Cyberparticipation and Malicious Interactivity, or: Who or What Participates in Post-Theatre | Chaberski | Polish Theatre Journal

ISSN 2451-2966


'Anesthesia', by Dead Baitz, premiere: 3.12. 2016 at the Theatre Institute in Warsaw. Photo by Dead Baitz.
Mateusz Chaberski

Cyberparticipation and Malicious Interactivity, or: Who or What Participates in Post-Theatre


 In recent years, performative arts in Poland have seen a proliferation of hybrid art installations combining not just different media, but also procedures from the field of academic research, designing new technologies, as well as political action and philosophical inquiries. In this context, post-theatre doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) become yet another artistic genre that comes ‘after theatre’. Instead, it could define different kinds of spaces for dynamically creating new ways of being in the world and thinking about it. Still, with their attachment to traditional genre-related classifications, critics and art scholars have yet to find a language to precisely describe this kind of post-theatre experiences, taking as their starting point the audience member experience they regard as constitutive. This lack of language is evidenced by few reviews for, and critical assessments of the work of Dead Baitz, a group comprising scholars Agnieszka Jelewska and Michał Krawczak, composer Rafał Zapała, multimedia artist Paweł Janicki and software developer Michał Cichy. It’s extremely difficult to write about Dead Baitz’s work without taking into account the situated experience of a critic or scholar. The present article aims to fill this gap, while offering a broader reflection on the issue of participation in the latest art installations. However, the starting point for these reflections will be not so much a survey of Dead Baitz’s artistic methods as the analysis of the author’s own experience of participation in the installations Post-apocalypsis (2015) and Anaesthesia (2016). By employing the autoethnographic method (Ticineto-Clough) and the findings of contemporary ensemble theory (DeLanda), I’ll try to demonstrate taking part in these art installations falls outside the participation theories developed to date (Rancière, Bourriaud, Bishop). This is because underlying these theories is the tacit assumption that participation in art events is limited to humans. But Dead Baitz installations feature different types of ensembles of human and non-human participants – ensembles which are either absent from, or assigned a marginal role in, the established participation theories. In this context, it seems fitting to speak of cyberparticipation rather than simply participation. Etymologically, the proposed term stems from the prefix ‘cyber-’, commonly used today. It derives from the Greek adjective kybernētēs  - the source of the word ‘cybernetics’, denoting both the helmsman – the one who steers the ship – and the helm. In this understanding of the term, cyberparticipation is relevant not just to digital culture phenomena, but also to the experience of at once controlling and being controlled, which is peculiar to culture in its most recent form.


Dead Baitz; participatory art; cyberparticipation; site-specific art; Bruno Latour; Wojtek Ziemilski

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Mateusz Chaberski

PhD student at the Department for Performance Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. His academic interests range from performance studies to memory studies and translation studies. He published the book Doświadczenie (syn)estetyczne. Performatywne aspekty przedstawień site-specific [(Syn)aesthetic Experience: Performative Aspects of Site-Specific Performance] (2015). He also works as an acquisitions editor for the Jagiellonian University Press.