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Distinguished Speaker: Professor Christopher Balme (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich)
The theatrical public sphere in the age of post-truth politics
My intervention asks how theatre and performance can position themselves in a media landscape conditioned by social media-driven fake news, the new norm of ‘post-truth’ and ‘post-factual’ (Germany’s anti-word of 2016) politics, and state-funded internet trolls. If the distinction between fact and fiction, truth and untruth is no longer of importance for holders of high political offices, if the main point of political statements is affective, to ‘fire up voters’, not to propose evidential statements, then where does this leave the public sphere, the arena of reasoned debate? And for theatre makers perhaps the more pressing question: if post-factual politics has now colonized the realm of the fictional, where does this leave us and them? Can the response be a shift towards postfictional performance? I will argue that the traditional institutional split between private and publically financed organisations devoted to the ‘fictional’, and media organisations devoted to the ‘factual’ has perhaps become obsolete. We need to rethink theatre and performance in terms of the ‘postfictional’ and thereby reformulate their relationship to the public sphere.