Next London Theatre Seminar with Michal Kobialka, 29 October 2015, 6:30 PM

Please join us for the next London Theatre Seminar on 29 October at 6:30 PM, with Michal Kobialka of the University of Minnesota. The event will take place in the University of London Senate House, Room G37 (Ground Floor).

Michal Kobialka 

Tadeusz Kantor’s Theatre of Personal Confessions: Notes on Late Style

In March 1998, two and a half years before his death, while working on I Shall Never Return, Tadeusz Kantor wrote:

Personal confession

a rather awkward and inconvenient technique. [. . .]

There is something ultimate about it,

something that is manifested only when one is faced with

the  E N D.

This is not the first time that Kantor is talking about “the END” or his meetings with death.  “My Meetings with Death,” an essay written a year earlier, presents a reader with a poetic incantation describing Kantor’s encounters with death and her various symbolic, metaphoric, or allegorical representations from the time he was six years old, through the times of the World War II to the time of his theatre experiments.

This immanent presence of death, I wish to argue, prompted Kantor to create a performance praxis that was not an enactment of a (Aristotelian or Platonic) reconciliation between subject and object, but a praxis that is best defined by the collapse or the fragmentation of the known, visible, and the sayable.  Kantor offered us that something which ripped across a representational field of the culture industry: an anamnesis which elaborates an initial forgetting induced by the languages of intelligibility; and a catachresis which wrestles the object from the pre-assigned use value and allows them to reveal their “objectness” and their state of unrest.

Kantor’s “awkward and inconvenient technique” brings to mind the conflicts and complexities lodged in the idea of late style as it was defined by Theodor Adorno in 1937 essay on Beethoven and reworked by Edward Said shortly before his death in September 2003.

Using Adorno’s indifference to appearances and his interest in fractured landscape as well as the notion of late works as catastrophes and Said’s idea of lateness as unresolved contradiction, this presentation will focus on Kantor’s Today is My Birthday (1990) in order to explore yet another rendition of late style and lateness—this time in the work of this Polish visual and performance artist.

Michal Kobialka is a Professor of Theatre in the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance at the University of Minnesota.  He has published over 75 articles, essays and reviews on medieval, eighteenth-century and contemporary European theatre, as well as the theatre Tadeusz Kantor.

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; the book was translated into Romanian under the title: O Călătorie ĭn Alte Spaţii: Teatrul lui Tadeusz Kantor (Cluj-Napoca: Casa Cărţii de Ştiinţa, 2010)] 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), and a co-editor (with Rosemarie Bank) of Theatre/Performance Historiography: Time, Space, Matter (Palgrave, 2015). 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.  

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