Transforming the Past into Presence: in Dialogue with Eugenio Barba and Julia Varley

  • Adriana La Selva
  • Patrick Campbell (Manchester Metropolitan University)
  • Eugenio Barba
  • Julia Varley


In this dialogical article, Patrick Campbell and Adriana La Selva of international research platform Cross Pollination interview Eugenio Barba and Julia Varley of Odin Teatret, with a focus on the activities of the recently inaugurated NGO Fondazione Barba Varley. Having left their institutional base, Nordisk Teaterlaboratorium, in December 2022 after 56 years of being rooted to a concrete theatrical space, Odin Teatret now work nomadically, developing new projects both within Denmark and beyond. The Fondazione Barba Varley extends and builds on the legacy of Odin Teatret, with a specific agenda to support and promote the 'nameless' – theater groups and independent artists working silently on the borders between theater and activism. Derrida’s writings around the politics of friendship (Derrida 2005) serve as a loose critical framework for articulating the potential dialogical avenues available once one abandons the appropriative drive on institutionalization. The conversation follows an organic flow, with a focus on dialogue and communication, the embodied dialogical tactics of the theater laboratory practitioner, and the current activities of the Fondazione, such as the Constellation of the Nameless, ISTA New Generation, The Journal of Theater Anthropology (JTA) and the Living Archive: Floating Islands. Theatrical legacy and its transmission are articulated as relational and interpersonal, grounded on a deeply personal process of 'creating signs': the generation of poetic forms that translate a pragmatic know-how forged over a lifetime dedicated to art as activism.

Keywords: Theatre Laboratory theatre and activism, Odin Teatret, Cross Pollination, ethos, dialogue, Theatre Laboratory, theatre and activism

How to Cite:

La Selva, A., Campbell, P., Barba, E. & Varley, J., (2023) “Transforming the Past into Presence: in Dialogue with Eugenio Barba and Julia Varley”, Documenta 41(1), 17–41. doi:

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Published on
14 Nov 2023