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Ultraworlds. Radical Languages of Form in the Productions of Susanne Kennedy, Lucia Bihler, and Florentina Holzinger (2021-)

Hannah Schünemann, Research Area 2: "Travelling Matters"
Doctoral Research Project

In the globalised and digitalised world of the 21st century, the processing of information and the challenge of perception have become more ambivalent and diverse. The range of technical possibilities and media constellations creates access to new worlds of experience, while at the same time pointing to a multitude of ruptures with our accustomed perspective. Against this background, new and different forms of storytelling have been emerging for a long time, and since the beginning of the 2010s they have also been gaining increasing relevance in the performing arts. In the theatrical context, this change affects not only the text as a medium of storytelling, but diverse media, materials and techniques involved in the transformation of collaborative narratives on stage. Hence, transformations in the theatre of the 21st century must be understood as multi-layered modelling processes whose form-giving components are crucial as "travelling matter" for the critique and transformation of traditional structures.

In her research project, Hannah Schünemann looks at the works of the directors Susanne Kennedy and Lucia Bihler, as well as of the choreographer Florentina Holzinger, to examine a young generation of artists who paradigmatically stand for a formal change in the performing arts since the 2010s, breaking away from the aesthetics of the preceding decades and the status quo of post-dramatic theatre. The focus of the analysis is on the formal composition of the productions, their bodily, technical, material and media components, and their interaction. Gesture forms the theoretical foundation for considering and describing performative bodies on stage. Proceeding from Judith Butler's definition, the project follows a partial cross-section through the theoretical history of gesture to Bertolt Brecht, Franz Kafka, Walter Benjamin and Jacques Derrida, and works out possible correspondences and contradictions to the formal languages of the 21st century. Considering the way in which traditional theatrical elements are exhibited, decontextualised, shifted and changed in the process of their circulation and transmission, the research project focuses on the description and conceptual theorisation of updated world concepts on stage. It draws attention to Kennedy's, Holzinger's and Bihler's examination of established modes of representation on stage – their revision and updating – within their complex languages of form. The interlinking of the three artists within the research project thereby brings together aesthetic considerations on theatre with questions of posthumanism, the interaction between human and nature after the Anthropocene, gender performativity and empowerment of action, media competition and the dissociation of the individual in the age of digitalisation. In doing so, the project aims to contribute to the broader theme of Research Area 2 and explore the critical potential of a transmedial and transmaterial theatre aesthetic for the 21st century.