Demolishing Partition Walls: ‘Auto-theatre’ at the 2016 Theatre Confrontations Festival in Lublin | Guderian-Czaplińska | Polish Theatre Journal

ISSN 2451-2966


Ewa Guderian-Czaplińska

Demolishing Partition Walls: ‘Auto-theatre’ at the 2016 Theatre Confrontations Festival in Lublin


Two pieces by Michael Asher constitute the framework for this article on the use of institutional critique in theatre. This critical trend was born in the field of visual arts and has been adapted in recent years to broader reflection on the functioning of art institutions in general. That is why Asher’s project, consisting of his intervention in an art gallery where he demolished a partition wall between the exhibition hall and the office space, combining in this way two hitherto separated spaces, can serve as a handy metaphor for the analysis of divisions (their revealing and attempts at eliminating them) in theatre institutions.

The article describes several recent Polish theatre productions characteristic of ‘self-theatre’ or ‘post-theatre’ (Kantor Downtown; projects realized within the Mikro Theatre cycle; Drugi spektakl [The Other Show]; Aktorzy żydowscy [Jewish Actors]; Kwestia techniki [A Technical Question]), a trend attempting to redefine the conditions of its own operation created and adopted by the institution, or at least to pose questions about them (including the audience in this endeavour). The majority of the analyzed productions were presented at the Konfrontacje Festival in Lublin (October 2016), the main theme of which was ‘Autonomy / Institution / Democracy’. The programme curators also subjected the festival formula proposed by them to self-reflection, thus examining in practice the ideas of institutional critique, and so, just like Asher, performing an ‘intervention’ on the formula of a theatre festival. This revealed, both through the organization of the festival as well as the choice of invited productions, the fields of tension and influence arising within (and through) the institution of theatre.


community strategies; district theatre; local theatre; Nowy Theatre in Poznań; Piotr Kruszczyński; theatre projects

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Ewa Guderian-Czaplińska

professor at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. Works in the Institute of Theatre and Media Arts  at the Adam Mickiewicz University. She prepared her doctoral dissertation on the dramaturgy of the Polish inter-war avant-garde (Szara strefa awangardy [‘The Grey Area of the Avant-Garde’]), and her post-doctoral dissertation on the history of Poznań’s theatre life in the inter-war period (Teatralna Arkadia. Poznańskie sceny dramatyczne 1918–1939 [‘Arcadia of Theatre: Poznań Drama Theatre, 1918–1939’]). She has recently published a new edition of Anna Świrszczyńska’s plays. In her research and teaching, she is interested in the history of ancient and contemporary theatre and drama, especially in their present-day affiliations, as well as in inter-war-era theatre and theatre criticism in their historical and practical manifestations. She writes for the journals Dialog and Didaskalia. Member of the Polish Society for Theatre Studies.