The Expanded Theatricalities Chair
In this inaugural edition of the Expanded Theatricalities Chair, the work and ideas of composer and director Heiner Goebbels (Germany, 1952) engage in dialogue with the proposals of artists María Jerez, Pablo Palacio and Silvia Zayas, continuing the debate on expanded theatricalities in these times of Anthropocene crisis — one that can also be considered a crisis of the insurgence of matter, following the ideas of Suely Rolnik.
Heiner Goebbels is one of the foremost creators in the contemporary artistic landscape, with productions and writings that draw influences from the “agency of matter”, a concept referring to matter as an agent of action. Over the past 30 years, Goebbels has challenged limits and deconstructed conventional aesthetic strategies, contributing with major innovations in the scenery of stage and performing arts. In his work Ästhetik der Abwesenheit. Texte zum Theater (Aesthetics of Absence. Texts on Theatre, 2012), which brings together his texts on theatre in their entirety and his music works, he puts forward the idea of theatre as a “thing in itself”, theatre in which a “drama of the senses” or a “drama of the mediums” is developed. The idea has given rise to productions like Stifters Dinge (Stifter’s Things, 2007) in which Goebbels, inspired by the intense perception of landscape in Adalbert Stifter’s novel Granite, creates a stage experiment without actors, whereby theatre mechanisms and stage elements take centre stage; or When the Mountain Changed its Clothing, a work inspired by the popular Resian song Da Da Pa Ćanynu, which reflects the seasonal changes in the Kanin mountains (Slovenia). In his compilatory work, Goebbels writes: “making people who act go backwards and thus excavating anthropocentric automatisms, [Stifter] forces us, through the description of natural catastrophes, for example, to let ourselves be stunned by the forces that escape our sphere of influence”.
Curated by the research-creation group ARTEA, the Chair analyses the thought that inhabits stage and performance practices and invites dialogues which occur between artistic practices and modes of social theatricality to be heard and fostered. The aim is to punctuate the political potency of theatre, choreography and action art, taking into consideration that which is inherent in all of them: the modes of collaborative production and simultaneous presence of bodies, differentiated and individualised, turned into places that posit discourse, the manifestation of dissidence and the emergence of desire as a driving force of life.
This edition of the Chair is linked to the research project The New Loss of Centre. Critical Practices of Live Arts and Architecture in the Anthropocene, developed by ARTEA since June 2020. The project focuses on the study of theatricalities inside the framework of environmental humanities, an interdisciplinary field of research which looks to bridge the gap between science and humanities, under the assumption that the human side is just one more agent among others that shape the environment. The first public activity linked to this research project was previously the study group Body, Territory and Conflict (Museo Reina Sofía, 2020–2021), coordinated by Fernando Quesada, a member of the ARTEA collective.
Diana Delgado Ureña is a stage arts researcher and independent cultural agent. Since 2013, she has worked as the academic and artistic director of the MA in Arts Practice and Visual Culture (University of Castilla la Mancha and Museo Reina Sofía). Her most recent work most notably includes being the curator, with artist Jaime Vallaure, of the Dame Cuartelillo series of performances in the Conde Duque Cultural Centre in Madrid (2019) and the publication, with artist Vicente Arlandis, editor Gabriela Halac and researcher Miguel Martínez, of El libro agotado (DocumentA/Escénicas, 2019), a stage laboratory on bibliodiversity.
Heiner Goebbels is a composer and director whose productions span musical theatre pieces, stage concerts and orchestral compositions, among other disciplines. He has participated in major music, theatre and art festivals around the world and exhibited his work in institutions such as Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Art Museum from the National University of Bogotá, and Musée d’art contemporain, Lyon. Furthermore, he has lectured at the Institute of Theatre Studies from the Justus Liebig University, Giessen (Germany) and is currently the first holder of the Georg Büchner Chair. Goebbels has been honoured with numerous international awards, including the Prix Italia, European Theatre Prize, and the International Ibsen Award.
María Jerez is an artist whose work is situated between choreography, cinema and the visual arts. In her recent work, she questions theatre and film conventions and the viewer’s implicit understanding in them, opening potential spaces through encounters with that which the spectator finds strange and alien, and establishing indistinct edges between what is known and unknown, between object and subject, the animate and the inanimate. Her work, therefore, seeks to escape logocentric and anthropocentric logics, where human knowledge becomes something vulnerable before other enigmatic and complex ecosystems.
Isabel de Naverán holds a PhD in Fine Arts from the University of the Basque Country and is an independent researcher. She is part of the research group ARTEA, with her studies exploring the crossroads between art, contemporary choreography and performance in curatorial, publishing and writing projects. In 2010, she founded, with Beatriz Cavia, Miren Jaio and Leire Vergara, the project Bulegoa z/b — Office for Art and Knowledge, with which she was affiliated until 2018. She is currently a live arts adviser in the Museo Reina Sofía’s Public Activities Department and an associate researcher at the Azkuna Zentroa Society and Contemporary Culture Centre in Bilbao.
Pablo Palacio in an electroacoustic and instrumental composer whose work centres on the development of algorithmic approaches in composition and new technology in the sphere of interactive music. Alongside Muriel Romero, he is the director and founder of Instituto Stocos, a project which explores the interaction between music, body movement and visual imagery, and made up of abstractions taken from other disciplines such as artificial intelligence, biology, mathematics and experimental psychology in a stage context.
Victoria Pérez Royo is a professor of Aesthetics and Art Theory at the University of Zaragoza and an ARTEA researcher. She has co-directed the MA in Arts Practice and Visual Culture (University of Castilla la Mancha and Museo Reina Sofía) and taught seminars in university art programmes in countries such as Argentina, Germany, Costa Rica, Belgium, the Netherlands and Mexico, among others. Moreover, she has published books that include Danza contemporánea, espacio público y arquitectura (2008) and Componer el plural. Cuerpo, escena, política (2016, with Diego Agulló). In recent years, she has worked as a curator and on research initiatives in institutions like La Casa Encendida, Museo Reina Sofía and Matadero Madrid.
Fernando Quesada is an architect and head lecturer in Architectural Projects at the University of Alcalá de Henares. He has also been part of the research-creation group ARTEA since its inception. His work focuses on two major fields: the theory and history of modern and contemporary architecture, and its relationship with stage arts and performance, and the main lines of work in this critical framework are the body, biopolitics, spatiality and social theatricality. Furthermore, his most recent publications include Tecnopastoralismo. Ensayos y proyectos en torno a la Arcadia tecnificada (Ediciones Asimétricas, 2020) and Mobile Theater. Architectural Counterculture on Stage (Actar Publishers, 2021).
José Antonio Sánchez is a lecturer at the Cuenca Faculty of Fine Arts and founder of the ARTEA research group and the MA in Arts Practice and Visual Culture (University of Castilla la Mancha and Museo Reina Sofía). Among his publications are La escena moderna (1999), Prácticas de lo real (2007) and Cuerpos ajenos (2017), and his recent work most notably includes directing the stage version of Argentinean artist León Ferrari’s Cuerpos ajenos (The Bodies of Others, 2017), in collaboration with Juan Ernesto Díaz and Ruth Estévez (2017–2018), and, with Esther Belvis, the publication of a monographic issue of the magazine Performance Research, “On Disappearance” (2019).
Silvia Zayas is an artist who works at the limits of live arts, film and expanded choreography. She searches for hybrid forms of research and artistic production, visible in her project Jumping Scales (Matadero Madrid, 2018). Her works most notably include Talking pictures (2018), with Esperanza Collado, and, in 2021, the films Brilliant Corners, with the Orquestina de Pigmeos collective, Puebla, with María Jerez, and the stage piece U.
10:30am – 11:30am Mists that Are Molluscs, that Are Landscapes, that Are Theatres
Encounter with María Jerez
In her work María Jerez explores the agency of things, materials, language, spaces, and other allies, human and non-human, that participate in her pieces, generating a map where the hierarchies of bodies change into a species of critical animism which sets forth an encounter with that which escapes anthropocentric logics. In the words of the artist: “I have always thought that every time you re-read a text it has changed. As a child, I would even open books very quickly to see if I could surprise the letters and catch the words moving; I suspected that that is what they did when the book was closed. I think it is Foucault who said that language is not a tool to observe and describe nature, but rather language is nature in and of itself. Mutating, ecosystemic, living”.
11:30am - 12:30pm Synergies and Algorithmic Connections Between Body, Sound and Light
Encounter with Pablo Palacio
This presentation centres on the analysis of some of the common principles between the art of dance, music and the visual arts, looking for feedback between these disciplines by employing digital interactive systems and generative algorithms. In practically analysing how this study can contribute to musical choreographic composition and the real-time generation and manipulation of light and image, the aim is to reflect on the validity of these instruments as a tool to construct multi-modal interactive environments in a stage context, and how the development of this technology can be a medium for amplifying corporeal awareness and the limits of our own physicality.
1pm- 2:30pm Film Session
Heiner Goebbels, Stifters Dinge [Stifter’s Things]
Switzerland, 2007, colour, original version in English and French with Spanish subtitles, 70’. Video by Marc Perroud
Drawing from writer Adalbert Stifter and his work Granite (Verlag von Gustav Heckenast, 1853), where he almost obsessively describes the Alpine landscape, Heiner Goebbels takes on the role of an architect of stage space, where a world of forms, weaves and colours reacquire life, agency and movement, far from the static and cold imprint of landscape painting. Goebbels builds an animated and activity-packed visual and sound landscape, giving voice and body to names such as Bach, Lévi-Strauss, the indigenous peoples from Colombia Goebbels recorded on a trip to South America in 1985, and Malcolm X, among others. It constitutes a high-tech tableau which engages in dialogue and enters into tension with the primary energies of the natural world.
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 400
5pm - 5:30pm Presentation of the Expanded Theatricalities Chair
Participants: Diana Delgado Ureña, Fernando Quesada, Isabel de Naverán, Victoria Pérez Royo, and José A. Sánchez
5:30pm – 6:45pm Aesthetics of Absence
Lecture by Heiner Goebbels
English, with simultaneous interpreting into Spanish
This master lecture sees Heiner Goebbels analyse the aesthetic strategies in performance and music practices which are increasingly empty at the centre. Instead of the basic assumptions of the theatre of “presence and intensity”, Goebbels reflects on an alternative notion of drama, one which moves beyond figures on stage to a drama of elements, a drama of the spectator’s perception. Interweaving a complex network of sound, music, literature, sociology and fine arts, and in collaboration with artists such as Romeo Castellucci, William Forsythe, Douglas Gordon, Ryoji Ikeda, Michal Rovner, Gregor Schneider, and numerous others, Goebbels produces works that, with other individual pieces, are shown in this lecture in the form of sound and video extracts.
6:45pm - 7:45pm Conversation with Heiner Goebbels
Participants: María Jerez and Pablo Palacio
Moderated by: Fernando Quesada
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 400
5pm Film Session and Talk
María Jerez and Silvia Zayas. The Boogie-Woogie Ghost
Spain, 2018, colour, original version in Spanish, 34’’
The Boogie-Woogie Ghost is a circular film shot inside a village house. The image is constantly modified through the movement of bodies that remain invisible to the camera, acting as ghosts. The objects in the house switch places, tremble or fall for no apparent reason, which imbues them with agency. Time and again the space mutates, as if non-human forces insist on relentlessly destabilising and activating it. The tension between the visible and the invisible create the appearance of the event, while the montage of images works inside the logic of the invisible when these images are captured, turning them into dance or a dance montage — a dance of ghosts.
Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200