Abstracts and Speakers

A Transgression Nobody (but Later Anybody?) Wanted: Walter Benjamin's “Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit”

Janne Risum, Aarhus University

We are indebted to Theodor W. Adorno and his wife Gretel, for publishing their posthumous two-volume German edition in 1955 (Schriften 1-2) of central texts by Walter Benjamin, whose work during his exile years for obvious reasons had been largely overlooked. As well as we are to Hannah Arendt, for publishing in 1968 a selection of them in English translation with the title Illuminations and a thorough introduction by herself and complementing it with her treatise on Benjamin and Brecht, Men in Dark Times. In their respective spheres of action, together they initiated the process of elevating Benjamin's contribution as a cultural philosopher to its subsequent highly respected status.

Caryl Churchill’s Kill: Deeds of Words, Deeds of Bodies & Matter. Deconstructing the Capital Transgression of Killing Children

Outi Lahtinen, Aalto University

Caryl Churchill’s Kill (produced by Finnish National Theatre, dir. Minna Leino) is an extremely economical and focussed play: two people on the stage, one giving a monologue, the other one pouring sticky liquid from a carton to a bowl. They both remain seated during the whole monologue, only the words and the sticky liquid, stage blood, flow in a torrent. The monologue hurls words talking about family relations generation after generation repeating one particular narrative: the fathers sacrificing their children. Something else keeps on repeating as well. The speaker of the monologue is a God, and he speaks on behalf of gods. Occasionally, he reminds us that the gods do not exist, they are invented by people. Yet the sacrificing of the children is performed to please the gods. The stage blood flows over the brim of the bowl.

Desubjectivation as Transformation. On Bodily Present in Karl Saks' "Planet Alexithymia"

Jaak Tomberg, Unviversity of Tartu

In his „Antinomies of Realism“ (2013), a book on the poetics of literary realism, cultural and literary theorist Fredric Jameson usefully differentiates between emotion and affect. He redesignates „emotion“ as „named emotion“ and reserves the term affect for those bodily sensations and perceptions that somehow (still) resist symbolic language and meaning. For Jameson, emotion and affect also belong to different temporalities: „named emotion“ is carried by a „coherent“ subject that „meaningfully“ connects the past to the present and the present to the future, whereas affect belongs to pure bodily present of sensations and perceptions that somehow precede or underly subjectivity, symbolic language and meaning.

Hamlet on a Hook. Adaptation as a Transgressive Force in Cultural Reproduction

Katri Tanskanen, University of Helsinki

“The rest is silence,” are Hamlet’s famous last words. However, E. L. Karhu’s adaptation Princess Hamlet (2017) asks what happens next, for those who need to continue the story after its tragic end. It breaks the silence by offering us a new act during which Princess Hamlet’s body hangs on a meat hook, Horatia dresses up as Hamlet and the post-truth kingdom continues its life in front of a screaming crowd. This presentation explores the strategies that Princess Hamlet uses to exceed the boundaries of tragedy and detect the implicit value-systems and hierarchies, especially in relation to gender.

How A Performace Led to a Latnix Community Organisation in Estonia

Ana Falcon, Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre

In November 2019, a performance titled “Un Violador En Tu Camino” (“A rapist on your way”) emerged in Chile, denouncing the sexual violence against women exerted by different spheres of society. The performance and its song quickly spread through Latin America and Latinx communities around the world. On March 9, 2020 a public performance was presented in the Town Hall Square of Tallinn, Estonia. This article explores how this performance became the starting point of the NGO International Women’s Network in Estonia, which helps international migrant women who are affected by domestic violence.

How Theatre Mirrors Reality: Some Critical Aspects of the Representation of Women in Mainstream Performances

Hedi-Liis Toome, University of Tartu

Theatre continues not just to mirror reality but to mediate and shape what we imagine is possible,” states Jill Dolan in her book “The feminist spectator as critic” (2nd edition 2012). Taking this statement as a starting point, the presentation analyzes two recent mainstream performances, “Women of Niskamäe” by Vanemuine Theatre in Estonia and “The Sleepers” by Lithuanian National Theatre from the perspective of how women are represented on stage. The presentation shows that even though the main characters are strong and powerful women, at the same time, their agency is still very much defined by the male directors who staged these productions. How to overcome this issue as a feminist spectator?

Immortality and Theatre Dance in the 1920s. Dance Performance of Elmerice Parts and Herman Kolt-Oginsky

Anne-Liis Maripuu, Univeristy of Tartu

The sociologist Chris Jenks understands transgression as that which exceeds boundaries or exceeds limits. The meaning of an act, Jenks explains, does not reside solely within the intentionality of the actor; indeed, in most instances it resides within the context of the act’s reception.

Intolerable Images: Women's Protest Against Sexual Violence in Ukraine War

Riina Oruaas, University of Tartu

During the war in Ukraine, activists have protested against the war and European countries supporting Russian Federation in war economically all over Europe, finding performative ways to express their position. In April 13, a group of women gathered in front of embassy of Russian Federation in Tallinn. They stood still in a row, heads in black plastic bags, hands tied behind their backs, bare legs and backsides covered with red paint, marking blood. A few days before, first photos of massacre in towns of Kyiv outskirts in Ukraine, had spread over the world media, including images of dead people lying down, hands tied behind their backs, heads in black plastic bags. A few days after the protest in Tallinn, women repeated the acts against war rape in Vilnius, Riga and other cities around Europe.

Law and Order in Estonian Musical Theatre

Kristi Pappel, Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre

In Estonia, activity in the field of musical theatre seems to take place in two parallel worlds (without diving in to questions of terminology, I consider the wider term of musical theatre to embrace opera as well). Opera performances are staged in National Opera Estonia and in the multi-genre theatre Vanemuine. Especially the National Opera Estonia stands out as conservative in its choice of repertoire as well as opera directing. When the renowned German opera director Tobias Kratzer staged 2016 Verdi`s “Aida” at the National Opera without the typical Egyptian attributes, whilst also including more physical expression, a large part of the audience as well as the critics saw it as crossing the borderline.

Opera Film “Banuta” - Example of Transgression and Performativity

Lauma Mellēna-Bartkeviča, Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music

The paper aims to tackle the project that was initially planned as interactive music theatre production that turned into opera-film due to Covid-19 circumstances and restrictions. Anyway, in case of “Baņuta” we deal with officially 1st Latvian original opera deconstructed and transformed into a new movie-opera form in the 21st century, proving that such transformation does not necessarily mean the mocking of national romanticism or culture values. German director Franziska Kronfoth has found a key that surprisingly resonates with social contexts of 21st century and in particular in 2022. The recontextualized story founds new audiences and new perception contexts without violating the original idea, although it is undoubtedly innovative and transgressive, bringing in such issues women’s experience at war and questioning of traditions both in terms of contents and form.

Outsiders or Innovators? The Untold Story of Queer Theatre in Estonia

Eva-Liisa Linder, Tallinn University

During the transition period, Estonian society started to return towards the Western semiosphere. As censorship was abolished at the end of the 1980s, a wave of memory theatre and the theatre of the absurd flooded the stages. It enabled a distanced view at the totalitarian past. A vision for the future was displayed in contemporary Western dramaturgy along with impulses of political theatre.

Paltanavičiūtė, Justina Performativity and Empowerment of Socially Vulnerable Groups of Society: a Case Study of the Opera “Have A Good Day!”

Justina Paltanavičiūtė, Vilnius University

The opera genre is considered to be an artistic, namely a hermetic domain. Yet, since the very first examples, the production principles of the opera were controlled by the authorities, consenquently opera reflected the dominant political powers and ideologies (Rabb, 2006, p. 322-323; Hanning, 1979, p. 590; Hume, 1998, p. 29). Gradually the subsequent comic forms of the opera genre enabled a creative criticism of the dominant political power and the prevailing socio-political system (Gabriel, 2006, p. 6; Muir, 2006, p. 331-333; Rosand, 2006, p. 413). In order to draw the public attention to the issues of social distinction and to empower socially vulnerable groups of society, opera composers and librettists appropriated different kinds of aesthetics of lower class society (Cowart, 2001, p. 273-285; Cowart, 2001, p. 272; Morrissey, 1971; Pettegree, 2012). Although various examples of the opera genre from G. B. Pergolesi to A. Piazolla represent the appropriation of the performativity of lower class of society, the actual response of people, represented in the opera genre and considered as socially vulnerable, has never been investigated emipircally. This research aims to reveal whether the representation of the performativity of socially vulnerable society groups affects and empowers individuals considered as socially vulnerable.

Performance that Dissapeared: Two Case Studies of Alternative Aesthetics in the Recent Latvian Theatre History

Zane Kreicberga, Latvian Academy of Culture

The paper will focus on the alternative theatre and performance culture of the late 1980s in Latvia and on two independent companies that appeared around 1987 in particular, namely “The Obsessed House” and “The Theatre Studio No. 8”. Both companies existed only for a few years and their activities and traces in Latvian theatre had not been properly researched by now. However, they are remarkable because of their aesthetics, which significantly differed from the mainstream Latvian theatre of the time and could be regarded as performative transgressions.

Performing Dirty Hands at the Finnish National Theatre in 1948

Hanna Korsberg, University of Helsinki

In my presentation I will discuss debated boundaries and strategies of transgression in performing arts. I am looking at a production of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Dirty Hands at the Finnish National Theatre and discussing the political context of transgression. What were the boundaries the production broke and the strategies the theatre negotiated with the transgression.

Performing, Speaking and Singing Bodies. The Physical Theatre as a Concept, a Phenomenon and Practice of Contemporary (?) Transgression of Genre Borders

Ildikó Sirató, Hungarian Dance University

The paper refers to the contemporary performances using distinctive name of Physical Theatre. What does that concept mean in comparison to stage genres that are (more) traditional (dance, movement performance, wordless theatre, voice-performance, etc.)? What are the topical features of practice of Physical Theatre performances, focusing e.g. on performers’ tasks, text and textures of content, analytic and/or symbolic characters and gestures, technics and methods of multiplication of characters?

Polishing Reykjavik: Immigrant Language on the City Theatre

Daria Skjoldager-Nielsen, Stockholm University

When a colleague asked me: “Do you know that we are staging a performance in Polish in the Reykjavík City Theatre?”, my mind immediately exploded with all the questions: why? How is it possible? Who is responsible for that? And most importantly, how is it going? After all, it is not that often to see a performance in a foreign language to be part of the regular repertoire of the city theatre. As a guest performance – yes; as part of the immigrant institution (e.g., polnisches theater kiel – Polish Theatre in Kiel, Germany) – yes; as a performance in an official minority language (e.g., Finnish in Sweden) – yes. But the forementioned example does not belong to any of those cases: the City Theatre invited foreign artists to perform in their mother tongue and included the result of their work in the regular repertoire available to all the Reykjavík residents.

Sound Art and Performativity in Johhan Rosenberg "traps"

Karl Saks, Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre

My proposal for the conference would be a presentation on the topic of sound art and performativity. In the context of my artistic research as a sound artist, I participated in Johhan Rosenberg's solo work "Traps", where I was interested in the audible components of the work and their relationship with the dramatic structure and choreographic material of the production, as well as communication with the author during the production process and presentation. A very strong detail that emerged from the performances was the fact that I did not just make sound design, but I accompanied Johhan’s performance in real time.

The Notion of Suicide in Lithuanian Theatre

Monika Jašinskaitė, University of Tartu

World statistics show Lithuania is among the countries with the highest suicide rates in the world. During recent decades the problem has been known yet little approached in performing arts, although theatre has been traditionally seen as important tool for shaping national identity. The presentation discusses three different approaches to suicide in several works on Lithuanian stage.

The Reception of Transgressive Performances. The Case of NO99

Madli Pest, Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre

The presentation will look into the perception and reception of transgressive performances. I will analyse the case of the Theatre NO99. Theatre NO99 (2005–2018) was an Estonian contemporary theatre that was founded by the director Tiit Ojasoo, the director and scenographer Ene-Liis Semper and the dramaturg Eero Epner. The theatre created performances that crossed both aesthetic and thematic boundaries compared to traditional theatre. NO99 became a frequent visitor at theatres and theatre festivals across Europe. The presentation focuses on two productions that represent transgressive political theatre and that created most controversy and debate in the European media.

The Theory of Verbal Action/Influence as One of the Tools of Transgression of Boundaries Between Theatre/Performance and Everday Life

Victor Polyakoff

If we try to give an artistic illustration of the general theme of our conference, then I would illustrate the concept of Performativity with a phrase from the ancient Roman writer Petronius Arbiter “Mundus universus exercet histrionam”. This saying, by the way, adorned the pediment of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Yes, and the very phrase Shakespeare elaborated in his play “As you like it” in the monologue of Jaques “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players”.

The Transformative Power of Transgression in Juhan Ulfsak’s Works as a Director

Karin Allik, University of Tartu

Juhan Ulfsak has been present and well-received in the Estonian theatre field for more than two decades, working both as an actor and as a director. His works can be described as daring and original, but more importantly, often transgressive. In my presentation, I would like focus on three of his pieces – NO36 The Dreamers (2017), Rather Not (2020) and Melancholia (2022), which I regard to have transgressive elements – and study how the transgressive elements in the productions potentially influence the dynamics between the actors and the audience, transforming the viewers into co-subjects.

Theatre Beyond the Human. Interspecies Relations in Ecotheatre in Latvia

Kitija Balcare, University of Latvia

The aim of the paper is to analyze econarratives in productions of ecotheatre in Latvia looking for interconnections, represented in various forms and on various stages, between humans and non-human entities, whether plant, animal, biotope or any other form of life. Paper highlights how do theatre practitioners in Latvia represent care for nature – emotional and also physical – that goes beyond the human meanwhile turning ecotheatre into environmental activism.

Transformative Learning Through Transgressive Performer Training Pedagogy in the Context of Higher Education

Jüri Nael, Estoninan Academy of Theatre and Music

It could be argued that one of the main aims of performer training is their growth through transformative learning experience. Transgressive pedagogy, both in the context or education and artistic practice, in the era of #metoo movement, has a danger of becoming endangered practice as the tutors/artists have become more aware of the possible consequences of their pedagogical strategies.

Transgressing Borders: Practices of Mobility and Cultural Exchange at the Royal Danish Theatre

Ulla Kallenbach, University of Bergen

In this paper, I will discuss the Royal Danish Theatre’s practices of international travelling and its impact on the national repertoire and aesthetics in the long nineteenth century. The paper will present work in progress from the research project Artistic Exchanges: The Royal Danish Theatre and Europe (Aarhus University/University of Bergen, 2021-2024).

Transgression in Work and Life of Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz

Liina Lukas, University of Tartu

"I love all strange instances/cases; they are the sign of not mean hearts. I can't stand a quarter of an hour with anyone who trots along the beaten track". These are the words Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz, the son of the pastor of Tartu's (Dorpat’s) St John's Church, wrote to his friend, the German writer Sophie von La Roche, from Strasbourg in July 1775. The strange instances that often provocatively test and possibly transgress the norms and boundaries of the social or moral order are also treated by Lenz in his work. Lenz is a transgressive author par exzellence, if one understands by transgression the transgression of a norm, law or taboo (in terms of Georges Bataille, Michel Foucault and others). 

Transgression of Gaze in Performing Arts

Anneli Saro, University of Tartu

The Greek word theatron referred to a place for viewing and viewing is still the core of communication in performing arts. Nevertheless, viewing or a gaze can be perceived also as a performative or transgressive act, since it is an implicit extension of the viewer’s body that touches or even penetrates the object viewed. In the paper, I am going to analyse what kind of gazes, when and why could be considered transgressive, making first a distinction between neutral and performative, and secondly between theatrical and extra-theatrical gazes.

Transgressive Collaborations: The Case of Von Krahl Theatre

Luule Epner, Tallinn University

Established in 1992, Von Krahl Theatre is the first permanently operating private theatre in re-independent Estonia. In the 1990s it acted as an open platform for diverse experimental theatre projects. At the turn of the century, Von Krahl theatre hired a small permanent troupe and intensely developed international collaboration. The paper takes look at two collaborative productions that premiered in 2001. Connecting People, directed by Finnish guest director Erik Söderblom from Q-Teatteri, was the world premiere of Jouko Turkka’s controversial play Osta pientä ihmistä. Production was received as a social critical performance, missing in Estonian theatre of the time, and it generated debates revolving around ethical and political issues. Pirates, the collaboration of Von Krahl Theatre and Showcase Beat le Mot from Hamburg, was one of the first examples of performance-theatre in Estonia. In criticism, it was called “an underground outbreak teasing official theatre culture and acts like a vagabond invading a nunnery”.

Transgressive Performances: Refugees Demanding the Right to Have Rights

Stephen Elliot Wilmer, Trinity College Dublin

Despite the UN Declaration on Human Rights that “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum”, Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben and Jacques Rancière have commented on the lack of human rights of the refugee. They argue that, while the nation-state privileges the rights of its citizens, it arbitrarily undermines the status of the refugee. According to Arendt, “The great danger arising from the existence of people forced to live outside the common world is that… they begin to belong to the human race in much the same world as animals belong to a specific animal species ... forcing millions of people into … the conditions of savages.” (Origin of Totalitarianism, p. 30). In this article I explore not only the mechanisms by which the nation-state transgresses the rights of the non-citizen and the philosophical commentary on this by Arendt, Agamben and Rancière, but also the ways in which theatre performances can transgress the disenfranchising actions of the nation-state.

When the Real Contextual World Pushes Itself into the Centre of Fiction

Pirkko Koski, Univeristy of Helsinki

I will examine the role that contemporary society plays in politicising theatrical events and themes. I have chosen to survey Hagar Olsson’s 1939 play Lumisota (Snowball Fight) which tells about a fictional Finnish Prime Minister’s family in that same year: negotiations with the Soviet Union and political tensions of the family. The play is intimately bound up with contemporary societal tensions, but its theme has also been activated in 2022.

Where Are We And What Does It Mean?

Sigríður Lára Sigurjónsdóttir, University of Iceland

Protest movements in Iceland have been experimenting with different forms of street actions to make their dissidence known. Street performance is by no means a big part of Icelandic culture but a few distinct events have still made history there. Some are monumental ones that made a lot of difference, such as the Women's Holiday on November 24th 1975, when Icelandic women in Reykjavík took a day off and flocked to the streets and made a big impact on the fight for women's rights in Iceland.On November 8th, 2008, protests in the aftermath of the economic collapse in Iceland were happening every weekend. This particular Saturday was unusually eventful at Austurvöllur, the square in front of the house of congress, for many reasons.

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