Research Area F
Poesien er bare én af menneskets mange erkendelsesformer, og der går det samme skel ned gennem dem alle, hvad enten det drejer sig om filosofi, matematik eller naturvidenskab. Et skel mellem dem, der tror at mennesket med sit sprog står udenfor verden, og dem der oplever, at et menneske med sprog er en del af verden; og at det derfor bliver nødvendigt at forstå, at idet mennesket udtrykker sig, er det også verden der udtrykker sig.– Inger Christensen, Hemmeligheds-tilstanden (1992)
Today, new materialism and object philosophy has produced a renewed focus on the material world. It asks us to increase the value of matter. To understand how we and the world of objects are intrinsically connected. In the Anthropocene era – what’s not of man has been given a new value.
We are in our essence social beings. Humans form societies. We are both mind and matter. One could say that we are as material as we are immaterial. And in this perspective, we have to see nature is an agent, not just mise-en-scene.
For many theatre makers, it has become important to use theatre/live art to create a dialogue between man and matter. To explore the connection and to increase our understanding of how dependent we are on the physical world that we are a part of. This has also become vital to many contemporary Norwegian playwrights like Eirik Fauske (Sorgarbeid Live, Avant Garden/Black Box 2018 and Vi er dette Auget, Stamsund 2019), Ludvig Ulhorst deals with this his work on the Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss (Black Box Theater (2017–2019). Nina Ossavy’s performances take on an almost eco-political character in Bios (Black Box Teater 2013) and Døden kom ikke med ljå (2019).
Many have called this development a part of that spatial turn. A turn that strives to connect the humans to their wider surroundings, creating a feedbackloop, a reciprocal triangle of exchange between what goes on in the play, the audience, and the ”world”. Between mind, context and matter, so to say.
There are many different ways to go about this. One can write on nature, with nature, about nature, or let nature/outside forces take control over the artistic process by following certain rules, chance, weatherpatterns etc.
To give form to that is what theatre is about.
In the hybrid play, this is represented through language.
Language is not something that places us aside from the world, the Danish poet Inger Christensen states. Language is a part of the world. And art is a way to bring form to the world.
2. WHAT INFLUENCES WHAT?
When the poets work gets dictated by the form, like when writing a sonnet, or following a mathematical pattern etc. the poem opens up to the world. Gry Haugland writes in her dissertation on Inger Christensen’s work: Digtet er således et produkt af digterens skaberkraft, men samtidig også derigennem et produkt af noget andet, af nogle formgivende principper, der transcenderer sproget. Brugen af systemer er en måde, hvorpå digteren kan lade noget andet styre formen i digtet – lade sit formsprog indgå i et allerede givet formprincip og dermed mime dette særlige forhold mellem sprog og natur (Anne Gry Haugland, Naturen i ånden – Naturfilosofien i Inger Christensens Forfatterskap, Ph.d.-afhandling, Institut for Nordiske Studier og Sprogvidenskab, Det Humanistiske Fakultet, Københavns Universitet 2012).
For Inger Christensen ”systemdiktning”, or rule-based writing, was a way of giving the nonhuman influence over her writing.
Early, in the 1960’s, composers like John Cage and Morten Feldman, and movements like the fluxus-movement, developed ideas and concepts similar to those of hers. Many of these ideas and techniques are still vital today. Especially in conceptual and improvisation-based work.
In theatre, these ideas were especially influential in performance art from the 1960’s and onwards. Often crossing the boundaries between visual and performing arts, or between the gallery, the public domain and the theatre, establishing performance-art as a new artform.
One can also such influence in more conceptual, contemporary work, and in the staging’s of postmodern drama. The mission of these techniques and approaches is to force some outer influence, or an aspect of chance maybe, on the composer/writer/choreographer/performer, or on the material itself.
In my praxis I use many of these techniques in the work process. Like cut up techniques, or random placing, both during the writing process when finally assembling the material.
I also use different writing-improvisations, both when writing alone or together with others, and I use physical improvisation with performers on the floor. In all these techniques, error and chance is welcomed, but since I work with hybrid forms, these techniques are only used to a certain extent, and in combination with other.
While ”rulebased” art opens up through shaping or “restricting” the creative process, the hybrid does the opposite. It offers both control, chance and freedom. The form does not take control from the writer. Instead it offers an organic and network-based form of composing. It moves the writing process away from dualism and dichotomy as the organizing principle.
AN END TO DUALISM AND AN EMANCIPATORY STRATEGIES
Theatre is the art of transformation.
Hans Thies Lehman states: Theatre never boils down to representation that simply follows immanent aesthetic logic. It involves a concrete process of play and actual gathering; as such, it has to always afforded the possibility of opening beyond the illusory world of the fiction; trough speeches, addresses to the audience, soliloquies, the presence of allegorical figures, and so on (Hans-Thies Lehmann, Tragedy and Dramatic Theatre, Routledge 2016, p. 217).
Eco-philosopher like Michel Serres states that we have to bring an end to dualism. To the habit of understanding the world though dichotomies: Man and nature, bad and good, black and white. This way of thinking closes us off from nature. For when we let the non-human into the equation, it is no longer about the power struggle, man is no longer the centre (Michele Serres, Times of Crises, London, Bloomsbury Academic 2013).
Many see this turn towards landscape and nature as a part of a series of emancipatory approaches in the postdramatic theatre.
The postdramatic theatre-praxis per se, has been read as one. A part of a process that happened in opposition to the “master narratives” and “totalizing discourses” of modernism. That rebelled against the hierarchy and the aesthetics of the theatre of 18 and early 1900’s, and against a patriarchic and eurocentric world view. In this deconstruction and critical thinking has been the tools creating new aesthetics and new perspectives.
Edward W. Soja writes about how Homi Bahba, an influential Indian-English scholar and critical theorist, opened up for resistance at the margins of cultural politics by rethinking space and terms like territory (Edward W. Soja, Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing 1996, p. 14). Seeing the world not from the center, but from its boarders and peripheries, he gave new perspective and a potential for rebellion.
The idea is, that when space is no longer immobile, we live in a life-world of heterotopias. Michel Focault saw heterotopias as another kind of space than the structured, logical place of cause and effect. Heterotopias are certain cultural, institutional and discursive spaces that are somehow ‘other’. They can be disturbing, intense, incompatible, contradictory or transforming. And these thoughts are deeply connected to Edward W. Soja’s idea of thirdspace.
Soja sees thirdspace as an emancipatory tool, that can change the focus and the way we look at things, and thereby manage to tip the perspective, loosening up old perceptions and power structures.
If we are spatial beings, from the global to the most intimate, thirdspace, encompasses the simultaneity and interwoven complexity of the social, historical, and the spatial. And he sees them as inseparable and interdependent.
While firstspace focus on the “real” (the material world) and second space focuses on “imagined representations” (culture, narratives etc.) – thirdspace encompasses the spatial and the social, as a place for production of history, in other words it is a “both/and-also” term.
I myself had used the term thirdspace, not knowing about Homi Bahba’s writing. I used the term as a tool to name an alternative place and time. Especially when presenting the ideas around the City Dwellers project. Then I used it to frame the spatiality in my text, especially those developed for presentation through immersive sound. And I attached it to texts where agents (characters, text-forms, dreams etc.) could travers between firstpace and sceondspace, between the existential, the social, and the “real” (I write more extensively about this in the chapter Ratatosk in my meta-reflection).
Doing so, I was not aware that this term was so extensively in use by Lefebvre, Baba and Soja. And that it was now in frequent use among researchers in among culture studies and the live arts.
Understanding the performance space, is also understanding the history of theatre, seems to be the sub-text of Hans Thies Lehman writing in the art form. When he looks at the shift in theatre, from the predramatic to the dramatic, and so on, he often focuses on the use of space. From the open air amfi-theatres of the antiquity, to the stripped-down indoor boxes of the new-classic theatre, to the interactive landscape-theatre of today.
When he leaves his historical overview, and tries to look at a potential theatre of the future, a kind of potential thirdspace in the theatre appear in his thinking. He writes: By the same token, theatre explores the realm of machines, ... which brings together mechanics and technology. Apropos of Robert Wilson, Heiner Müller spoke of the ”wisdom of fairy-tale, that human history cannot be separated from the history of animals (plants, rocks, machines)”. Such works seems to anticipate the ”unity of man and machine, the next step in evolution” (Routledge 2016).
Hear lies the embryo not only of an anthroplogical mutation with machines and even with the animal kingdom. This new understanding of thirdspace in the theatre, might be the dawn of a new understanding of Man’s place in the theatre. Man, now represented as a part of the natural world. As mind in matter. Theatre with a will to engage in a dialogical dance with these non-human, or ”dead things”. To enter into a conversation with a mouse, a mountain or a cosmic storm raging somewhere out there in the deepest space. And with the new tools and attitudes available, the dead can join the living, machines can fall in love ad the stones can speak.
4. AN ETHICAL TURN
All this has ethical implications. It ties us reciprocally not just other human beings, but to our surroundings at large. The crux of our survival, physically and mentally, depend on this simple understanding: Man is not alone. Or as the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas states in his work Existence and Existents (Emanuel Levinas, Existence and Existent’s, Pittsburg, Duquesne University Press 2001) – through addressing the other, I become you.
Through reading Emmanuel Levinas, and the French philosopher Paul Riceour in the late 1990’s, I became aware of the idea that and ethical binding of reciprocity is at the chore of human co-existence and interaction. To listen is to stay open for what comes. To be willing to change. To make yourselves vulnerable. And that narration can function as an ethical laboratory. In it we can try-out and live through the dilemmas of others.
Knowing this, I also know that when we write, we establish an ethic intrinsic to the play.
I try to adhere to this when I write my plays. It is about how the world addresses me, and how I reply.
In the plays, this can take form through constituting feedbackloops and loops of expectancy between “me” and “the other”, between different forms of addressing. This starts even before I begin to write. In the process of getting an idea or finding the material. And to make this reciprocity happen, I have to stay open. I have to listen – and respond. I have to make myself vulnerable.
Through thought processes like this, I have become intrinsically interested in addresses per se. In the imperative, and the social ties that are formed through addressing. By another human being, by an artwork or by “the world”. To see hat wheels and address put in motion. As a result, I have become just as interested in speech acts as in dialogue as such (For more see the essay: Stay–Leave. Don’t Go).
Is this what we have to fight?
What do you mean fight?
Should we not be fighting for – the ground we walk on
These walls that surrounds us
The weed at the curb
The children in the streets
The puddle behind my house
The first snow in November – the snow that never came
Your hand in my pocket
Your hand as it reaches for the butter
A letter I once wrote
A boy as he puts down his weapon
A man deciding that this year he is going to grow some wheat
The fact that our telescopes have become able reach deep into deepest space
– that fact that space is so waste it might never end
which is us
and this place – that it does not
– have an end
I mean – who ever told us that?
That this was the end?
– a mice in the thicket.
The discovery that the structures in our cells resembles the structures in the cells of a star in a faraway galaxy
A girl showing her tits to a boy she likes
A lorryload of bread
The cotton high and blooming
The weight of aC:summer shower – all that happens
whileC:– everything else happens
A farmer putting his child to bed
A dancer stretching her arm out to another dancer
An audience applauding – a bird
– dyingthe light falling, a start falling
All this is notA:the end
What if –
What if this is –
What if this just is
(From the live version of future–PRE–positions, PRE. Performed at Scenetekstivalen 2019. See the whole text here.)
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