Back from the Future: Theatre and Performance in Central Eastern Europe Beyond the Anthropocene, 1920–Today

Micha Braun


Theatre is and has always been a practice of imagination – especially of alternative worlds, spaces, and futures. This does not only apply to theatre and performance in its well-established and acknowledged forms, but even more to non-conformist or experimental practices that deal with repressive, authoritarian regimes or with a perception of crisis in general. At least since the historical avant-gardes of the early 20th century, an outlook onto alternative futures that can handle or even overcome these crises has been a regular feature of theatre and performance practice.

A particularly imaginative approach within such projections features notions of a human-less time and space – a world beyond the Anthropos. The resulting notions of a deserted world, of a continuing (and perhaps flourishing) ecosystem, or a lifeless wasteland ‘populated’ only by objects, robots, or other remnants, can be perceived as an expression of a certain awareness of a world in peril – ecologically, politically, and socially – already in their time of origin.

Utilizing a comparative approach, my paper examines several instances of those theatrical practices between the historical avant-garde, the neo-avant-garde and the present time, with a special focus on Central Eastern Europe. Exemplary projects and works like Karel Čapek’s drama R.U.R. (1920 with several stagings in the following years), or Paweł Althamer’s social experiment Common Task (2009 ff.) will be introduced as well as the conceptual perspective of Reism (thing-ism), formulated by the Slovenian group OHO (around Marko Pogačnik, 1966 ff.). From the common viewpoint of the mentioned projects – back from a future beyond the Anthropocene – a radically different relationship to the world, nature, and the subject arises: instead of an anthropocentric mastery over the world, a more or less non-hierarchical way of dealing with subjects, objects, animals and people can be observed.


Article received: December 12, 2021; Article accepted: February 1, 2022;  Published online: April 15, 2022; Original scholarly article

How to cite this article: Braun, Micha. "Back from the Future: Theatre and Performance in Central Eastern Europe Beyond the Anthropocene, 1920–Today." AM Journal of Art and Media Studies27 (April 2022): 149–159. doi: 10.25038/am.v0i27.498



performance art; body art; (post-)communist condition; community projects; alternative orders; reism; finiteness; Paweł Althamer; OHO Group; Karel Čapek.

Full Text:



Anderson, Nicholas. “‘Only We Have Perished’: Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. and the Catastrophe of Humankind.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 25 2/3 (2014), 226–46.

Bishop, Claire. “Something for Everyone: The Art of Paweł Althamer.” Artforum International 49, 6 (Feb 2011). Accessed on January 20, 2022.

Blom, Philipp. The Vertigo Years: Europe 1900–1914. New York: Basic Books, 2008.

Braun, Micha. “‘A ›body art‹ that did not fit’. Körper und Gesten in den frühen Arbeiten Vadim Zakharovs.” In Leibesvisitationen. Der Körper als mediales Politikum in den (post)sozialistischen Kulturen und Literaturen, edited by Torsten Erdbrügger and Stephan Krause, 103–21. Heidelberg: Winter, 2014.

Groys, Boris. “Back from the Future.” Third Text 17, 4 (2003): 323–31.

Günther, Hans. “The Heroic Myth in Socialist Realism.” In Dream Factory Communism: The Visual Culture of the Stalin Era, edited by Boris Groys and Max Hollein, 106–124. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2003.

Kussi, Peter, ed. Toward the Radical Center: A Karel Čapek Reader. Highland Park, New Jersey: Catbird Press, 1990.

Lubiak, Jarosław. “Paweł Althamer.” In Nowe zjawiska w sztuce polskiej po 2000 roku, edited by Grzegorz Borkowski, Adam Mazur and Monika Branicka, 158–63. Warsaw: CSW Zamek Ujazdowski, 2008.

Oboukhova, Alexandra ed. SZ Group. Viktor Skersis – Vadim Zakharov. Collaboration. Moscow: E.K.ArtBureau, 2004.

Przywara, Andrzej. “Paweł Althamer.” In Na wolności w końcu – Sztuka polska po 1989 roku, edited by Dorota Monkiewicz and Dirk Teuber, 23–28. Baden-Baden, Warsaw: Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie, 2000.

Raddatz, Frank-M. Das Drama des Anthropozän. Berlin: Theater der Zeit, 2021.

Sobol Levent, Nina. Healthy Spirit in a Healthy Body: Representations of the Sports Body in Soviet Art of the 1920s and 1930s. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2004.

Šlerka, Josef. “Karel Čapek – pragmatista a ironic.” Word & Sense 1 (2004). Accessed on January 20, 2022.

Sural, Agnieszka. “11 Greatest Works of Paweł Althamer.” Accessed on January 20, 2022.

Šuvaković, Miško. The Clandestine Histories of the OHO Group. Ljubljana: P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E., 2010.

Szymczyk, Adam. “The Annotated Althamer.” Afterall: A Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry 5 (2002): 12–23. doi: 10.2307/20711454

Taločkin, Leonid and Irina Alpatova, ed. Drugoe Iskusstvo. Moskva 1956–76, 2 volumes. Moscow: Chudožestvennaja Galereja ‘Moskovskaja Kollekcija’, 1991.

Woleński, Jan. “Reism.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2020 Edition), edited by Edward N. Zalta. Accessed on January 20, 2022.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2022 AM Journal of Art and Media Studies

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

AM Journal of Art and Media Studies ISSN 2217-9666 - printed, ISSN 2406-1654 - online, UDK 7.01:316.774


Publisher: Faculty of Media and Communications, Singidunum University, Belgrade, Serbia

Indexed in: ERIH PLUSEBSCODOAJ, and in The List of Scientific Journals Categorization of Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of Republic of Serbia (M24-2021). Beginning with No. 12 2017, AM is indexed, abstracted and covered in Clarivate Analytics service ESCI.