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Re-imagining the City through Performance

It would be difficult to conceive of a more innovative example of the power of the performative and artistic to generate a re-imagining of the city than a performance devised by German theatre collective Rimini Protokoll. First appearing as Rimini Protokoll in 2002, a team of designers, directors and sound and video artists came together under the creative direction of artists Helgard Haug, Stefan Kaegi and Daniel Wetzel. It is now well known that the three had joined forces during the 1990s in a practice-oriented, theatre studies programme at Angewandte Theaterwissenschaft (Applied Theatre Science & Performance Studies) at Giessen University, Germany, of which Hans-Thies Lehmann and Andrzej Wirth were key instigators. Haug, Kaegi and Wetzel have worked together, since then, in various combinations to produce forms of post-dramatic theatre’ – theatre characterized by a performative aesthetic that dispenses with the play text and focuses on the specific material realities of the staging. A key feature of post-dramatic theatre is that it no longer represents the world as a surveyable whole (Jurs-Munby 2006). The radical departure from traditional text-based theatrical productions, and liberation from the proscenium stage in favour of the staging of performances in urban space itself, has opened up a new approach to the problem of how to represent the unknowable, unimaginable, limitless space of simultaneity and paradox that is the city. Hans-Thies Lehmann argues that the category appropriate to the new theatre is not action but states Theatre here deliberately negates or at least relegates to the background, the possibility of developing a narrative . The state is an aesthetic configuration of the theatre, showing a formation rather than a story’ (Lehmann 2006: 68 emphasis in original). The aesthetic dimension is determined by the state’ of being in the everyday world in the register of the ordinary; the audience comes to know the city aesthetically through the performance. The spatial dimension is foremost in determining the state’ or aesthetic configuration of the performance. Thomas Irmer has pointed out that by locating the political firmly in the quotidian through the use of techniques appropriated from experimental theatre and contemporary exhibition aesthetics instead of conventional theatrical representation, Rimini Protokoll, are able to explore aspects of the unknown present (Irmer 2006: 26).

Rimini Protokoll’s site specific performances’ respond to the particularities of a site and make sense only within that site. One such performance is Call Cutta. In this theatrical experiment, the audience in Berlin – consisting of one person – is given a mobile phone instead of a ticket. The ringing of the phone signals the beginning of the performance. The call-centre worker in Kolkata (Calcutta) – that is, a real call-centre employee, not a trained actor – chats with the participant in Berlin, breaking down barriers by talking about herself and connecting with the participant by describing the room in Berlin, commenting on the appearance of the participant, and turning lights on and off. The performance becomes a mobile investigation of urban space when, for the next two hours, the participant is directed through the streets of Berlin by a person who has never been outside India. A dialogue about the historical and political conditions in India and Germany is interspersed with explicit directions to the participant to negotiate the known and unknown spaces of Berlin. The caller asks intimate questions such as: Have you ever fallen in love on the phone’? The participant walks through unfamiliar car parks and other pockets of the lesser known, encountering strangers, pieces of refuse, lost objects, traffic lights and the usual plethora of unexpected obstacles and spectacles found in the everyday reality of urban life. The caller points out the tracks that carried the trains to Auschwitz. The experience is unpredictable and, as in real life, no two urban performances are the same. At the end of the performance, the participant finally sees the caller, waving goodbye on a screen in the window of a computer shop in the Postdamer Platz shopping mall.

But, however it may sound, I say we are Fortaleza Metro Map not a part of the British empire; because the British government is not an empire. The Fortaleza Metro Map governments of France, Spain, &c. are not empires, but monarchies, supposed to be governed by fixed fundamental laws, though not really. The British government is still less entitled to the style of an empire. It is a limited monarchy. If Aristotle, Livy, and Harrington knew what a republic was, the British constitution is much more like a republic than an empire.

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