Unreal Nature

November 17, 2018

Still What We Need

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:50 am

… how valuable is the experience?

This is from The Empty Space by Peter Brook (1968):

… Railing against the sterility of the theatre before the war in France an illuminated genius Antoine Artaud wrote tracts describing from his imagination and intuition another theatre — a Holy Theatre in which the blazing center speaks through those forms closest to it. A theatre working like the plague, by intoxication, by infection, by analogy, by magic; a theatre in which the play, the event itself, stands in place of a text.

Is there another language, just as exacting for the author, as a language of words? Is there a language of actions, a language of sounds — a language of word-as-part-of-movement, of word-as-lie, word-as-parody, of word-as-rubbish, of word-as-contradiction, of word-shock or word-cry? If we talk of the more-than-literal, if poetry means that which crams more and penetrates deeper — is this where it lies?

… an actor making a gesture is both creating for himself out of his deepest need and yet for the other person. It is hard to understand the true notion of spectator, there and not there, ignored and yet needed. The actor’s work is never for an audience, yet always is for one. The onlooker is a partner who must be forgotten and still constantly kept in mind: a gesture is statement, expression, communication and a private manifestation of loneliness — it is always what Artaud calls a signal through the flames — yet this implies a sharing of experience, once contact is made.

… Our aim for each experiment, good or bad, successful or disastrous, was the same: can the invisible be made visible through the performer’s presence?

We know that the world of appearance is a crust — under the crust is the boiling matter …

… we were trying to smash the apparently water-tight divisions between the private and the public man: the outer man whose behavior is bound by the photographic rules of everyday life, who must sit to sit, stand to stand — and the inner man whose anarchy and poetry is usually expressed only in his words. For centuries, unrealistic speech has been universally accepted, all sorts of audiences have swallowed the convention that words can do the strangest things — in a monologue, for instance, a man stays still but his ideas can dance where they will. Vaulting speech is a good convention, but is there another?

… He wanted an audience that would drop all its defences, that would allow itself to be perforated, shocked, startled, and raped, so that at the same time it could be filled with a powerful new charge.

This sounds tremendous, yet it raises a nagging doubt. How passive does this make the spectator? Artaud maintained that only in the theatre could we liberate ourselves from the recognizable forms in which we live our daily lives. This made the theatre a holy place in which a greater reality could be found. Those who view his work with suspicion ask how all-embracing is this truth, and secondly, how valuable is the experience?

[line break added] A totem, a cry from the womb: these can crack through walls of prejudice in any man: a howl can certainly reach through to the guts. But is this revealing, is this contact with our own repressions creative, therapeutic? Is it really holy — or is Artaud in his passion dragging us back to a nether world, away from striving, away from the light — to D.H. Lawrence, Wagner; is there even a fascist smell in the cult of unreason? Is a cult of the invisible, anti-intelligent? Is it a denial of the mind?

… In the theatre, the tendency for centuries has been to put the actor at a remote distance, on a platform, framed, decorated, lit, painted, in high shoes — so as to help to persuade the ignorant that he is holy, that his art is sacred. … Today, we have exposed the sham. But we are rediscovering that a holy theatre is still what we need. So where should we look for it? In the clouds or on the ground?

My most recent previous post from Brook’s book is here.

-Julie

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