Date: 01.02.2021 - 31.07.2021
Event Title: Rustom Bharucha: Theatre and the Coronavirus – A Speech-Act in Nine Episodes
Event Type: Online Video-Lecture (permanently accessible)
Event Category: BMBF
Organisor: Internationales Forschungskolleg "Verflechtungen von Theaterkulturen"
Divided in three parts, Bharucha’s online video lecture encapsulates a range of topics, starting with the Elizabethan theatre during the plague and the Spanish Flu epidemic at the end of the First World War. In part 2, the focus shifts from theatre to performances of everyday life during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the concluding episodes, Bharucha discusses how theatre artists are exploring new modes of online performances as well as how we may learn to live with ourselves as we learn to live with the virus through the ethos of waiting. Delivered in Bharucha’s recognizable, engaging style and supported with numerous audio and visual materials, the lecture was researched during the first wave and recorded at the onset of the second wave of the Corona pandemic in Kolkata, India. With the virus still raging on, it is more relevant than ever. “This,” Rustom Bharucha summarizes, “is how I’ve engaged with the symbiotic, contrapuntal, intimate and divisive dynamics of theatre and the coronavirus.” Describing his episodic lecture as a ‘speech act,’ he attempts to locate the threat of the coronavirus within the confines of theatre spaces at structural and phenomenological levels. These two contrasting scenarios will be followed by a revisiting of Antonin Artaud’s “The Theatre and the Plague.” The focus then shifts from theatre to performance, and more specifically, to the performances of everyday life, followed by a brief encapsulation of the philosophical differences between Slavoj Žižek and Giorgio Agamben on the benefits and the tyranny of the lockdown. The next episode concerns the performativity of political assemblies, where Bharucha draws on the writings of Judith Butler in the larger context of Black Lives Matter and the Shaheen Bagh movement in New Delhi. Having discussed how theatre artists are exploring new modes of online performance, he provides some speculations on the need for a new ecologically tuned theatre architecture in a post-pandemic state of being. Finally, and in a more personal register, Bharucha ponders on how we may learn to live with ourselves as we learn to live with the virus through the ethos of waiting.