Aesthetics of Absence


Texts on Theatre

By Heiner Goebbels

Edited by Jane Collins, Nicole Gronemeyer

Associate Editor: Nicholas Till

Translated by David Roesner

© 2015 – Routledge

Paperback. 112 pages

SKU: 9780415831048 Categories: ,


Aesthetics of Absence presents a significant challenge to the many embedded assumptions and hierarchical structures that have become ‘naturalised’ in western theatre production. This is the first English translation of a new collection of writings and lectures by Heiner Goebbels, the renowned German theatre director, composer and teacher. These writings map Goebbels’ engagement with ‘Aesthetics of Absence’ through his own experience at the forefront of innovative music-theatre and performance making.

In this volume, Goebbels reflects on works created over a period of more than 20 years staged throughout the world; introduces some of his key artistic influences, including Robert Wilson and Jean-Luc Godard; discusses the work of his students and ex-students, the collective Rimini Protokoll; and sets out the case for a radical rethinking of theatre and performance education. He gives us a rare insight into the rehearsal process of critically acclaimed works such as Eraritjaritjaka and Stifters Dinge, explaining in meticulous detail the way he weaves an eclectic range of references from fine art, theatre, literature, politics, anthropology, contemporary and classical music, jazz and folk, into his multi-textured music-theatre compositions.

As an artist who is prepared to share his research and demystify the processes through which his own works come into being, as a teacher with a coherent pedagogical strategy for educating the next generation of theatre-makers, in this volume, Goebbels brings together practice, research and scholarship.


Heiner Goebbels is a professor at the Institut für Angewandte Theaterwissenschaft of the Justus-Liebig-University Gießen, President of the Hessische Theaterakademie, and Artistic Director of the Ruhrtriennale – International Festival of the Arts.



List of Illustrations

When a Tree is Already Being Mentioned, You Don’t Also Have to Show It

A Preface


Aesthetics of Absence

How it all began


PART I: Texts on Work(s)

Description of a Picture, Table-Parties and Comparative Degrees

About the opera Landscape with Distant Relatives


‘Some Things You Only Remember, Because They Don’t Have Anything To Do With Anything’

Questions on constructing Eraritjaritjaka


Real Time In Oberplan

A Theatre of Deceleration


Peculiar Voices

On working on I Went to the House But Did Not Enter


The Space as Invitation

The spectator as the object of art



PART II: Texts on Artists

‘But I wanted this to be a narrative’

Jean-Luc Godard as a composer


What We Don’t See, Attracts Us

Four theses on Call Cutta by Rimini Protokoll


The Mystery Of Signs

For Robert Wilson


Trust No Eye

For Erich Wonder


‘To Comprehensively Build Up A Society With Modest Prosperity’

The Ensemble Modern as an example



PART III: Texts on Education

Research or Craftsmanship?

Nine theses on the future of an education for the performing arts


If I Want An Actor To Cry, I Give Him An Onion

On working with actors


A Giant Wooden Pistol

Theory and Practice in Gießen


Organising Hearing and Seeing

The Practical Study of Theatre


Compromise Is a Bad Director

Theatre as museum or laboratory





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