Street Smart or Smart Street?

Theater and environmental power


  • Sebastian Kirsch Leibniz-zentrum Für Literatur Und Kulturforschung (ZFL), Berlin


In its first part the essay reflects on an ongoing transformation in the history of power relations by commenting on a short passage from Elfriede Jelinek's 2013 theater text Die Schutzbefohlenen (Charges: The suppliants). Reading Jelinek's words as a play on Martin Heidegger's essay "Die Zeit des Weltbildes" ("The Age of the World Picture") but also on his concept of the "Gestell", the essay discusses a current crisis of pictorial framing which corresponds today's reshaping of the logics of production by digital network technologies. The essay argues that one of the most significant symptoms of this development is an extensive "deterritorialization of the street" and its milieus which for historical reasons has a great impact on contemporary theater. Finally, the processes at stake are described as effects of an increasing implementation of "environmental governmentality", a term which the essay traces back to its Foucauldian roots.

The second part then focusses on "Flinn Works'" 2017 performance Global Belly which engages the audience in semi-documentary scenes on the phenomenon of surrogate motherhood, for which today sperm and egg cells are transported, mixed, discharged and returned around the globe in global operations. As will be shown here, this performance deals in fact remarkably with all the three issues developed in the first part of the essay.

Author Biography

Sebastian Kirsch, Leibniz-zentrum Für Literatur Und Kulturforschung (ZFL), Berlin

Sebastian Kirsch is a German theatre scholar currently affiliated as a Feodor Lynen research fellow to the Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin. Having worked particularly on the history of the baroque theatre and of the ancient chorus, he holds his PhD (“Das Reale der Perspektive”, 2011, publ. 2013) and his habilitation (“Chor-Denken. Sorge, Wahrheit, Technik”, 2018, publ. 2020) from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Mr. Kirsch also held research and fellowship positions at the universities of Vienna and Düsseldorf as well as at the New York University. Next to his academic work he worked as an editor and regular author for the German theatre magazin “Theater der Zeit” (2007-2013) and has been cooperating as a dramaturg with directors and performers Johannes M. Schmit and Hans-Peter Litscher.


Berressem, Hanjo. 2008. “Structural Coupling: Radical Constructivism and a Deleuzian Ecologics.” In Deleuze/Guattari & Ecology, edited by Bernd Herzogenrath, 57–101. New York and London: Palgrave.

Brecht, Bertolt. 1964. “The Street Scene. A Basic Model for an Epic Theatre.” In Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, edited and translated by John Willett, 121–129. London: Methuen.

Brecht, Bertolt. 2000. “The Threepenny Lawsuit.” In Brecht on Film and Radio, edited and translated by Marc Silberman, 147-199. London: Methuen.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. “Postscript on the Societies of Control.” In Negotiations, 177–182. Translated by Martin Joughin. New York: Columbia University Press.

Derrida, Jacques. 1987. “Geschlecht II: Heidegger’s Hand” In Deconstruction and Philosophy: The Texts of Jacques Derrida, edited by John Sallis, 6011–196. Translated by John P. Leavy Jr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Feindel, Ruth, and Tobias Rausch. 2016. “Recherchetheater. Der Autor und Regisseur Tobias Rausch und die Dramaturgin Ruth Feindel porträtieren eine realistische Kunstform auf der Höhe unserer Zeit.” Accessed May 13, 2020.

Forum Freies Theater Düsseldorf. 2018. “Stadt als Fabrik. Wie Logistik und Masterpläne das Leben in der Stadt verändern.” Accessed May 13, 2020.

Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon

Foucault, Michel. 2008. The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978-1979. Translated by Graham Burchell. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Foucault, Michel. 2009. Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977-1978. Translated by Graham Burchell. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Gabrys, Jennifer. 2014. “Programming Environments: Environmentality and Citizen Sensing in the Smart City.” In Environment and Planning D 32 (1): 30–48.

Gather, Oliver, and Andrea Knobloch. 2013-present. Gasthof Worringer Platz. Accessed May 13, 2020.

Haraway, Donna. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Haß, Ulrike. 2019. “Am Ende der Straße. Vom Gefüge des Stadttheaters.” Accessed September 20, 2020.

Haß, Ulrike. 2021. Kraftfeld Chor. Aischylos Sophokles Kleist Beckett Jelinek. Berlin: Theater der Zeit.

Heidegger, Martin. 1977. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. Translated and with an Introduction by William Lovitt. New York: Harper & Row.

Heidegger, Martin. 2012. Bremen and Freiburg Lectures: Insight into that which is and Basic Principles of Thinking. Translated by Andrew J. Mitchell. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Hörl. 2020. “Umweltlich-Werden. Zur Kritik der environmentalitären Macht-, Welt- und Kapitalform.” In Hybride Ökologien, edited by Marietta Kesting, Maria Muhle, Jenny Nachtigall, and Susanne Witzgall, 213-226. Berlin-Zürich: diaphanes.

Jelinek, Elfriede. 2015. “Die Schutzbefohlenen. Appendix.” Accessed May 13, 2020.

Kellerer, Sidonie. 2011. “Heideggers Maske. ‘Die Zeit des Weltbildes’ – Metamorphose eines Textes.” Zeitschrift für Ideengeschichte 5 (2): 109–120.

Kirsch, Sebastian. 2020. Chor-Denken. Sorge, Wahrheit, Technik. Paderborn: Fink.

Kirsch, Sebastian. 2020. “Why Streets are no longer paved with Theater Gold. Critique and Stage Form(s).” In Critique: The Stakes of Form, edited by. Sami Kathib, Holger Kuhn, Oona Lochner, Isabel Mehl, and Beate Söntgen, 325–342. Berlin-Zürich: diaphanes.

Kreissl, Reinhard. 2000. Mob oder Souverän: Diskurse über die rechtliche Regelung kollektiver Protestformen. Opladen: Leske + Budrich.

Parisi, Luciana. 2008. “Technoeocologies of Sensation.” In Deleuze/Guattari & Ecology, edited by Bernd Herzogenrath, 182–199. New York and London: Palgrave.

Lyster, Clare. 2016. Learning from Logistics: How Networks Change Our Cities. Basel: Birkhäuser.

Massumi, Brian. 2009. “National Enterprise Emergency: Steps towards an Ecology of Powers.” Theory, Culture & Society 26 (6): 153–185.

Röttger, Kati (ed.). 2010. Welt, Bild, Theater. Politik des Wissens und der Bilder. Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto.

Röttger, Kati (ed.). 2012. Welt, Bild, Theater. Bildästhetik im Bühnenraum. Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto.

Sloterdijk, Peter. 2006. In the World Interior of Capital: Theory of Globalization. Cambridge: Polity.

Sprenger, Florian. 2019. Epistemologien des Umgebens. Zur Geschichte, Ökologie und Biopolitik künstlicher Environments. Bielefeld: Transcript.

Taylan, Ferhat. 2017. Mesopolitics: Foucault, Environmental Governmentality and the History of the Anthropocene. New York: Palgrave.




How to Cite

“Street Smart or Smart Street? Theater and Environmental Power”. 2022. Performance Philosophy 7 (1): 66-83.

How to Cite

“Street Smart or Smart Street? Theater and Environmental Power”. 2022. Performance Philosophy 7 (1): 66-83.