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Disabled Theater

Jérôme Bel’s Disabled Theater, a dance piece featuring eleven actors with cognitive disabilities from Zurich’s Theater Hora, has polarized audiences worldwide. Some have celebrated the performance as an outstanding exploration of presence and representation; others have criticized it as a contemporary freak show. This impassioned reception provokes important questions about the role of people with cognitive disabilities within theater and dance—and within society writ large. Using Disabled Theater as the basis for a broad, interdisciplinary discussion of performance and disability, this volume explores the intersections of politics and aesthetics, inclusion and exclusion, and identity and empowerment. Can the stage serve as a place of emancipation for people with disabilities? To what extent are performers with disabilities able to challenge and subvert the rules of society? What would a performance look like without an ideology of ability? The book includes contributions by Jérôme Bel, Kai van Eikels, Kati Kroß, André Lepecki, Lars Nowak, Yvonne Rainer, Gerald Siegmund, Yvonne Schmidt, Sandra Umathum, Scott Wallin, Benjamin Wihstutz, and the actors of Theater Hora.

248 pages | 20 halftones | 5 1/4 x 8 1/4 | © 2015

Art: Art--General Studies


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“[Disabled Theater] provides a key to understanding the work of an artist whose influence has been crucial to the development of the so-called performance art renaissance within the contemporary scene. It also explores the possibilities for social emancipation from aesthetic judgment on stage.”

Flash Art

“Those engaged or interested in other-abled forms of theater will welcome this immersion in the unique challenges of disabled theater, with an emphasis on cognitive disabilities in the realms of theater and dance. . . The experience of reading about this performance and the hurdles challenged performers faced is inspiring in both human and artistic terms.  This volume is a bracing assault on traditional views of how theater works for both audiences and performers. . . . Highly recommended.”


Table of Contents

Disabling the Theater
Gerald Siegmund
What Difference Does it Make? Or: From Difference to In-Difference
Disabled Theater in the Context of Jérôme Bel’s Work
Benjamin Wihstutz
“…And I Am an Actor”
On Emancipation in Disabled Theater
Yvonne Rainer
The Difference Between Death and Disability
Scott Wallin
Come Together
Discomfort and Longing in Jérôme Bel’s Disabled Theater
Interviews with the actors of Theater HORA
On Acting and Spinning
Sandra Umathum
Actors, nonetheless
Kai van Eikels
The Incapacitated Spectator
André Lepecki
“Yes, Now It’s Good Theater”
Interview with Jérôme Bel
“It’s All About Communication”
Kati Krob
Christoph Schlingensief’s Freakstars 3000
“…Consistently Abused and Forced to Portray Disability!”
Lars Nowak
Disabling/Enabling Photography
On Freak Photography and Diane Arbus’s Portraits
Yvonne Schmidt
After Disabled Theater
Authorship, Creative Responsibility, and Autonomy in Freie Republik HORA
List of Figures

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