsäcker when he sought successfully to be elected as first Conservative mayor of West Berlin in 1981. It happened at the same time when Solidarnosc was squashed in Poland. To what extent this set off all on a different path of development remains to be seen. For there came 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It prompted the fall of the Berlin Wall and removed the Iron Curtain between East and West Europe which the political scientist Richard Löwenthal had called a minimum guarantee of peace during the years of the Cold War. It meant intellectually to accept in one way or another the existence of such a hard border. On the East German side the Berlin wall had always been called a protection against Fascism in the West. Nothing officially was said that it meant in reality to imprison the own people who wanted to be free to travel in order to verify with their own eyes the other reality.

The EU has not been performing well since the war in Kosovo in 1999 prompting a departure from a peaceful integration based on economic and social cohesion by relying again on rapid intervention forces and the primary logic of Nato. This was reinforced by 911 when the United States claimed to have come under attack and therefore requiring of all other Nato members to rally in support of the attacked ally. This lie linking 911 to Pearl Harbor was never officially refuted but it justified the going to war first in Afghanistan in 2001 and then in Iraq in 2003. The European Union did little to counter this move with Britain under Tony Blair definitely joining in while Germany under Schröder and Fischer said 'no' but under conditions which have been nullified by reports made public later that German intelligence helped the invading armies to target key spots in Baghad and elsewhere in Iraq. The entanglement with war leading Germany to deploy troops as well in Afghanistan has to be seen in this perspective as to what changed the key character of Europe as it emerged out of the rubbles of Second World War. After 1945 Germans in particular made this promise to themselves never again war, never war to start from German soil. Then came Adenauer who brought about the creation of the Bundeswehr and thus Germany entered NATO. For a long time Jürgen Habermas claimed the Bundeswehr was a unique army as it had no enemy picture. Its training could not use any of the faces that belonged to the Four Powers ruling in the divided city of Berlin. The acquiscence to military power has many ramifications and weapons trade but one of the many negative consequences. Often not talked about it leads to making the economy not merely most unproductive but equally prone to be corrupt as weapons lead on to dealing in grey, many a times in illegal areas either to secure contracts by means of corruption or else by making deals with the other side even though official policy was against it. The entire scheme of 'oil for food' in the case of wishing to soften the impact of the sanctions levelled against Iraq before 2003 especially for those who suffered the most, namely children and the poor people, turned out to be in retrospect a huge scam. It has left the United Nations weakened tremendously as it has no longer the high reputation of honesty and impartiality so much needed in a world of corruption and biased partnership.

Equally the European Union has struggled with reforms after the ratification of the EU constitutional treaty failed in 2005 with France and Holland voting against and the UK never putting it up for a referendum since deemed useless after the rejection of the other two EU member states. Moreover culture is functionalised within the EU to become a force for innovation to facilitate economic growth and thereby avoids the question of culture as to what brings about sustainable development. The latter has to be matched by cultural sustainability i.e. what people can uphold by themselves.

If then one enters the world of theatre, a certain set of questions have to be posed, including what were the differences between Heiner Mueller in East Berlin and lets say Thomas Bernhard in the West? Moreover changes in Berlin and Germany can be reflected onhand of a remarkable theatrical performance experienced in Berlin West in 1976. “Hoelderlin’s Empedocles” or reading Hölderlin was performed under the direction of Michael Grueber at the Schaubuehne. At that time this theatre was still located at the Hallsche Ufer in West Berlin with the wall standing.

To reflect changes in Europe means to observe what goes on in Berlin twenty years after the fall of the wall.  That may be reflected in terms of still experiencing continuous problems linked to staying faithful when in love with a particular person while unhappy about the kind of system prevailing. It seems that no further philosophical developments have taken place since Kant and what else was carried over from the 19th century into the twenties century. Berlin can be equally reflected how the Potsdamer Place has been reshaped. As always the powers of the day wish to make there their imprint become visible. While new forms of wealth expand and become a different show case, there is a fact that many more people exist today in Germany near or below the poverty line. Politically and culturally speaking that create social tensions.

One thesis is that all this shall create new kinds of perpetrators. Enzensberger speaks here about the ‘radical losers’. On the other hand, Berlin is transformed into a hub for young artists and communication experts.

To reflect ‘Europe performing’ from such a vantage point means to see above all how “the life of the others” is being shaped by new and old forces. Crucial is to know what silences people if not out of fear of others, then because their futures have become most uncertain.

Panel II: Post-dramatic, Post-ideological, Post-historical Theatre in Germany and Poland.


The purpose of my speech is to explain Castorf, said explicitly Joachim Fiebach. Pia Kleber had introduced him as extraordinary thinker who would draw huge figures with chalk next to Brecht's circle to let figures move in and out and above the ground start to fly. It is called a moving stage when the imagination is touched by soft spoken thoughts. It transforms the art of making theatre into a linkage to life itself.

Allen Kuharski (Swarthmore College, Swarthmore)

Allen Kuharski with his deep voice evoked a protest by Pia Kleber. She disagreed if post ideological theatre were to be reduced to the performance of melancholy.

For Allen Kuharski melancholy lifted like the blue mist over Warszawa airport when he was about to depart for 300 bucks to make the second only flight out, that is after Martial Law had been declared and everything had shut down. He was indeed a witness of Marshall Law having been declared to end the dream of  Solidarnosc. He had been in Poland at that time to study on a Fulbright scholarship the polish theatre of Michal Zadara and Pawel Demirski.

Key question of his presentation was how to write theatrical texts in order to understand the concept of drama. To understand his view on theatre and what constitutes theatrical performances, it may be said that much is born in his mind out of the dialectic with non-reality or from which vantage point the theatre is being directed: on or of stage? In another essay he writes as follows:

“If art is to be successful in its mimetic relationship to reality, it itself must accept its artistic reality. Here it is all reversed. This is the theatricality, not life, that is the "make believe" in this play. "The Marriage" imitates "dream world" by its surreal construction. It also imitates the "spontaneity" of an improvised performance. We will find a solution for this mystification in the works of pure theater -- works of Kantor, who will introduce real memories, a reality filtered through personality, in place of pretend dreams. He will direct them for real -- with author's gestures in front of the audience. And in works of Grotowski, who will work towards the psychoanalytical revelation and obliteration of any kind of pretending, by directing not so much on the stage, but from it. The first one chooses the verity of the lowest rank, the other one the revealing austerity. In Gombrowicz's drama a perfect theater is recorded, but it is enclosed there. If theatre is an encounter than the internal theatre is in its essence non-theater. “

Artur Grabowski, “Everyman Possessed by Himself”, Toronto Slavic Quarterly, http://www.utoronto.ca/tsq/12/grabowski12.shtml

Artur Grabowski contribution is about the theory needed to write for theatre or for theatrical productions. It differs from writing a novel as the text must focus on the present tense. It goes along with a differentiation between types of scenes which constitute the context of the literary figure of speech to be used to say something.

By comparison, a matter of grabbing somebody's arm or stomping off the stage are demonstrative acts. The latter are hard to describe in so many words as gestures are often overpowering in the case of good actors. It is another language compared to what can be said on stage.

Then there are the fine turning points when a dialogue becomes a monologue. These are special moments on stage. The audience needs to listen very careful as the plot begins to unravel. Grabowski thinks here it is important to avoid sensationalism even though some writers for theatre build that into their text quite consciously.

Being from Poland, teaching in the United States, it brings to consciousness an entire tradition of theatre in Poland. This theatre is easily transformable into film and therefore casts lights and shades upon faces whether now in a concentration camp, on stage with Kafka or in a film of Wajda.


Joachim Fiebach listening at the table to the discussion


3:45-4:00 Coffee Break

Panel III: Post-Memory.




November 21

Panel IV: Gender Politics.




Panel V: Dance. Media. Performance.

Asta Deboo


Jadwiga Majewska

She begins her presentation bearing the title: "Hybrid of dance or something else entirely - Several witty observations a la Gombrowicz” performed by the theatre 'Dada von Bzdulow' with a quote from Vaclav Nizynski’s diary: “I will pretend to be a clown, because then I will be understood better. I want to say that a clown is acceptable, when he expresses love. A clown without love is not from God.” She then states her thesis that "in our 'world without God' the dancer in not considered a priest and the dance is not associated with liturgy. Now we dance for entertainment, for the cameras. If someone dances “seriously”, he is considered a ridiculous lunatic…"

At the very opposite is the world of boredom about which Thomas Mann said was the cause of First World War. Jadwiga describes a scene with two men dancing to entice a woman looking on but she is just bored. Their movements do not entice her to get up to dance. In that might be reflected also the stance Gombrowicz took. According to Jadwiga Majewska Gombrowicz never danced himself but he may have gone to observe the dancers not like Degas, but as someone subscribing to man's movement when dancing. Here the key statement about the linkage between dancing and theatre was made by Jadwiga Majewska insofar as she stated the dance theatre was only conceivable in Poland after 1989, that is after the fall of inner walls. She maintains this thesis because it is her own conviction to assume that only a free man can dance.

Antje Budde (in the middle with short hair)

Prof. Antje Budde M.A., PhD (Humboldt-University Berlin) taught previously at Humboldt-University in Berlin and the Academy for Film and Television “Konrad Wolf” (HFF) in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany. In 1990-1991 and 1994-1995 she conducted research and artistic projects in Beijing, China (Central Academy of Drama and National Experimental Theatre Company) followed by several short study trips to P.R. China. Prof. Budde works both in the academic and the artistic field of performance studies. Since 2005 she is cross-appointed at the University College Drama Program and the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto.

She published her first book in 2002: Antje Budde/ Joachim Fiebach (Ed.) „Herrschaft des Symbolischen. Bewegungsformen gesellschaftlicher Theatralität in EUROPA –ASIEN – AFRIKA“, (The power/ruling of symbols. Processes of societal theatricality in Europe, Asia, Africa) Vistas Verlag, Berlin 2002. This book was followed by her recent publication: Theater und Experiment in der VR China. Kulturhistorische Bedingungen, Begriff, Geschichte, Institution und Praxis. VDM Verlag Dr. Müller. 2008. 780 p. (Theatre and Experiment in P.R. China. Socio-Cultural conditions, concept, history, institution and practice)

Jacob Antoni (Architect, Berlin), ART – quo vadis?


The four presenters listening to inner voices


1:15 Screening of documentary by Eileen Thalenberg Up Against the Wall

Three types of walls:

1) American-Mexican border

2) Europe against immigrants

3) Israel – the wall to limit freedom of movement of Palestinians

and then there are as well the many “walls of silence”.

The film was very well received by the audience. It was a first showing and drove home the point that after the fall of the wall in Berlin in 1989, there exist by now similar or even tougher borders between Mexico and USA, Palestinians and Israelis, Northern and Southern Cyprus, and between Europe and Africa especially in Spain, Italy and Greece. The film explained what it is like to walk up to fences or through detention camps of immigrants. The latter have been declared by Europe according to the Schengen Agreement as unwanted, illegal persons and worse are perceived only as a burden for Europe. Not seen that European member states are fighting alongside of the USA wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thereby creating mass migration of people fleeing violence, economic hardships, political repressions and social unrest.

Panel VI: Cross-cultural? Intercultural? Transcultural? – Now and Then.


Joerg Bochow

Laura Caretti (University of Siena)


Discussion with Joerg and Laura after their presentations

Panel VII: Creating in the Times of Change.


Johanna Schall

When she spoke about her experiences at the main theatre in East Berlin before the fall of the wall, she made a most honest and self critical statement: "we were privileged and still had fear to test the free space this privilege gave us. Outside of the theatre people had started already to do many things but it was only when Gysi, the lawyer and later founder of the Left Party, came to us and pointed out that the law does not prohibit demonstrations to express one's opinion did we in June 1989 finally join the movement."

Another point of hers: "theatre in the East at that time was very different since you knew what you could show on stage and the audience would be able to read into subtle messages what you wished to bring across. For instance, we let three people walk across the stage their paper bags filled with oranges. Everybody laughed at that spot. If we had shown the same piece in let us say Zurich no one would understand that oranges were rare at that time and a symbol of over abundance but also of many dreams."

Banuta Rubess

"Lets not talk about abuse of power - a theme of discussion in Latvia" was displayed on this slide of her power point presentation. She reflected the power or lack of theatre when a society becomes apolitical. Then forms have to be developed like street theatre so as to follow up one major idea, namely how actors interact on stage, so do people in their common and everyday lives. In Latvia this has worked in particular well when there is widespread fear to speak up or else a huge suppression of issues linked to the Russian speaking population. After the fall of the 'iron curtain' Latvia has yet to find some cohesion and knowledge of governance free of corruption. All this reflected in her work taken up after she returned from Canada to settle down to Riga where her family had come from originally before they too immigrated to Canada where she was born. During her presentation she spoke about a site-specific theatre performance called "Escape From Troy". It explores the experience, both historical and modern, of those who have been forced to leave or flee their homeland.



The two organisers

Pia Kleber and Tamara Trojanowska

and the participants with group photo taken at house of Pia Kleber


@ Texts and photos by Hatto Fischer

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