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Spectacle

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Edited By Jennifer Creech and Thomas O. Haakenson

How does the visual nature of spectacle inform the citizenry, destabilize the political, challenge aesthetic convention and celebrate cultural creativity? What are the limits – aesthetic, political, social, cultural, economic – of spectacle? How do we explain the inherently exclusionary, revolutionary, dehumanizing and utopian elements of spectacle?
In this book, authors from the fields of cultural studies, cinema studies, history and art history examine the concept of spectacle in the German context across various media forms, historical periods and institutional divides. Drawing on theoretical models of spectacle by Guy Debord, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Jonathan Crary and Michel Foucault, the contributors to this volume suggest that a decidedly German concept of spectacle can be gleaned from critical interventions into exhibitions, architectural milestones, audiovisual materials and cinematic and photographic images emerging out of German culture from the Baroque to the contemporary.
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The Spectacle of Terrorism and the Threat of Theatricality

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In the years following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, terrorism became a central topic in German theater productions. While this is hardly surprising given terrorism’s impact on everyday life in the early twenty-first century, it is remarkable that theater directors shared an interest in a particular approach to the topic. When one takes a look at Germany’s theatrical landscape of roughly the last decade, one will find that several of the most prominent theaters showcased productions in which terror and terrorism were at the center of not only the thematic content but also the aesthetic methods of the performance. In Gotteskrieger [Holy Warrior], which premiered at Berlin’s Maxim Gorki Theater in May 2005, director Volker Hesse broke down the fourth wall and experimented with an “attack” on his spectators.1 With highly physical and palpable staging practices, he tried to convey an experience of terror and a sense of danger to his audience. Likewise, Johan Simons allowed his actors to mingle with the audience in his 2003 production of Heiner Müller’s Anatomie Titus Fall of Rome Ein Shakespearekommentar [Anatomy Titus Fall of Rome A Shakespeare Commentary].2 In doing so, he undercut the complacent position of the spectators, inviting them to question the modes of perception that underlie our engagement with violence. These two productions can serve as examples to illustrate what is at stake in the employment ← 269 | 270 → of a non-illusory aesthetic that foregrounds the experience of an event (in German das Ereignishafte) rather...

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