Dialogical processes between efficiency and wastage are everywhere. The blue text are notes to self from June 2020.
The Value of Art
Theatre is wastage. Theatre doesn’t pay off. If it is forced to pay off, then it must go below its level […]. But this civilization in which we live is oriented towards economy and not towards luxury and lavishness.
Art in general, but theatre in particular, is, as Heiner Müller puts it wonderfully, a place of lavishness and the wastage of a wide variety of resources: physical, mental, temporal and yes, even monetary.
In an economically oriented industrial society, in which cost-efficient use of increasingly scarce resources is a top priority, with the aim of creating products or added value, art, especially performative art as a place of unproductivity, seems “not useful”, seems to be considered a “non-essential industry” – and precisely for this reason it is an almost necessary way to actually highlight these moments of art as moments where efficiency, utility and productivity play no role, to take them seriously as moments that elude the industrial logic of work: moments of lavishness and wastage of resources. A work of art is – according to Marcel Mauss – a gift without purpose or goal. And at the same time there is the discrepancy between the gift of the shared art moment, and the “production process” of art, between the creative lavishness and the work done in advance for the production of a work of art. I will come back to this again and again in the course of my studies.
These free spaces, which are opened up by the moment of wastage and lavishness, are socially necessary in order, among other things, to deal with the most pressing questions of our times, to criticize and analyze, to create poetry, fantasies, utopias and possibilities for shaping our society, to create space for discourse. One of the most important questions, especially in these times of increased digital activity, is the design and reflection of the relationship between humans and digital technologies (artificial intelligence, machine learning) as well as the examination of possible forms of human-machine interaction – after all, artificial intelligence is generally regarded as the ideal image of a human being who is optimized through and through: A miracle of efficiency, not hindered by our emotions and sensations, often branded as disturbing.
Interdisciplinary Work Processes
The topic of interdisciplinarity from the perspective of computer science, for example, comes up when dealing with the interaction between man and machine, where the interaction of analytical thinking and creative work presents itself as a challenge. Will the tasks be divided in the future by clear boundaries, so to speak ‘everything half and half’?
This remark leads straight to my research question, which on the one hand will examine interdisciplinary work processes as they arise from our attempt to bring together artistic and technical project development methodologies. On the other hand, I would like to investigate whether and how the work processes affect the artistic-technical result.
Any development, be it technical or artistic, lives in the field of tension between “analytical thinking and creative work”, is at the same time characterized by the necessity of creative processes in the face of prevailing constraints of economic conditions. And so the interaction of art and algorithms will not only show itself as a negotiation of cost efficiency (artificial intelligence, machine learning) in the context of lavishness (art, theatre), but the interdisciplinary cooperation will be genuinely characterised by processes that constantly renegotiate the handling of the available means. It is a dialogical way of working between lavish creativity and the limitedness of resources that requires efficient action.
Process Ethnography as Participating Observer
My investigations will methodically operate within the field of rehearsal research. Although this field of research is gaining increasing importance within theatre studies, it is currently still a relatively young field. The heterogeneity and constant change of the field (i.e. of the theatrical development and rehearsal processes) means that no standardizable methodological research processes have (yet) been able to develop. Although a basic methodological reference to qualitatively oriented research designs known from ethnography is a promising starting point, it will require methodological sharpening in the long term with regard to the specific requirements and qualities of the artistic-theatrical field. This process is still in its infancy with regard to theatre rehearsal research.
The constant challenge is to develop a methodological approach that can take into account the novelty and openness of our interdisciplinary undertakings. The first step will be to clarify the fundamental question of ‘field access’: It is “not just a physical, it is a social issue.” Therefore, in this case – also for legal reasons – a balance has to be found between the necessary insight into development and decision-making processes that are not intended for the public and the protection of personal and company rights. My dual role as a dramaturge and researcher will allow me to follow the process directly, but at the same time requires me to constantly reflect on this relationship between participation and the necessary critical distance.
In terms of content, I will be guided in these questions by the concept of dialogue. From my current doctoral project in theatre studies, “Dialogicity in Theatre” (working title), I take the approach that it is precisely the investigation of the dialogical, i.e. the study of relationships between different but equal voices, that is particularly suitable for investigating constantly changing and moving structures and processes. I base my work on the findings of Mikhail Bakhtin, a linguist from the field of Russian formalism. He determines dialogical polyphony, i.e. the dialogical interplay of unmixed, independent and equal voices – originally derived from music – as the defining structural element of Dostoevsky’s novels, but derives from this a further meaning of dialogical relationships:
For dialogical relations are a much broader phenomenon than the relations between the replicas of a dialogue appearing in the composition; dialogical relations are an almost universal phenomenon that permeates all human speech and all relations and phenomena of human life […].
The dynamic category of the dialogical holds a great deal of potential for knowledge in contrast to a focus on substances and objects that are assumed to be closed. In relation to my dissertation, I regard theatre as a living organism whose organs are anchored in the most diverse areas of life reality. This approach has the potential for an open-ended, comprehensive view, especially of transdisciplinary activities, and therefore necessarily requires an expansion of my research approaches to fields beyond theater performance.
I Am a Participating Observer.
Quasi-ethnological theatre scholar.
How can the joint artistic and technical development processes be observed, documented, analysed, processed, published, made comprehensible?
How can the “field” and the “field access” be determined in this context?
I will document the development processes as transparently as possible, as well as reveal the methodological considerations.
I am a dramaturge and scholar.
I will continue the dialogue with myself. Revise, re-write, overwrite, correct, comment.
And make this process visible.
Photo: “Blind Light” (2007), Installation by Antony Gormley
Translations by the author.
 Heiner Müller: “Theater ist Krise. Heiner Müller im Gespräch, 16. Oktober 1995”. In: Joachim Fiebach (Ed.): Manifeste europäischen Theaters. Berlin, 2003, pp. 330-371, p. 331.
 Sissy-Ve Basmer-Birkenfeld, Tobias Redlich, Robert Weidner, Markus Langenfeld: “Unsicherheiten der Technikentwicklung – Ein Lernpapier zur Interdisziplinarität”. Andrea-von-Braun-Stiftung, 2019.
 Mikhail Bakhtin: Probleme der Poetik Dostoevskijs. Munich, 1971. p. 48.
 Georg Breidenstein et. al.: Ethnografie. Die Praxis der Feldforschung. Constance and Munich, 2013. p. 50.