Experience of the Impossible, Ruth Heynen

Erfahrung des Unmöglichen 
Experience the Impossible by Ruth Heynen

The lack of positive symbols

Ruth Heynen – General Delegate of the Union des Théâtres de l’Europe since December 2009 (now director - took the European Union’s unilateral concentration on economy, defense and financial issues as an occasion for macro-cultural reflections on the term of “European identity”. On time just before the EU’s new culture grant programme (“Creative Europe”) she makes an historical systematic contribution to the constitution of a theatre for Europe. Sounding out the situation in mythology, history and geography, she draws a line to Derrida against individual interests in favour of an “A-Capitale” of cultural variety, dissecting in an exemplary and transparent manner the adopted legacy by referring to Habermas and his democratic theory, and she does so without the standard affirmative frame.

Instead she provides the reader with four orientational strands that make the fragmental character of the European process of unification more explicit as to the form of its argumentation: it is the experience of the impossible. This thesis refers to the lack of “positively loaded symbols” the European council should have got rid of since 1984. We see a faltering smile in Giorgio Strehler’s and Jack Lang’s fight for the recognition of theatrical art, alike the tug-of-war between Heiner Müller (founding member of the theatre union founded in 1990) and SED officials. Heynen lays the turgid speeches of the politicians next to the declarations of intent of the Theatres of Europe in order to uncover the cultural added value by referring to Homi K. Bhabha, Bernhard Waldenfels and Michel de Certeau: it is the personified confrontation of incommensurable existing rhythms, languages and forms of habit that make up the strength of a European theatre.

The sources of this insight are nurtured by three brilliant analyses of performances (“Come tu mi vuoi”, Pirandello/Strehler, 1987/88; “Faust”, Goethe/Strehler, 1990; “Sutta Scupa” Massa/Massa, 2008) whose effects only unfold when linked to cultural political decisions of general principle. Should theatrical art have a “share in the GDP” or make a “contribution to the GDP”? The latter corresponds to the corporate mantra of powerful think tanks, but in the end Heynen pleads for a common legal frame ensuring the autonomy and sovereignty of theatrical art and protecting the social and economical rights of its players.

Herwig Lewy (published in Theater Der Zeit, June 2013)

The original article, here


Erfahrung des Unmöglichen

Zur Verfassung eines Theaters für Europa

(Experience of the Impossible

On the constitution of a Theatre for Europe)

By Ruth Heynen

Editor: Wilhelm Fink Verlag

Date of publication: February 2013

ISBN: 978-3-7705-5459-1