Intermediality in Theatre and Performance

Intermediality in Theatre and Performance

Intermediality in Theatre and Performance

Intermediality in Theatre and Performance


"Intermediality": the incorporation of digital technology into theatre practice, and the presence of film, television and digital media in contemporary theatre is a significant feature of twentieth-century performance. Presented here for the first time is a major collection of essays, written by the "Theatre and Intermediality Research Group" of the" International Federation for Theatre Research," which assesses" intermediality in theatre and performance." The book draws on the history of ideas to present a concept of intermediality as an" integration of thoughts and medial processes," and it locates intermediality at the" inter-sections situated in-between" the performers, the observers and the confluence of media, medial spaces and art forms involved in performance at a particular moment in time. Referencing examples from contemporary theatre, cinema, television, opera, dance and puppet theatre, the book puts forward a thesis that the intermedial is a space where the boundaries soften and we are" in-between and within a mixing of space, media and realities, with theatre providing the staging space for intermediality." The book places theatre and" performance" at the heart of the 'new media' debate and will be of keen interest to students, with clear relevance to undergraduates and post-graduates in Theatre Studies and Film and Media Studies, as well as the theatre research community.


This chapter locates theatre as the stage of intermediality as a natural conclusion to the history of ideas about theatre. Set within the context of philosophical debate on theatre, the author questions first whether theatre is a secondary or composite art, or a primary and 'autonomous' art like literature, visual arts and music. Discussed with reference to the three most important representatives of German Idealism: Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel and Arthur Schopenhauer, and explored further though Richard Wagner, Wassily Kandinsky and Jan Mukarovsky the author argues that theatre is the paradigm of all arts, and a hypermedium that incorporates all arts and media. From this position, he moves to argue that theatre is the art of the performer and the art of presence. In order to clarify this assumption, the author compares theatre to film, which he regards as the medium of absence that hides its own mediality in accordance with the functioning of modern technology. Through an examination of theatre in the era of the device paradigm, the author assesses how film has taken over the function of theatre as dramatic art. However, rather than lamenting this fact, the author argues that the logical conclusion must be to re-define theatre: not as a composite art, nor as a dramatic art, but as the stage of intermediality.

Theatre as paradigm of the arts and hypermedium

There is a long tradition of thinking about theatre as a secondary, or 'composite' art as opposed to a primary, or 'autonomous' art like literature, visual arts and music. In the philosophical debate about the arts in the eighteenth and nineteenth century the question about how the different primary arts related to one another played an important role in determining systematically the different expressions of the creative faculties of the human being.

In 1798, Kant put forward his idea that words, images and sounds were the ideal typical or pure expressions of our experiences in thoughts (Gedanken) and intuitions (Anschauungen), which he subdivided into sensuous intuitions (Sinnesanschauungen) and sensations (Empfindungen). Kant considered poetry (Dichtkunst) as the highest art, because it was [the art of conducting the free play of imagination] (Einbildungskraft), which constituted the synthesis of thoughts and intuitions (Kant 1986: 257). Hegel, however, writing in 1842, suggested that drama (as in the dramatic text) was the highest art, because it constituted the synthesis of the subjectivity of the lyric and the objectivity of the epic. To be more precise, Hegel defined theatre as the highest art, because it is in the theatre performance only that the drama finds its completion through direct presence in action:

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