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Before, Beneath, and Beyond Participation

A page each from Artaud and Brecht's notebooks.

SECTION II [Before Participation]

ANTI / THEATRICAL SENTIMENT IN CONTEXT:

–       Drawing from Diderot, Ranciere, Adorno, Nietzsche, Sartre, Bataille, Dewey.

–       Note that many popularly referenced post-war Europeans were criticizing a presentational composition that we would now refer to as Opera. Quick reference to Wagner et al. Review the calls for theatrical innovation and reform, as opposed to eradication, and intrinsic belief that theatrical experiences benefited society (or could even alter popular consciousness). Note that New Media and Intermedia experimentation has borrowed directly from performing arts practices, even while setting out to distinguish the artforms, so as to secure legitimacy as a fine art (as was the challenge for photography when compared to painting, for eg, and for video art as compared to cinema). Strict disciplinary compartmentalization in art histories and critiques does not (and most probably cannot) adequately reflect nor support movements aspiring toward de-categorization and protect Modernist validation conventions at the same time.

–       Before Artaud / After Artaud slogan. Note of caution regarding confusing the practitioner’s viewpoint for the audience / spectator / guest’s experience of a work. Discussion of Artaud’s own collaborations and performances and his prescriptions for a Theatre of Cruelty. A review his emphasis of critique: Anti-literary theatre not actually anti-speach (a term pertaining to dialogue in the performing arts), emotively expressive not discursive, anti-psychological not anti-narrative, profane not actually anti-metaphysical, and a distinctly blended total art presentation (mise en scene / scenographic). References Being and becoming in relation to ‘primitivist’ symbolism and allegory. Aims to trigger the release of volatile passions and proposes immersion to this end.

–       During Brecht / After Brecht. Fourth Wall ambiguities and relevance to Cinematic and New Media theory. Review his emphasis of critique with relevance to performance work: Conceptual signification (gesture) not naturalistic mimesis, aims for self-conscious reflexivity not collective catharsis (enforced empathy), juxtapositional not blended total art, rational not religious experience, interruption of absorption not anti-staging, openings through reportage / witnessing not forced entertainment. Promoted a re-exploration of past performance approaches while innovating with new technologies in collaborative context. Most important differences between Artaud and Brecht’s prescriptions pertain to audiences opportunities for distancing and the artists’ proposed remedy for worn-torn traumas.

–      Note that both artists were inspired by exposure to Asian performance practices. Both prescribed experimentation with multiple mediums and spatial arrangements. Both promoted the devising of works, emphasizing a primacy of performance over text, but did not discard use of scripts. Both recognized symbolic imagery as impactful but expected to arouse audiences in differing ways. Both hoped to resolve the question of meaningful audience experiences (relates to empathy), as opposed to encouraging a generalized illusionary mood, and to ‘awaken’ audiences out of ‘their slumber’ (disruption of habit). Each of their prescriptions were inherently concerned with theatre’s role in benefiting the psychosocial conditions within the societies they lived. Relevance to place-time and cultural milieu.

–        During Fluxus / After Fluxus. John Cage and Allan Kaprow. Note the divergent ‘Fluxus’ practices and philosophies they are associated with in hindsight. Relevance to perception of Performativity as dichotomously opposed by Theatricality. Reviewing John Cage’s emphasis of concern: Musical not anti-presentational, chance improvisations not anti-theatrical, poetry not anti-textual, discursive not actually anti-specialist, primacy of live performance over notation and recordings. Discuss attentiveness to ‘the everyday’ with relevance to temporal experience. Kaprow’s emphasis: Theatrical not mediumistic, scripted not anti-presentational, blended arts not juxtapositional, emotively expressive in communal context, aimed to further exemplify engagement relationship not to dismiss aesthetic experience. Discuss anti-expert sentiment and the undermining of precious art-objects (Art Market non-conformity). Relevance to place-time and cultural milieu.

–        Countless intriguing appropriations, and dubious homages, are explored by contemporary artists that are sometimes but not always explicit in their relation to above artists. These examples, among other artists I will mention, are nonetheless broadly acknowledged as representing significant turning points in performance history from which current works derive character. The terminologies employed to describe emergent performance genres are recognized as carrying forth an implicit genealogy. While the vocabularies are largely intended to distinguish these movements – rather, these trajectories of creative intent – they also typically carry the cross-references into now familiar philosophical terrains that engender conflicts of understanding. It is as if, through many of our discussions and expectations, we are merely carrying forward a Modernist framing of creative endeavours that are otherwise referred to as Postmodernist rebellions. A fuller view of performance history, and the premise of aspirations vested into performance events, assists us in identifying contemporary creative conundrums and challenges.

This above is a work in progress. Related Posts:
Section I [Introduction]
Section III [The Before in The After]
Section IV [Beneath the Artspeak]
A List of Related Articles and Books.

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