Performance, Philosophy and and the Remembrance of the Holocaust
The shift will explore the relationship between performance, philosophy and the remembrance of the Holocaust by setting up an encounter between 3 academics: Alan Read, Freddie Rokem and Alison Forsyth, and a work-in-progress sharing of a performance by Jane Arnfield (directed by Mike Alfreds), entitled The Tin Ring. For the shift, Arnfield will perform excerpts from The Tin Ring, which looks at the Holocaust through the life of Zdenka Fantlova, ‘one of only a handful of Holocaust Survivors who survived the entire extermination process… from Terezin to Bergen Belsen’ (Arnfield). Fantlova, now 88 years old, will be present at the shift and will participate in a discussion with Arnfield after the performance.
Forsyth’s paper will ‘raise questions as to the various motivations behind Holocaust art and the complicated, but nonetheless continuing relationship between the two parts of this pairing (despite the oft cited belief that the two are intrinsically oxymoronic). The discussion will also consider testimony as a form of art and the phenomena of first hand witnesses of trauma utilising metaphor, figurative language and aesthetic frameworks to express the most harrowing “truths” of reality’ (Forsyth).
Rokem and Read will extend an ongoing dialogue regarding the relations between the work of Primo Levi and the writing of the Italian philosopher, Giorgio Agamben. Read’s particular concern will be to explore further what he describes as ‘the brief but telling line’ from Levi’s The Truce ‘in which he refers to news of release coming from “[…] in the theatre and through the theatre […]”. The reflection I would like to bring to this felicitous phrase,’ Read explains ‘derives from a question put to me by Freddie Rokem, which I not only could not answer but could not conceive of answering, concerned the relations between Levi’s witness in this chapter, appropriately called “The Theatre” and the writing of Agamben in Remnants of Auschwitz on the fate of the Musselman’. In turn, Rokem will explore ‘the performative reverberations of the simple fact that within not too many years the survivors and direct witnesses of the Holocaust will have died, adding another dimension of crisis to the expressions of testimony and witnessing on which performances rely’ (Rokem).
Jane Arnfield has been a theatre practitioner for the past twenty-two years, having graduated from Dartington College of Arts in 1988 with a BA (Hons) in Theatre. She has been a member of three ensemble companies: Method & Madness, The David Glass Ensemble incorporating work with the Lost Child Project in South East Asia and South America and Northern Stage. She has also worked with directors including Richard Gregory from Quarantine on a number of site-specific projects and Mike Alfreds at Hampstead Theatre, The Young Vic and Richmond Theatre London and Shakespeare’s Globe - where she played Imogen in Cymbeline. Jane is Artistic Director for the Holocaust Memorial event in Newcastle upon Tyne and an associate artist with the Documentation Centre in Cambodia (DC-Cam). Her recent solo work includes The Gymnast (2008), directed by Nigel Charnock, which examined the after effects of the Cambodian genocide of the late 1970's and beyond.
Dr Alison Forsyth is a lecturer in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies at the University of Aberystwyth. Prior to joining this department Alison taught at the universities of Stirling, Staffordshire, Bahrain, Tunisia and Kuwait. Alison is particularly interested in the various ways theatre and performance articulate and express the traumatic real – be that through testimonial art, adaptations of the ancients or documentary performance. Alison’s publications include the monograph, Gadamer, History and The Classics: Fugard, Marowitz, Berkoff and Harrison Rewrite the Theatre (2002), the co-edited volume, Get Real: Documentary Theatre Past and Present (2009) and articles such as “Performing Trauma: Race Riots and Beyond in the Work of Anna Deavere Smith” (2009), “Pacifist Antigones: Shaw, Brecht, Gambaro and Heaney” and “Performing Testimonies of Trauma: Antony Sher’s Primo (2004)” (forthcoming 2011). Alison is currently writing another monograph, provisionally titled The Trauma of Articulation: Arthur Miller’s Holocaust Plays.
Alan Read is currently Professor of Theatre at King's College London (ku.ca.lck|daer.nala#ku.ca.lck|daer.nala) where he is developing the Performance Foundation based in the Anatomy Theatre and Museum on the Strand and the East Wing of Somerset House. The first two projects of the Foundation are a Leverhulme supported enquiry (2010-2013) into politics and spectacle entitled: Inigo Jones: Past & Present Performance at Somerset House, and an EPSRC funded project (2011-2014) Bridging the Gaps in collaboration with the Institute of Making. Alan Read is the author of Theatre & Everyday Life (Routledge: 1995) and Theatre, Intimacy & Engagement (Palgrave: 2008). He is the editor of The Fact of Blackness (Bay Press: 1996) and Architecturally Speaking (Routledge: 2000). As a founding Consultant Editor of Performance Research Alan Read has edited two issues of the journal “On Animals” (2000) and “On Civility” (2004). His current theatre research concerns the fate of the dramatically insignificant.
Freddie Rokem is the Emanuel Herzikowitz Professor for 19th and 20th Century Art and teaches in the Department of Theatre Studies at Tel Aviv University, where he served as the Dean of the Yolanda and David Katz Faculty of the Arts (2002-2006). He is also a permanent guest Professor at Helsinki University, Finland and has been a visiting Professor at Stanford University, the Free University in Berlin, the University of Munich, the University of Stockholm and UC Berkeley. He was the editor of Theatre Research International (2006-2009). Rokem’s book Performing History: Theatrical Representations of the Past in Contemporary Theatre, published by University of Iowa Press (2000; published in Polish 2010) received the ATHE (Association for Theatre in Higher Education) Prize for best theatre studies book in 2001. Strindberg’s Secret Codes was published by Norvik Press (2004) and Philosophers and Thespians: Thinking Performance was published by Stanford University Press (2010).