Capitain Petzel

On the Politics of Delicacy

24 Jan - 22 Feb 2020

Installation view: On the Politics of Delicacy, Curated by Anke Kempkes, January 24 – February 22, 2020 © The Estate of Robert Anton, the artists and Capitain Petzel, Berlin. Photo: Jens Ziehe
24 January – 22 February 2020

Curated by Anke Kempkes

The Robert Anton Theatre


Yael Bartana, Duggie Fields, Federico García Lorca, Nicholas Grafia, Hannah Höch, Karolina Jablonska, Krzysztof Jung, Tadeusz Kantor, Stanislava Kovalcikova, Zoe Leonard, Liliane Lijn, Raúl Martínez, Joanna Piotrowska, Jimmy De Sana, Mikolaj Sobczak, Kazimierz Wisniak, a.o.

January 24, 7pm
The Accursed Ones, Performance by Mikolaj Sobczak & Nicholas Grafia

January 25, 7pm
Queer Performativity in Times of Political Polarization, Conversation with Performers Mikolaj Sobczak, Nicholas Grafia, Uel, Billy Morgan, Agata Grabowska and Filip Rutkowski with Igor Bloch. Moderated by Anke Kempkes

Songs of Poland
Poetry Reading by Billy Morgan

Capitain Petzel is pleased to announce the group exhibition On the Politics of Delicacy conceived around the Robert Anton Theatre Collection. In the early 1970s Robert Anton (1949-1984) created a surreal miniature theatre which quickly achieved cult status and fascinated audiences both in the US and Europe. By bringing together multiple influences – from Antonin Artaud’s writings on the Theatre of Cruelty, alchemist principles of transformation and hybridity, post-WWI characters of George Grosz and Otto Dix, to the eccentric creatures of Hieronymus Bosch; but also early Hollywood and Disney motives, Federico Fellini’s baroque fantasies, and pop cultural impulses of his era – Anton created a unique visual language. Due to the intimacy of his performances which often took place in his loft with a maximum capacity of 18 spectators, his plays remained something of New York’s best-kept secret, a refuge into the surreal imaginary. The exhibition gives insight into Anton’s work by showing his intriguingly sculpted figurines (effectively, his ‘actors’), props and drawings.

At Capitain Petzel, curator Anke Kempkes contextualises the oeuvre of Robert Anton for the first time by unfolding thematic trajectories that resonate with his work, namely the politics of the home theatre, surrealist political theatre, the concept of ‘monstrosity’ in postwar female avant-garde sculpture, a new female painterly symbolism, and queer performativity in times of political polarization. With such specific trajectories in mind, a dynamic dialogue takes place between Anton’s oeuvre and works permeating both genre and epoch by German Dada artist Hannah Höch and Spanish poet and theatre director Federico García Lorca; Anton’s theatre pioneer contemporary Tadeusz Kantor and scenographer Kazimierz Wisniak; works by Wanda Czelkowska and Liliane Lijn; post-modernist and queer artists from East and West Duggie Fields, Jimmy De Sana, Krzysztof Jung, Raúl Martínez and Zoe Leonard; and contemporary artists Yael Bartana, Joanna Piotrowska, Stanislava Kovalcikova, Karolina Jablonska, Mikolaj Sobczak, Nicholas Grafia, Billy Morgan and Uel.

The Robert Anton Theatre collection was previously on display at Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw (2018); The Edge, Bath University Gallery (2019); and Tramway, Glasgow (2019).

Our special thanks go to Anke Kempkes and the Bette Stoler Collection, New York.