Transmission in Motion


“The Human Subject and a Progressive Environmental Future” – Christl de Kloe

Carl Lavery asks in his Introduction: Performance and Ecology – What Can Theatre do?  (2016), the question “what theatre and performance might be able to do ecologically” (Lavery 2016, 229). Two premises are discussed for this question. The first is that the ecological contribution of theatre is not to be found in explicit messages but in the possibilities of the theatrical medium. And the second is that “forms of environmental degradation continue to accelerate” (Lavery 2016, 229). Lavery discusses that a rigorous reflection on theatre as a medium is necessary to understand how theatre might “contribute to a more progressive environmental future” (Lavery 2016, 229).

Throughout his talk and in this introduction, Lavery discusses how anthropocentrism has long been associated with theatre, and that this disputes the possible ecological value of theatre (Lavery 2016, 231). In contemporary theatre and ecocritical theories, the human subject is displaced from the center of the world and is placed within an “agential landscape of flows, systems and networks” (Lavery 2016, 231). In accounts, the human is understood in its necessary entanglement, “in which the human being is always part of a larger assemblage of objects, technologies, and processes” (Lavery 2016, 231). In his essay “Theatricality and Drifting in the Anthropocene: Reading Asger Jorn and Guy Debord’s Mémoires as Earth Book,” Lavery poses that in line with displacing the human in the center of the theatre and in the center of the world, he thinks that a different position, where we recognize our own helplessness “in the face of a violent earth”, and where we surrender to our own lack of knowing, “in not being so militant in our compulsions to act, save, restore,” might be a step in the right direction to answer the question of what theatre and performance might be able to do ecologically (Lavery, 8). The strength in doing so resides in “its weakness, its openness to chance, contradiction and disappointment” (Lavery 2016, 8).

I understand that “the earth is neither an unchanging ark to protect [..] nor is it a tranquil blue marble that human beings can marvel at” and that the “earth is multiform, never one” (Lavery 2016, 4). I also get why the human needs to be decentered and that anthropocentrism needs to be critiqued and displaced. However, I am still left wondering whether the recognition of our own helplessness and surrendering to our lack of knowledge, in the middle of climate change and our treating of the world as a standing-reserve, might be a step in the right direction (Kaplan 2009, 29).


  • Kaplan, David M., ed. 2009. Readings in the Philosophy of Technology. 2nd ed. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • Lavery, Carl. 2016. “Introduction: Performance and Ecology – What Can Theatre Do?” Green Letters 20 (3): 229–36.