This practice-based PhD will analyze how social and cultural memory is shaped in contemporary performances that ‘recycle reality’ (Martin, 2012). Through this project, I intend to develop and apply a methodology for creating performance that engages with ‘difficult pasts’. I follow Lease (2020) in articulating ‘difficult pasts’ as those that are ‘antagonistic towards existing social myths, and difficult to assimilate in grand or heroic narratives’. In order to do so, I will analyze the works of contemporary theatre-makers who share a deep interest in exploring memory as both a source and a consequence of their artistic practice. Primary case studies will place my own performance making in dialogue with Lola Arias, Milo Rau and Tiago Rodrigues. This offers a transnational framework that links multiple sites of cultural production to the construction of social and cultural memory; the project thus focuses on memory in order to challenge neat boundaries that bifurcate European imaginaries (East/West, North/South) and to consider how performance forms enable spectators to reflect critically on their own implicated positions in postauthoritarian and postcolonial histories (Argentina and Germany - Arias; Congo and Belgium - Rau; Portugal - Rodrigues).
Critiquing scholarship that produces dichotomies ‘between individual knowledge based on memory and historical knowledge’ (Martin 2012), I will explore the concrete strategies and conditions for the creation of what I will call ‘theatrical memory’. By this I mean memory that develops through theatrical devices: staging memory as both catalyst and transformative action. The project will include the creation of two practical case studies that will develop the concept of ‘theatrical memory’: (1) a large-scale already commissioned production for Nowy Teatr in Warsaw and (2) a workshop to develop a performance for the BITEF Festival in Belgrade.