The Future Archive of Theater

Over the course of the festival, I’ve been asking theater makers within and without tt10 about the state of German theater by asking them about the past of theater from the perspective of the future. I’ve been asking the theater makers to assess or reassess their position to the theater of now by looking out from an imaginary future. This tactic, which has been developed by two critical theorists, Manuela Zechner and Anja Kanngieser, is called the future archives and it provides a space to think about the possibility of change. I’ve asked:

Imagine you’re living in the year 2050.  Please describe the theater of 2010 as you remember it.  What’s improved?  What do you miss?

In my correspondence with theater makers, some have said they’d prefer not to discuss the future of German theater or the future at all. Others have said such speculations of ‘visionaries’ have proved to be dangerous over the course of history. But others have agreed with Manuela Zechner and Anja Kanngieser, that talking about the present in the future in the now can help us reframe our desires. These answers can be read and discussed here.

: People are much better at moving in unison and harmonizing now. In the past, they weren’t good enough yet. But I still miss the dirty rooms.
Pavol Liska, co-director of The Nature Theater of Oklahoma.

: maybe it’s like this:
April 4, 2050
in the fourth grade of some elementary school
Marion C. raises his hand. We’re in the history lesson. In the history books. They still exist. The open pages show a space in which a lot of people are sitting and staring in a single direction where two people are standing and seem to be moving and speaking with one another.
Marion asks, why did people even go to the theater then.
The teacher, Ms. Kramer, is walking back and forth, rubbing her hands. She remains in place and thinks, then walks back and forth, rubbing her hands. The children, they are all sitting and staring in the same direction. The hands are rubbed. The mouth of the teacher opens, silently. And then there’s a sound.
Ekat Cordes, Stueckemarkt author.

: Theatre of the future. Or of the now. Shit, I miss the old days. When you could actually „see“ an actor on the stage. I mean, it was the days of skype and mobile phones and the internet and things had an aura of reality around them. You could smell the sweat of the actors and of the audience around you, which actually was sometimes a bit problematic. The theatre of today offers more reality than reality ever has, you can explore new worlds in the post-cyberspace virtual module – but its like they say. You can always know a cyber-actor by looking into his eyes. And somehow I always get a nostalgic feeling thinking about the empty German stages and the fake blood that used to flow on the stage floor. It´s strange, now in the year 2050, in a world of complete reality, where everything can be created, the fantasy is just missing.
Símon Birgisson, director, dramaturg and participant in the International Forum.

: In 2010 we were afraid of materials. 2010 is in between showing this fear, because living is fear, and trying to understand this fear. They were very serious in 2010, a little too serious. I missed playfulness in 2010, the fact that theater is a way to play with reality. In 2050, we see that all of this is nothing and we’re trying to live more.
Lucie Zelger, actress and participant in the International Forum.

: theatre in 2010 is obsessed with not being theatre. it is ambivalent to its history and confused as to its future, as a slightly bashful anachronism. some people go back to fetishizing the authenticity of the performers voice and body, the body of performance art and the authority of narrative, others fetishize the idea of an ‚outside‘ via site specific performance and the like. theatre loves the idea of post-humanistic mediations. a ‚theatre‘ is a building in which social divisons are played out in perverse an aesthetically pleasing ways.
after the bazzleolution during which the curtain were burned and applause was banned, banks to the future were installed in the old theatre houses. the theatre became the repository of radical multidimensional therapeutic time travelling whereby people reenacted the traumas of their pasts via the divisions between auditorium, stage and backstage. witches and time ladies facilitate this travel, having overthrown the patriarchy of wizards and time lords.
we miss the feel of velvet curtains on our skin. but we have velvet skin now.
Manuela Zechner and Anja Kanngieser, creators of the future archives.

:“Ich sage euch, wenn sie nicht alles in hölzernen Kopien bekommen, verzettelt in Theatern, Konzerten und Kunstausstellungen, so haben sie weder Augen noch Ohren dafür. Schnitzt einer eine Marionette, wo man den Strick hereinhängen sieht, an dem sie gezerrt wird und deren Gelenke bei jedem Schritt in fünffüßigen Jamben krachen – welch ein Charakter, welche Konsequenz! Nimmt einer ein Gefühlchen, eine Sentenz, einen Begriff und zieht ihm Rock und Hosen an, macht ihm Hände und Füße, färbt ihm das Gesicht und läßt das Ding sich drei Akte hindurch herumquälen, bis es sich zuletzt verheiratet oder sich totschießt – ein Ideal! Fiedelt einer eine Oper, welche das Schweben und Senken im menschlichen Gemüt wiedergibt wie eine Tonpfeife mit Wasser die Nachtigall – ach, die Kunst!
Setzt die Leute aus dem Theater auf die Gasse: die erbärmliche Wirklichkeit! – Sie vergessen ihren Herrgott über seinen schlechten Kopisten. Von der Schöpfung, die glühend, brausend und leuchtend, um und in ihnen, sich jeden Augenblick neu gebiert, hören und sehen sie nichts. Sie gehen ins Theater, lesen Gedichte und Romane, schneiden den Fratzen darin die Gesichter nach und sagen zu Gottes Geschöpfen: wie gewöhnlich! – Die Griechen wußten, was sie sagten, wenn sie erzählten, Pygmalions Statue sei wohl lebendig geworden, habe aber keine Kinder bekommen.“
Camille, from Danton’s Death by Georg Büchner, 1835. Act 2, Scene 3.
Laurent Chetouane, director.


Herbordt / Mohren, directors.

: In 2050 theater is much better because I don’t have to leave my house, it’s already there waiting for me but I do miss a bunch of people screaming ‘boo’ together.

Chris Kondek, director and video artist.

: There were some people who wanted to change the way things were, but who weren’t satisfied (with things or with themselves) when they got it, and even so they are still around today somewhere.
Hannes Becker, Stueckemarkt author.

: It’s 2050 and I’m 67. After I worked in a lot of different theatre and performance projects for more than 40 years, one of my grandchildren (I have to admit: my favorite) just started to work as an artistic freelancer as well. My two children always feel bad, because I have so less money these days. Both my daughters turned out to be pragmatic. One became a teacher (like my mother), and the other works as a lawyer. The lawyer is now pretty afraid that her daughter will turn out to be as reckless as me: Since the last Stadttheater died in 2044 there are only a few real houses left, where you can do theatre. It became pretty hard. And you have to travel a lot.
Most of the stuff I’m doing these days is in special places: shop windows, parks, the web and mostly flats from rich people who don’t want theatre to die. Sometimes I tell my granddaughter about my youth and its theatre: I think it was more satisfied than these times (although there was a lot complaining). Who wants to be an actor or director or author today has to be really sure of this. I kind of miss the times when there were discussions if there were too many promotion programs for young artists or not. But my granddaughter is very serious with her plans. I have the feeling that there is a revolutionary undertone in her generation.
Alexandra Müller, tt10 blogger.

: the most important changes of the (German-speaking) theater scene in the last 40 years has definitely been the fact that the theater institutions have changed. The so-called repertoire theater – theater with a fixed ensemble of actors – remain one of the exceptions: however, it’s no longer the bigger city and state theaters with their huge apparatuses that dominate the theater landscape, but rather the innumerous groups of independent theater companies, who work together with certain venues in co-productions and who are linked with various venues and theater houses. Repertoir theater became a theater of touring and guest performances. A model which has existed for a very long time outside of the German-speaking realm (see, for instance, France). This structural change allowed for a greater exchange between the various approaches and aesthetics of the various companies, for a greater internationalization and a more general openness to the other
art forms. A well subsidized ‘scene’ formed that also became well respected outside of the German-speaking areas.
Today’s audience of 2050 now enjoys very different productions, production styles and theater approaches – often, the borders between performance, fine arts, installation and ‘speaking theater’ blur.
That’s also the reason why theater has been able to become more important and relevant: the number of viewers rose, and, in comparison to the movies and the virtual worlds (to name a recent accomplishment), it seems that there’s a growing need for a live experience and the directness of contemporary theater. Which is a very pleasant development.
Tomas Schweigen, director

: In 2010, they were still using actors in the same, physical space. Now we have actors from all continents, performing simultaneously – on a live feed. I miss the space.
Peca Stefan, Stueckemarkt author.

: From today’s perspective I would say that theater in 2010 resembles a giant fossil, like one from a dinosaur, a fossil that you didn’t really know where to put it to collect dust. Of course, no one really wanted to have it anymore. Even then it seemed to me that stage theater was really moving because it came from a time when people let themselves been hypnotized by one-dimensional means. That was also somehow beautiful and naïve, as is when children believe in Santa Claus.
Back then I was an actress and I was unbelievably bored with conventional stage theater. However, I had the luck to be able to work with SIGNA, a theater group from Copenhagen. From January to March 2010 we locked ourselves for four weeks in an abandonded villa and performed a version of Pasolini’s film “Salo.” The audience could come and go as they wished. We performed 24 hours a day. The police showed up a number of times – but we kept performing and the villa was always full. The audience broke down in the show by the score. They cried out for joy, for anger, for sadness and from laughing. They came and they abused us, the hated and loved us. We mixed them up and that was a good thing, because stage theater didn’t do that anymore for some reason. I’ll miss my time in Salo, even if the food was terrible and even if I can’t listen to Tschaikovsky anymore. I can still remember a girl named Erna. Her parents fled from war. She came every day to the villa and said that this place was the only place where she learned to understand the war, and where she could process all the horrors that her family suffered. She always had rum truffles with her, I remember that too. I wonder whatever happened to her.
Stefanie Mühlhan, writer and actress with the theater troupe SIGNA

: in a present from the future looking at the past – that has very little to do with science fiction, it has more to do with history. Especially with our own. To get into this though experiment, I’ll sit in a café in Vienna in the year 2050, I’ll order a Melange and read the newspapers from 2010. The headlines astonish me. They awake old memories but the social conditions, in which they occurred, are lost to me. I remember very personal details. I remember a still infant impulse to box up the whole world in my texts. I remember a curiosity to see and experience as much as possible. The desire to gain money, power, fame and the whole world with writing. And the theater, which in its very, very old historicity, never stopped to give everything old a new life. In that respect, nothing has changed in 2050. I’m just coming from the Burgtheater. It still smells like it always smelled. The smell of a sunken monarchy that buried itself in ruins. And in the seats in pit and on the balcony. A year ago, they reappolstered the seats. Now they look like they’re from the year 2050, they remind me of 2010 and stink like in 1880. The façade has been redone for the third time since I’ve been in Vienna. When the representative crumbles, it’s painted over. The stone underneath is hollow. One day, perhaps in 3050, the Burgtheater is going to collapse. A new Burgtheater will be built, with a new architecture that resembles an old tradition from a post-post modern viewpoint. It will be a new post-post-baroque, that will introduce a new perception of virtual bodies to the post-post modern man. That the virtual, the medial immaterial, originates from an old realization between the break of sense and being will be carried by the technological transformation but will not be immediately obvious. The new that takes places on the surfaces. The old that lies in the layers of history underneath. I think, this history cannot be avoided, I put down the newspaper and I finish my Melange.
Thomas Arzt, Stueckemarkt author

: Ahh, the theater of 2010. Or even 2020 for that matter – what a joke! They were still concerned with whether or not people should be entertained in the theater or whether they should be learning something. There were all these questions that dated back hundreds of years and back then it seemed like there was never going to be a definitive answer, but that was before there was Pristine Etere. Or rather, she had been born, but she hadn’t developed her theory or stage praxis yet, she was just a kid in 2010, playing with a gameboy all the time. Of course, you’re familiar with her theory and I don’t need to explain it to you, but basically since Pristine people have stopped worrying about whether or not theater serves a function, now we know just what it is. Of course, I don’t need to explain that to you but back in 2010, they were really worried about this. Funny, isn’t it?
Shane Anderson, author and blogger

The future archive is a platform that issues divergent responses to the problem of how to think about the future. It investigates how people position themselves vis a vis the future, conceptually and practically – how they try to make change happen. As such, the future archive engages conversations that are set in possible times and spaces to come, which two or more people performatively inhabit as proposed versions of futurity. From there, contemporary society is remembered. In every conversation, a different future is negotiated – via a discursive methodology complicit with radical pedagogy and action research, as well as techniques of interview and dialogue. –MZ and AK


Shane Anderson

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