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Exodus and Justice

Some insights into the subjects and methods of approaching performances in Greece today.

I worked on this text in December 2014 as I had the task to briefly present my current research interests as part of The Aesthetics of Applied Theatre hosted by the Institute for Theatre Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. The project investigates the specific aesthetics of ‘engaged theatre’ and in essence challenges thematical and methodological concepts in theatre and performance studies.

I have chosen to put forward two complex termini – exodus and justice – that characterize on the one hand the means and the end of my research, and on the other, my specific approach. Subject and context of this research is the current Athenian – i.e. Greek – situation and the artistic responses to and dealings with it. I am focusing on applied theatre projects that are introduced in order to face and endure crisis, as well as further artistic projects that happen at a time and in a space of extreme emerging vacuums and that derive from a confrontation with the situation. What I am trying to do, is to introduce the omnipresent and all encompassing word ‘exit’, thinking it along artistic articulations and trying to detect what I call specific ‘exodic practices’.

My understanding of exodus has to do with the decisive gesture of withdrawing and escaping; it suggests, in a sense, a ‘counter-action’ of disengagement. What remains is a somewhat melancholic void that is not to be refilled and that eternally points to a refusal to belonging and participation. There are various exodic practices on aesthetic, social and institutional levels that I observe in Greece today: From monological or non-action performances, to the withdrawal from capitalistic performance circulation, to the reactivation and recontextualization of disused buildings and abandoned artistic spaces.

I see these exodic practices as a means to an end. The end would then be justice and here begin the actual problems. Because, as law philosopher Costas Douzinas notes:

“[…] since Homer, the Bible and Plato, the best minds and fiercest hearts have tried to define justice or imagine the conditions of a just society and they have failed. Indeed the successive and endless ‘theories of justice’ are also serial recognition of failure.” (80)

Ok – but then he writes something that encourages me: “Justice and injustice are not normative predications but subjective motivations.” (Ibid.) I suggest indeed on the existence of a link between exodus and justice; between exodic practices articulated as artistic phenomena and the proposal of justice as the subtle motivation for acts of founding of spaces, allowing for subjective gestures. What I am focusing on is this deep connection between both exodus and justice with the subjective in its various articulations.[1]

Just like exodus, mainstream discourse in Greece today is full of references to law, illegality and lawlessness – nomos, paranomia, anomia – neglecting however to address the status of the state and the dominant elites, which is, in essence, illegal. In this context, the question about justice and its location arises eminently and my job is to detect its artistic articulations and their political and ethical impact.[2]

As a closing remark, I choose a quote by Jacques Derrida that in many respects hints at the direction I would like to think:

“I think that there is no justice without the experience, however impossible it may be, of aporia. Justice is an experience of the impossible. A will, a desire, a demand of justice...law is not justice. Law is the element of calculation and it is just that there be law, but justice is incalculable, it requires to calculate with the incalculable. And aporetic experiences are the experiences, as improbable as they are necessary, of justice, that is to say of moments in which the decision between just and unjust is never insured by a rule.” (947)

Derrida calls the ‘just decision’ a “madness acting in the night of non-knowledge and non-rule.” (967).


[1] The emphasis on the subjective suggests an approach to justice that is antagonistic to notions of objectiveness and reasoning often associated with justice as for example in Amartya Sen’s: The Idea of Justice, London: 2010, Kindle file, locations 103-104, 438ff.

[2] Cf. Institute for Live Arts Research and Eva Fotiadi: “The Art of Lawlessness”, in: Performance Research 19-6: On Rupture, December 2014, pp. 78-80.



Derrida, Jacques: Force of Law: The “Mystical Foundation of Authority” (1990), http://pdflibrary.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/derrida_force-of-law.pdf

Douzinas, Costas: Philosophy and Resistance in the Crisis – Greece and the Future of Europe, Cambridge: 2013

Performance Research 19-6: On Rupture, December 2014

Sen, Amartya: The Idea of Justice, London: 2010


(January 2015)