Contemporary Central European Theatre: Document/ary versus Postmemory (2012-2013)

August, 2012 to October, 2013
International Visegrad Fund

Geopolitical changes in Europe that followed after 1989 have led to a situation in which the deconstruction of European and national identities has become a fact. The formation of a new cultural dimension of the united Europe – still under construction – was accompanied by the process of the revaluation of European history and especially the region. For the Visegrad countries, as for the post-communist countries in general, the last decade of the 20th century became the period when, along with revision of politics of memory, historical narratives that had dominated through the previous five decades were changed, sometimes to the diametrically opposite. In this situation theatre has been faced with a challenge: to draw public's attention to problems of the new 'black points' and prohibited zones that appeared through the creation of national myths, to the narratives about the past that had become marginalized, and to the memories that had been suppressed, altered, and/or deformed. The performances of the new generation of theatre artists seem to rebel against 'the correct memories' that the dominating version of history would suggest; they are extremely sensitive to the fact that in this part of Europe the transfer of memories from generation to generation was disrupted more than once and that these disruptions had to produce rather traumatic interpretations of the past. The contemporary artists are not only critical to the distortions and aberrations that collective memories often produce, thus contesting 'the objective truth'of history; for them, these memories are also reflections of historical traumas of the region and traces of numerous ideological manipulations.

Does the theatre have at its disposal tools to situate its use of documents so accurately that the result would not be understood as a new explanatory narrative (that is, after all, cannot be based on the phantasms of postmemory)? What could these tools be? Does contemporary theatre still need, at the same time, 'history' – in a more traditional sense of the word? What impact do 'historical' productions have on the audience: indeed which of them encourage spectators to undertake verification, investigations of their own, and which block these attempts?