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A City, a Site. Publikasjon 0, Black Box Teater 2018


Written for the festival magazine of Black Box Teater’s Oslo internasjonale teaterfestival.

While the word “public” refers to people, the corresponding Norwegian word offentlig, as does its German source, literally refers to an open space. A black box theater can contain both. It is a physically and often economically delimited space, yet also intrinsically public; a producer of publicness by gathering us, the audience, for a shared experience.

However, several performances during this year’s Oslo Internasjonale Teaterfestival (OITF) take place outside the black box. As we shall see, their contents to a certain extent bleed into each other, perhaps due to the ways in which they activate the city as context. What

happens to live art and performance when they leave the black box for the city? How can a performative situation be established and negotiated outside the walls of a theater, and how do performative artistic expressions relate to processes, layers and changes inherent in the city itself?

In her article “One Place after Another: Notes on Site Specificity” 1 art historian and curator Miwon Kwon traces how the concept of a site for an artwork is transformed in Western thinking in the last half of the 20th century. From referring to an actual physical and spatial location in a modernist paradigm, sites of art expand throughout the 1960s and 70s and begin to encompass immaterial, processual, nomadic, phenomenological, social and discursive qualities, although this development is never linear. Site-oriented art is also informed by a growing range of non-artistic disciplines. This expansion is not limited to art itself but also affects the public, who are challenged to broaden their usual visual, linguistic or cognitive focus into a more phenomenological one. The location of meaning in an artwork is also on the move from being considered intrinsic to the work to being derived from its context, to the point where context itself might be considered the core.

Implicit in this development is the exodus of art from institutions. In visual arts, this institutional critique is often conceived as a performative shift and labelled theatrical – a word that becomes less useful once entering the perspective and history of the performing arts. But both in leaving the institution and in broadening the concept of site, there are significant parallels between white cubes and black boxes.

Read the rest of the article in the OITF 2018 festival magazine

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