PANEL 5: Persona non grata

Thursday 18th January 2018 – 14:30-16:30PM – Rehearsal Room 7


  • Documenta 14: Subject or Agent of Censorship? Sozita Goudouna

Documenta 14, Europe’s leading exhibition of contemporary art that takes place every five years in the city of Kassel, selected Athens as a second venue, recalling the country’s historic role as the cradle of democracy, currently threatened by austerity and the strict policies of the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This year’s edition attempted to stress the definition of what may constitute an artwork and to affect change through art by selecting works that criticized hegemonies of any kind, fascistic regimes, patriarchy, colonialism, capitalism, so as to protect any difference and the political Other: the refugee, the excluded, the subaltern et al. Documenta’s curatorial team announced their decision to cancel the planned performance “Auschwitz on the Beach” by the Italian social commentator and media activist Franco “Bifo” Berardi, amid intense criticism and condemnation by Jewish organizations and cultural leaders in Germany, who saw it as an attempt to relativize the Holocaust. The piece attempted to associate the conditions of immigrants arriving on Italy’s shores to the suffering of Europe’s Jews during the Nazi period. ‘We respect those who feel offended by the title of Franco “Bifo” Berardi’s poem,” Paul B. Preciado, the curator of Documenta’s public program, said announcing the decision to cancel the performance. “We do not want to add to their sorrow and pain.’ Parallel to this there was a second controversy that concerned an obelisk by the Nigerian artist Olu Oguibe, that was denounced as “degenerate art” by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. “Degenerate art” was the term used by the Nazis in the 1930s to justify banning works that didn’t conform to the Nazis’ views about art: Expressionism, Surrealism, Dadaism, Cubism, New Objectivity and Fauvism. Olu Oguibe’s obelisk evokes the tragedy of the Nigerian civil war and its pedestal included the quotation: “I was a stranger and you cared for me” in four languages.The paper will examine these two cases of political censorship and Documenta’s approach to the local contemporary art practice in Greece in conjunction with Paul Preciado’s decision to cancel a large section of the project “Combat Breathing” curated by Sozita Goudouna two day before its presentation on the 14th of July. The projects that were cancelled included a performance research project by Liz Magic Laser and the participation of local artists that had been working since January 2017 and a performance by Irini Miga and Phoebe Giannisi as well as screening by Kelly Nipper, Raqs Media Collective, Jesper Just, Valie Export, John Latham, Jenny Marketou and Nikos Navridis and installation “Breathing Booth” by the artist Peggy Kliafa. “Combat Breathing” took as a starting point the “shortness of breath” derived from the experience of political pressure and economic austerity in Greece during the last years, exploring its connection with performance art and embodied politics.

Dr. Sozita Goudouna is an art theorist who developed and curated a program for “The Parliament of Bodies” at Documenta 14. She taught at New York University as the inaugural Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow at Performa New York, the arts organisation dedicated to exploring the critical role of live performance in the history of 20th century art and to generating new directions for the 21st century. Performa’s curatorial partnerships consist of a consortium of over 150 New York City cultural partners across New York City (MoMA, New Museum, Whitney, Guggenheim, Watermill Centre, Times Sq Alliance etal) and more than 42 international partners that co-organize acclaimed projects and programs with an international roster of artists (700), architects, critics, curators, and writers from across the world. She was also the consultant for the Onassis Festival NY 2016 at the Onassis Foundation USA. She holds a PhD from the University of London on the History and Theory of Modern and Contemporary Art that is regarded as the first monographic survey on Beckett’s Breath (Onassis Scholarship 2003-7) and has studied Philosophy, Theatre and Directing in London (BA, MA, Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) & Kings College London 1996- 2000). Her book on the interfaces between modernist theory, respiration and art, “Beckett’s Breath: Anti-Theatricality and the Visual Arts” is forthcoming by Edinburgh University Press (Edinburgh Critical Studies in Modernism) released in the US by Oxford University Press in 2017.

  • Discourses in Experiential performance research. Ioana-Florentina Manciu

The following text is intended to be used for an artistic performance, part of a following Ph.D. research done by myself. My name is Ioana-Florentina Manciu. I am an international scholar coming from a background based on the art of theatre acting since I was 14 years old. Now I am 28 years old – a professional actress at the National Theatre ‘Marin Sorescu’ from Craiova, Romania. I also consider myself an student, artist and researcher, searching for some answers or better said some practical questions that could help me do my craft, every time, better. Did I just say craft? Doing a practical master in directing theatre at Târgu-Mureş, Romania and at the same time a doctoral school at The National University of Theatrical Art and Cinematografy ‘ I.L. Caragiale’ , Bucharest, the concept of craft becomes relative.

I started doing theatre inside of a teenager francophon local ansamble of theatre called Amifran. This year Amifran is celebrating it’s 25th edition for the international theatre festival in the city of Arad, in the west side of Romania – my hometown. This is for Amifran. I am writing (or better said, typing ) using the English language alphabet on my Acer personal computer. My mother tongue is the Romanian language and has a slightly different alphabet structure on the keyboard of my PC.

How does censorship feel in your country? Do you police language? Of course we all do, always had and probably always will. I come from a Romanian police officers family where the norms of speech and behavior have been a present element all the time.

This letter doesn’t mean anything. This letter is being said, publicly and vocally. This letter is being performed. Could this letter be art? No, it couldn’t. This letter is my attempt in taking part of the annual Intersections Conference held at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama from Thursday the 18th and Friday the 19th of January.

2. Chatarsis. The idea of purification through pity and fear
The following thought that came inside my mind was conflict. Isn’t that something ‘normal’? Isn’t it the same as Aristotle is saying in his Poetics? About the powerful reaction of pity and fear experience and the included ‘conflict’ that shapes the theatrical atmosphere. As a pattern of creation. The pattern of conflict. Fear is usually a chemical engender for the human body, and chemicals do influence tension at the muscular level. Isn’t it?Inside a very provocative and interesting research project, Cinetic Centre of Research is analysing two hormones that are being produced in different situations of ‘imaginative’ context. Oxytocin and cortisol.

One questioned rised is Where? As in where do I still come up against blockades? Analyze and create at the same time. From this point on, we could open a discution about time and make all kinds of plans, drawing, schemes about the perception of time.
We will not lead the discution on time, but we will be starting from the term ‘performance’ associated with art and then, relating it to theatre, drama, acting, space, time, awareness, memory, emotion, sentiment, thought and practice for the embodied matter.
Structured in 8 main unmentionable ideas. The Unmentionables :

1.Mimesis. The idea of a mirror , the imitation.
2.Catharsis. The idea of purification through pity and fear.
3.Unmentionable 3 – Beginning, Middle, End.
4.The twist and reconcialiation
5.Unmentionable 5 – No – beginning, Beginning, Middle, End, No – end.
6.Rasa. The idea of eight senses.
7.Mudra. The idea of imitation
8.Before 0.

Work in progress.
The mic stops.
Ioana-Florentina Manciu is a romanian actress at The National Theatre of Craiova ‘ Marin Sorescu’ , Craiova. In the present time she is working for the premiere of ‘ The Author’ by Tim Crouch, directed by Bobi Pricop. A premiere that is to be held on the 3th and 4th of November. Follow her here:
fB site :

  • Exchanging Artistic Assumptions: Debating Ownership and Censorship in Manchester’s “Memories of Partition” Project. Asif Majid

In September 2017, Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre partnered with Manchester Museum to deliver “Memories of Partition,” a project commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Partition of India after British rule. The project saw 10 writers of South Asian heritage commissioned to develop monologues regarding the theme of partition. Each monologue was to be performed at the Museum, the Exchange, and nearby community venues.

As one of the writers commissioned, I wrote a piece titled “Phone Call.” It began as a curse-filled rant against the transnational structural inequalities and legacy of Partition that see white British passport-holders travel hassle-free to India and Pakistan, while those of Pakistani and Indian descent are over-scrutinized when visiting India and Pakistan, respectively. Through the editing process, the protagonist, a married US citizen of Pakistani descent living in the UK, was revealed as speaking over the phone to his secret male lover. The script thus became more suggestive of his and his lover’s sexual relationship.

Unbeknownst to me until shortly before the first performance, the Exchange decided against taking my piece to two of the four community venues. Their main concern was that the piece was not appropriate for Years 9, 10, and 11; one of the venues concerned was a nearby school. This venue was confirmed after project contracts were signed, with no initial stipulation made regarding age appropriate writing. The decision was taken without consulting me, and I was given no opportunity to adapt the script for the relevant venue, despite being asked for other edits.

This presentation explores the rationale deployed by staff at the Exchange, borrowing from the script and email correspondence. I also examine what it means for decisions about an artist’s work to be taken out of their hands and what assumptions cultural institutions make when engaging with young people.

Asif Majid is a scholar-artist-educator who researches, teaches, performs, and makes work at the intersection of performance and politics, particularly in terms of devising, improvisation, and applied theatre with marginalized communities. He graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a self-designed BA in Interdisciplinary Studies (Global Peace Building and Conflict Management) from UMBC, earned an MA with Distinction in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University, and is pursuing a practice-based PhD in Anthropology, Media, and Performance at The University of Manchester.