Articles by: Sigrid Merx and Liesbeth Groot Nibbelink

Liesbeth Groot Nibbelink is Assistant Professor in Theatre and Performance Studies at Utrecht University, and also the coordinator of the master’s programme in Contemporary Theatre, Dance and Dramaturgy. Her research interests include dramaturgy and scenography, spatial theory, performance ecology and new materialism, and performance philosophy. She is the author of Nomadic Theatre: Mobilizing Theory and Practice on the European Stage (Bloomsbury, 2019) and has contributed to, among others, the edited volumes Thinking Through Theatre and Performance (Bloomsbury 2019), Staging Spectators in Immersive Performances (Routledge, 2019), and Intermedial Performance and Politics in the Public Sphere (Routledge, 2018). In 2013, she co-founded Platform-Scenography, an open-source platform invested in deepening the understanding of scenographic working and thinking. She is also active as a dramaturg and artistic adviser.

Subversive Affirmation

Subversive Affirmation

This essay looks into critical mimesis as an artistic strategy, discussing how artists imitate or copy non-theatre systems or formats while subtly subverting them, thus critiquing these existing systems and ideologies ‘from within.’ After providing a brief example—Julian Hetzel’s Schuldfabrik—the essay further introduces the concept of subversive affirmation and the closely related notion of over-identification, referring to scholars Inke Arns and Sylvia Sasse, Slavoj Žižek and the BAVO research collective. The concept of subversive affirmation is then used to analyse the large-scale project Unified Estonia by Theatre NO99 (2010), in which the Estonian theatre company created a fictious political party to investigate the performance of populist politics. Zooming in on (moral) ambiguity and ethical dilemmas as key characteristics of the strategy, the essay closes with a brief discussion of Samira Elagoz’s solo Cock, Cock … Who’s There? (2016), in which she cleverly plays with the logics of online dating platforms in order to re-appropriate the male gaze. keywords; camouflage acts, imitation as critical practice, mimesis, over-identification, performance and politics, subversive affirmation