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.


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How to Cite

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