Theatricality, LAZNIA 2, Center for Contemporary Art, Gdańsk


LAZNIA 2, Center for Contemporary Art,
Nowy Port, 5 Strajku Dokerów Street, Gdańsk
23 kwietnia – 29 maja 2016
Anna Baumgart, $1000 i PKF, 2014 [00:20:00]
Róża Duda, Structuralism, 2016 [00:04:53]
Alicja Rogalska, Dreamed Revolution, 2014-2015 [00:13:42]
Piotr Urbaniec, Jesień sprawiedliwa, 2015 [00:04:54]
Eva Van Tongeren, There is no whales in France, 2015 [00:19:31]
Vera Herr, Screem test, 2015 [00:18:45]
Pim Dinghs, Soirèe à la giraffe, 2016 [00:30:29]
The theatre may today seem to be an anachronistic medium. Pushed out of the mainstream by media that are better equipped to reflect reality – first film, then television – the theatre may be taken to symbolise artificiality or conventionality. However, older media do not die out – this is not the case of some media being replaced by others, as they are all interrelated in the media landscape, feeding on one another. What is more, the older ones are released from the ‘me too’ drive, so they may perform a critical function with respect to more recent ones. Something that is taken for an error in cinematography may prove to be subversive in terms of theatre: it disrupts cinematographic illusion, spoils the smooth narrative, prevents one from becoming involved, keeps showing that it is all a game of pretence, make-believe. That we are actually deluded by the cinema in its quest for hyperreality. Even though corporeality and liveness should have the upper hand here, we are much more seduced by the image – “film is the winner of this rivalry precisely on account of the viewer’s need of immediacy and intimacy”, wrote Philip Auslander (Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture, Taylor Francis elibrary, 2012). However, new media also enable the old ones to start a new life. This is more or less the essence of remediation (see Jay David Bolter, Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media, The MIT Press, Cambridge London 2000). All in all, Bolter and Grusin’s thesis is a good follow-up of Marshall McLuhan’s well-known statement that the medium is the message, and the content of any medium is always another medium. Remediation is incessant, while the practices created by one medium are transposed onto other ones. This pertains to both the reception and methods of handling new media. Habits created by older media move on to the new ones (see Siegfried Zielinski, Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means, transl. by Gloria Custance, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2008). The Polish theatre has been employing video, film and new media strategies, embedding them in performances, for at least several seasons. From Krysian Lupa’s Factory 2 to Krzysztof Garbaczewski’s productions, theatre directors often reveal their fascination with other media, providing material for theoreticians writing about the co-existence of various media. Here, it should be clearly stated that the productions at hand do not only employ “new media aesthetics”, but rather they are organically connected with the theatrical medium: theatre directors problematize the presence of other media, thereby allowing theatre to perform its critical function. What is meant is the theatre, but also theatricality as a medium. As Samuel Weber wrote (Theatricality as a Medium, Fordham University Press, 2004), the theatrical medium “does not instantiate itself in individual, self-contained, and meaningful works, but rather in plays that never come together to form a self-contained whole, remaining true to their name: plays, fragments, pieces (in German: Stücke, in French: pieces). This irreducibly fragmentary character predestines the theatrical medium – which is to say, theatre as a medium – to emerge increasingly as a paradigm for the modern situation”. It follows that theatricality delineates a perspective of fractures, breaking with the continuous narrative in favour of fragmentation. The theatre is testing visual strategies. The old medium is absorbing newer ones. Can we reverse this situation, though? Introducing older media into the field of influence of newer ones also gives rise to tension. What can theatre and theatricality represent for video art and visual artists? How does the theatre’s function change in new media’s field of influence? Do theatrical strategies work in connection with other media – and how? And finally: how can we theatricalise video art?
Jolanta Woszczenko & Piotr Morawski