Talking Contradictions: Buying Brass Method Reexamined

Kent Sjöström, Alice Koubová, Anders Carlsson

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOtherpeer-review


Three speakers engaged with theatre in different ways (professor, director, actor, lecturer, philosopher) got inspired by the dialogical structure of Brecht’s Buying Brass and staged a similarly structured conversation. This conversation imitated the way how thespians and intellectual met in Brecht’s original text, but it was thematically focused on the current socio-cultural context. The research question was: How can we today make use of Brecht´s dialectic methodology in order to re-think the institutional situation of theatre as a starting point of social transformation? Which contemporary philosophies can help in this re-thinking? Is theatre interested in them and is there any transformational potential in the opposite direction: from the theatre practice to the philosophical accounts of the contemporary world?

The fragment collection under the title Buying Brass, unfinished and unedited by Brecht himself, anyhow belongs among the most extensive and sophisticated of Brecht’s treatises on theatre. It questions theatre in its very being, in its social and cultural function and in its epistemological potential. Staging a conversation of agents with different interests, attitudes, desires and functions in the theatrical apparatus, Brecht succeeds to provide a plastic methodology that tackles theatre dilemmas without reducing them to a one-dimensional view. The very format of a dialogue is congenial with theatrical practice and has a history among philosophers since Plato. Philosopher Denis Diderot as well as theatre practitioners Konstantin Stanislavsky and Richard Boleslavsky have presented their ideas for a rejuvenation of theatre in the format of written dialogues. Contradictions and objections are made manifest and also shown as anchored in a specific working role or institutional function. Moreover, the dialogue format allows and recognizes the imperfections, fallacies and misunderstandings of human conversations, as relevant aspects of contingency. And this contingency is of importance when we consider systemic, institutional or networked social situations. Thus, concerning the different background of the three presenters, we found the dialogue between us a relevant format, because it allows the realism of misunderstanding of each other as well as misrepresenting our selves. The three speakers choose different entries to the dialogue format, depending on their respective professional roles. This momentum of role-taking, reductively labeling oneself and each other as representatives of institutional functions, would also add a non-all dimension to the event of performing our dialogue: what was not said was somehow still inferred by suspicion or imagination. This approach has also an ambition to renew the customary way of paper presentations at research conferences and symposiums.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019 Nov 8
EventBertolt Brecht: Contradictions as a Method: An international symposium presented by DAMU and The S Word. Legacy and the live tradition: acting, directing, thinking... - DAMU, Prag, Czech Republic
Duration: 2019 Nov 82019 Nov 10


ConferenceBertolt Brecht: Contradictions as a Method
Country/TerritoryCzech Republic
Internet address

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Performing Arts

Artistic work

  • Performance

Free keywords

  • Bertolt Brecht
  • Theatre
  • Institutional critique
  • philosophy
  • performance philosophy
  • Messingkauf
  • Buying Brass
  • Actor's training
  • curating


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