‘Everything Has a Fucking Value’: Negative Dialectics in the Work of Back to Back Theatre

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4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Back to Back’s Ganesh versus the Third Reich (2011) consolidated the company’s reputation as an ensemble of international standing, following acclaimed earlier tours of small metal objects (2005) and Food Court (2008).1 As Jane Goodall observes, members of the company’s acting ensemble ‘share the outsider experience of being excluded from the norm through being perceived as people with a disability. They know what it is to live with the burden of a category identity’.2 For Bryoni Trezise and Caroline Wake, this ‘emphasis on perceived disability destabilizes the binary between ability and disability and signals an interest in the visual and cultural construction of these categories’.3 Yoni Prior, drawing on an unpublished interview with Artistic Director Bruce Gladwin, comments that this also ‘addresses a contradiction in the way that the company is seen. The company works with artists with formal diagnoses of intellectual disability, but the work they make is “so intelligent”.4 This engagement with contradiction is characteristic of the company’s work, and in this article I will offer a dialectical reading of its productions which uncovers contradictions within perceptions of learning disability, and the ensemble’s own critical perceptions of the world. Taking Theodor Adorno’s theory of negative dialectics as a framework, my analysis is indebted to but also contests the Hegelian dialectic. For Adorno, the contradictory moment of the antithesis in Hegel’s model must not be resolved through a seemingly progressive synthesis, as this necessarily overlooks the object’s ongoing resistance to being readily conceptualised.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-152
Number of pages19
JournalContemporary Theatre Review
Volume26
Issue number2
Early online date24 Dec 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2016

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