Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

The Myth of the Mysteriousness of the Creative Process

Academic journal article Australasian Drama Studies

The Myth of the Mysteriousness of the Creative Process

Article excerpt

Theatre is frequently seen as a mysterious activity. The ideas, feelings and approaches of those involved in creating theatre aren't articulated or communicated to those interested, drawn to the future.'1 So begins Gregory Hersov's foreword to In Contact With the Gods? Directors Talk Theatre, an edited collection of interviews with prominent international theatre directors. This notion of creative endeavour as a mysterious process, especially as it is expressed by theatre-makers themselves, can be traced back in the Australian context at least as far as the 1976 inaugural conference of the Australian Theatre Studies Centre. There, die question was put to a panel of theatre practitioners as to what die academic study of drama and theatre should comprise, and the part mat performance practice should play within it. In response, director Robin Lovejoy made the distinction between 'the study of die literary, the formal, the structural qualities of the drama' and 'diose strange, emotional necessities that come about within the profession itself } Explicit in Lovejoy's comment is the assumption of a certain binarism between theatre scholarship and theatre-making, in which the former is cast as an intellectual act and the latter as inherently intuitive. Director John Clarke confirmed this distinction, observing Üiat 'the university environment tends to cultivate a critical attitude. For die director or the actor, this kind of attitude can be fatal.'3 For Clarke, not only is there a very distinct differentiation between the intuitive act of theatre-making and the intellectual act of theatre criticism, but die relationship between the two is necessarily dangerous, destructive for die dieatre-maker. Combined, the comments of Lovejoy and Clarke articulate precisely what I have come to term 'the myth of the mysteriousness of the creative process': that the creative process is inherently mysterious and to interrogate it constitutes a death.

I invoke the term 'myth' in the sense that it is understood by Roland Barthes. In Mythologies, Bardies proposes that 'myth is a system of communication'.4 What myth communicates is a representation or distortion of reality. Barthes describes myth as a 'second-order semiological system';5 that is, the signifier of die myth system is the sign of die first order semiological system of linguistics. Myth's signifier, which Bardies refers to as die 'form', is already invested with a linguistic signified. Myth picks up where linguistic semiotics leaves off and reinscribes the linguistic sign as the form into which new meaning is inscribed. What is signified by myth's form, Barthes terms the 'concept'. The co-mingling of form and concept - of myth's signifier and signified - is the 'signification' (linguistic semiotics sign).6 According to Barthes, the distortion of reality generated by myth is in part a result of the impoverishment of the form as it is taken up by the system of myth-making. Barthes demonstrates this reduction of meaning through the example of the mathematical formula e=mc2. Myth takes hold of this sign, divests it of its complex of meanings and uses it as the form to signify the concept of 'mathematicity'.7 In this sense, the meaning of the linguistic sign is neither suppressed nor altered; it is merely distanced. Thus, 'the meaning loses its value, but keeps its life, from which the form of the myth will draw its nourishment'.8

Importantly, Barthes notes that the more resistant the form to being appropriated by myth, the more holistic its ultimate appropriation by this system of communication. He uses as his example contemporary poetry, which, much like mathematical language, seeks to reduce language and thereby appears impossible for myth to invade. However, Barthes argues that it is this very emptiness of the form which leaves contemporary poetry open to even greater appropriation by myth. 'The "apparent lack of order of signs" that characterises contemporary poetry becomes the empty signifier which will serve to signify poetry itself. …

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