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Sunday March 17 | Session 13:15 - 14:45 (20 min)
De Brakke Grond | Rode Zaal

Why does tragedy exist? Because you are full of rage. Why are you full of rage? Because you are full of grief. Why are you full of grief? Because we are full of war. (Anne Carson)

Today, performance artists are confronted with a push of institutional disintegration (removing vestiges of protectionist gate-keeping) and intoxicating pulls of new media-technology (breaking monopolies of corporations and traditions). This push-pull is a threshold, a «zone in-between», a space for tragic ambiguities, offering opportunities for interventions at loci of agonistic tensions. Not only populists long for performances which restage political frontiers.

I’m interested in tragic performances as exemplary ways of intervening in political systems. Today, in liquid modernity, a technocratic democracy without a demos, where ghostly institutions fail to secure peoples allegiance.

This lecture focuses on aesthetic-political performance-philosophy in Henry IV, V and Hamlet. A mental geography of spatiality is traced in Shakespearean tragic-interventions, whose sites are ambivalent fringes where institutions are questioned, fraying borderlines where opposites are staged. Like Greek tragedians, Shakespeare conceives temporality of performing genuinely tragic interventions as conditioned by historical «tragic moments» (Vernant): they emerge as traumatizing arrivals of awareness of an immemorial loss of hegemony, accompanied by a longing for sublime distance towards a past sufficiently distant for healing contrasts, yet close enough to be a painful one. Here, tragic art gives an amplifying indication of our historical position by experimenting with meetings of eternity and finitude in artificial time. The quasi-political dimension of tragic wisdom haunts intervening performances in the mise-en-scene of a «collective call of ideas». (Badiou)

Philosophy of history is necessarily reflection on staging the acts of our contemporary Kings of War. Even their tragic interventions often occur as «Ur-teile», dispersive judgments challenging every truth in artistic, scientific or political procedures that inevitably will efface the ambiguity of their untimely tragic wisdom. This legacy is echoing in the Kantian performative «critique» as krinein, Schillers dramaturgy of «Plötzlichkeit» and Hölderlins reflection on tragic caesura. 

In following these Aischylean-Shakespearean traces I hope to demonstrate that wisdom of event-full performances discloses the urgency of a political reconciliation with tragedy: a healing aspect of interventions is in incessantly making us aware that the symbolic order of politics must be rest on an aesthetic acceptance of the tragic conditions of our existence.
Born in The Hague, Tom Dommisse studied physic and philosophy, research and teaching in Amsterdam, Leuven, Paris and Perugia. Currently working as a philosopher for the Academic Center for Performance Arts (Leiden), as a lecturer on the aesthetics of music and cultural philosophy at the Royal Conservatory and as philosophical editor at Writers Unlimited Festival The Hague. Since his time as a university researcher, he's been working in the border areas of philosophy, where thinking encounters literature, theatre and politics. He has published on themes of aesthetics, metaphysics, political philosophy and the philosophy of law. According to Tom, all philosophy is again facing the challenge to link to an academic level of thought, with the need to carefully bring it into the public sphere. Theatre companies seek him out for wanted and unwanted dramaturgical advice. He is involved with the work of Thomas Mann and Pasolini, and nurtures a passion for Shakespeare. Together with STET English Theatre The Hague, he organized in recent years several Shakespeare performances and an International Festival on “Shakespeare and Just War” in cooperation with the ICJ (Vredespaleis), the Yugoslavia Tribunal and the International Criminal Court.
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