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Peter M Boenisch

Peter M Boenisch

Interweaving Performance Cultures

Fellow 2015/16

Peter M Boenisch, originally from Munich/Germany, is Professor of European Theatre at the University of Kent (UK). With Paul Allain and Patrice Pavis, he is one of the founding co-directors of the European Theatre Research Network (www.europeantheatre.org.uk). Before moving to the UK in 2003, he studied and later taught at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, where he completed his PhD “KörPERformance: Bewegungsdarstellungen im zeitgenössischen Theater” under supervision of Christopher Balme. While originally mainly working on contemporary dance performance and dramaturgy, Peter’s research has concentrated for the past ten years on theatre directing and Regietheater. His main interest is in the intersections of aesthetics and politics, with inspiration drawn from Slavoj Žižek, Hegel, Lacan, Jacques Rancière, and other critical philosophers.  Peter is a Contributing Editor of Theatre Research International and an editorial associate of Contemporary Theatre Review. With Rachel Fensham (University of Melbourne), he is series editor of the New World Choreographies book series for Palgrave Macmillan.

Research Project

The Looms of the Theatral Fabric: Institutional Dramaturgies
and the Curating of Cultural Relations [Die Webstühle theatraler Texturen: Institutionelle Dramaturgie und das Kuratieren kultureller Relationsgefüge]

This project develops the notion of ‘institutional dramaturgy’. With this term, I seek to capture the ‘weaving’ of a permeable fabric of cultural encounters and relations, of transmission, translation and negotiation, which is facilitated by theatre programming, funding, cultural policies, the institutional culture of a certain theatre or festival, and similar presentational frameworks. Extending the established analytical focus on performance analysis, artists, and artistic histories and practices, ‘Institutional Dramaturgy’ interrogates the infrastructural frameworks that ‘fabricate’ the interweaving of culture(s) through performance – not only national and ethnic cultures within a globalised context, but also very local, often conflicting cultures defined by other parameters of belonging. The project therefore pursues the idea of ‘interweaving cultures’ through the performative and generative institutional textures of theatre programming, producing and presenting on local levels in various Europe sites. The Brussels Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Tanzquartier Vienna, and the European City of Culture events 2017 at Aarhus/Denmark will serve as case studies for the claim that ‘the negotiation of an externalised governance can itself be conceived as part of an art object’ (Jackson 2008, 29). Testing the applicability of existing discourses on institutional critique, cultural analysis, relational aesthetics, and immaterial labour within this context, I argue that the discipline of theatre and performance studies ought to develop a refined methodologic discourse on these matters in order to be able to participate more productively in public debates such as the recent controversy about Chris Dercon’s appointment to head the Berlin Volksbühne from 2017. The Fellowship supports my work on the manifold cultures interwoven in the theatre scene of contemporary Berlin, with particular focus on the transnational (co-)productions of the Hebbel am Ufer theatre under its ‘foreign’ (Flemish) artistic director Annemie Vannackere, the interweaving of migrant German theatre cultures at the Maxim Gorki theatre and at the small Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, but also at Schaubühne Berlin, Germany’s most international theatre, which stages more than 100 performances abroad annually. The project seeks to disclose the institutional power structures, which – beyond their economic and socio-political scope – have direct aesthetic implications, as they are vital in fostering, exposing, circulating, disseminating, and popularising, but also in formatting or even suppressing the interweaving of performance cultures, artists and aesthetics. The project thereby seeks to make a contribution to the current ‘comprehensive overhaul’ of the European theatre system (Klaic 2012, 176), triggered by the recent economic crisis and its socio-political ramifications, but also by the significant changes of the ethno-social audience demographics and cultural behaviour patterns in a transnational digital culture as well as the fundamental changes within the European cultural fabric, where theatre ceases to be the privileged cultural capital within the bourgeois public sphere.

Recommended Readings

  • Gielen, Pascal, ‘The Art Institution in a Globalizing World’, in The Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society, Vol. 40 (2010), pp. 279-96.
  • Jackson, Shannon, Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics. Abingdon and New York: Routledge 2008.
  • Klaic, Dragan, Resetting the Stage: Public Theatre Between the Market and Democracy. Bristol and Chicago: Intellect 2012.
  • Bal, Mieke, Double Exposures: The Subject of Cultural Analysis. London and New York: Routledge 1996.

Selected Publications

  • Boenisch, P.M., Directing Scenes & Senses: The Thinking of Regie. Manchester: Manchester University Press 2015.
  • Ostermeier, T., and Boenisch, P.M., The Theatre of Thomas Ostermeier. Abingdon and New York: Routledge 2016 (forthcoming, February 2016).
  • Boenisch, P.M., ‘Acts of Spectating: The Dramaturgy of the Audience’s Experience in Contemporary Theatre’, in Katalin Trencsényi and Bernadette Cochrane, eds, New Dramaturgy: International Perspectives on Theory and Practice. London: Methuen, 2014, pp. 225-41.


Homepage: https://kent.academia.edu/PeterMBoenisch

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung