Refracting Implication: the Uses of Silence

Twitchin, Mischa. 2020. 'Refracting Implication: the Uses of Silence'. In: Prisms of Silence. Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn, Estonia 21-22 February 2020. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

The hinge between parts one and two of Krzysztof Warlikowski’s extraordinary production (A)pollonia presents a devastating staging of silence, when an SS officer in occupied Poland offers a “choice” to the father of a woman who has been caught hiding Jews. The officer proposes, in an exercise of sadistic power, that “only the person who hid the Jews is going to be punished” (Warlikowski, et al, 2014: 37), allowing for the father to take the inevitable death sentence upon himself. A decade after its premiere at the Avignon Festival in 2009, the production is still in Warsaw’s Nowy Teatr’s repertory and poses profound questions to its audience about both the ethics and the rhetoric of self-sacrifice. Ranging from the example of Iphigenia to that of Yad Vashem’s recognition of the “righteous among the nations”, the performance also questions concepts of the tragic in the relation between theatre and history, exploring its “uses” within nationalist politics. The question of silence here translates this relation into an intergenerational familial one, with its disturbing sense of implication (as Michael Rothberg [2019], for example, has recently addressed). While always culturally particular to their time and place, the significance of these questions are nonetheless shared across the former “Eastern bloc” countries, where (as Assmann [2015], amongst others, has discussed) a complex experience of silence – both official and personal – informed claims to legitimacy in post-1945 (and pre-1990) cultural politics. In this presentation, I will explore this “hinge” scene in (A)pollonia as, precisely, a “prism” for exposing these politics as they continue to resonate within examples of contemporary cultural production.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


22 February 2020Completed

Event Location:

Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn, Estonia

Date range:

21-22 February 2020

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

27 Feb 2020 12:54

Last Modified:

27 Feb 2020 12:54


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