~ Antonin Artaud ~ Christopher Churchill ~ Daniel Johnston ~

The Theater and its Double (Book Cover) by Antonin ArtaudArtaud, Antonin. The Theatre and Its Double. Trans. Mary Caroline Richards. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1958.

Original text by Antoine Marie Joseph Artaud (1896-1948). A collection of writings surrounding Artaud’s vision for the reform of theatre toward it’s ‘intended’ nature; to be comprised of instinct, emotion, sensuality and psychic significations that engender the raw, crudely elusive, elements of human reality. This ‘double’ is not intended to represent life, people, and environments as would a mirror, but to evoke it’s essence through spectacle and a total-theatre of arts. Artaud wishes to devise a theatrical language without instructive words but that reveal the meaning in objects. He criticizes the theatre conventions of his day as an abstracted literacy-centric contrivances, and dismisses the value of performance if it is but the manifestation of a script. Both his manifesto and accompanying notes describe a preference toward living poetry, psycho-sensual dynamicism, and an honouring of ‘primitive’ performance qualities. In support of these aims, the author explains the extent to which an immersive environment (emphasizing the mise en scene), emotive and gestural physicality (performers inhabited by ecstasy and delirium), and spiritual ritual enactments or visual symbolism can release and engage the profound and tumultuous. He describes his prescriptions as invoking and/or presenting a kind of ‘cruelty’; explaining his call for a Theatre of Cruelty. This new theatre is intended to stir the more universal attributes of human feeling and to evoke sensual stimuli that will exorcise our most violent of passions. Set against his example of Balinese theatre, Artaud’s criticisms of Occidental theatre may also be seen to engender passionate criticisms of European civilization and culture.

Churchill, Christopher. Camus and the theatre of terror: Artaudian dramaturgy and settler society in the works of Albert Camus. Modern Intellectual History, 7, 1 (2010): 93–121.

Writer Christopher Churchill makes the argument that the work of Albert Camus can be directly associated with the dramaturgical intentions of Antonin Artaud. The author reconnects readers with Camus’s historical context and recalls the importance that he placed upon theatre as a potentially revolutionary cultural tool. The article is written with distinct awareness of the renown Existentialist’s status as a French settler-citizen of Algeria, and describes a relationship between his desire to influence the cultural character of his home land and his privileged status as an European descendant. Churchill appropriately emphasizes the congruencies between Camus’s theatrical aspirations and Artaud’s manifesto for a Theatre of Cruelty, and cites several attributes of the two theatre artist’s vocabulary as well as their discursive perceptions of Occidental culture. The essay also traces the legacy of an Enlightenment-nurtured rebellion and ideology among associated theatre practitioners in answer to, what is referred to as, an over-zealous admiration and resurgent interest in Camus’s writing, in present day academia.

Johnston, Daniel. Overcoming the Metaphysics Consciousness: Being / Artaud. Australasian Association for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies. University of Sydney, 2006.

Daniel Johnston’s article draws attention and focuses upon the phenomenological nature of Antonin Artaud’s preferences and interpreted meanings of theatre as a practice. In particular, the article relates the intent and vocabularies of both Martin Heidegger and Artaud while noting their mutual critiques of metaphysical dualism (which separates mind and body, consciousness and the senses). Johnston proposes that the aims of both writers overlap (to access the experience of Being and Becoming) and that theatre may well present an alternative method of understanding consciousness. The author proposes that rather than relying wholly upon the study of biology, psychology, anthropology, etc., we might instead look to performance as an embodiment and practical application that is a vehicle for experience. He suggest that it is experience, rather than contemplation or reflection, that both Heidegger and Artaud emphasize as crucial to understanding and exploring existence.


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