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Staging Difficult Pasts: Of Collateral Archives and Awkward Objects

12.12.2019 | 18:00 c.t. - 20:00



Professor Michal Kobialka
Paul W. Frenzel Professorship in Liberal Arts (2016-21)
Department of Theatre Arts & Dance
University of Minnesota, USA

Recent contestations of the archive ask for a practice that exhibits the mediality of the archive—that is to say, an exploration of how the archive has been crafted by a certain experience of time, space, and matter, which are implicit in it, conditions it, and thereby has to be elucidated. On the one hand the encounter with the objects housed in the archive resonates with Walter Benjamin’s observation that “the world is present, and indeed ordered, in each of his objects”. On the other hand, the encounter with the objects housed in the archive reveals their organization in the form of temporal layers, which have different origins and duration, move at different speeds, have different non-synchronous and asymmetrical depths; as well as their organization in the form of spatial layers, bringing forth contradictions in/within space of their representation (the past) and contradictions of/between spaces of their representation (the past and the present).

To substantiate this theoretical discussion, this talk will look at the exhibition, “Awkward Objects of Genocide,” opened at the Ethnographic Museum in Krakow in December 2018. It showcased how local, “naïve” artists in Poland attempted to represent the events they witnessed during World War II. The objects on display in the Museum, such as for example, a representation of Jewish suffering via symbolic (Catholic) idiom of Pieta or a Nazi crematorium recalling a nativity crèche, not only expanded the field of Holocaust memory studies to include “minor,” “peripheral,” or “awkward” objects, but also contributed to larger debates about “difficult heritage” or “difficult past.”

Michal Kobialka, the Paul W. Frenzel Professorship in Liberal Arts (2016-21), is Professor of Theatre in the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of two books on Tadeusz Kantor’s theatre, A Journey Through Other Spaces: Essays and Manifestos, 1944-1990 (University of California Press, 1993) and Further on, Nothing: Tadeusz Kantor’s Theatre (University of Minnesota Press, 2009). He is the editor of Of Borders and Thresholds: Theatre History, Practice, and Theory (University of Minnesota Press, 1999), a co-editor (with Barbara Hanawalt) of Medieval Practices of Space (University of Minnesota Press, 2000), a co-editor (with Rosemarie Bank) of Theatre/Performance Historiography: Time, Space, Matter (Palgrave, 2015), and co-editor (with Natalia Zarzecka) of Tadeusz Kantor’s Memory: Other Pasts, Other Futures (Polish Theatre Perspectives Press, 2018). His book on the early medieval drama and theatre, This Is My Body: Representational Practices in the Early Middle Ages (University of Michigan Press, 1999) received the 2000 ATHE Annual Research Award for Outstanding Book in Theatre Practice and Pedagogy.

Zeit & Ort

12.12.2019 | 18:00 c.t. - 20:00

Hörsaal des Instituts für Theaterwissenschaft,
Grunewaldstr. 35
12165 Berlin (Steglitz)

U9 + S1 Rathaus Steglitz
X86 Schmidt-Ott-Straße