Academic journal article Postmodern Studies

CHAPTER 2: Reconsidering Metatheatricality: Towards a Baroque Understanding of Postdramatic Theatre

Academic journal article Postmodern Studies

CHAPTER 2: Reconsidering Metatheatricality: Towards a Baroque Understanding of Postdramatic Theatre

Article excerpt

The term 'the baroque' has gained increasing importance as a transhistorical concept. Not only within this present volume, but also within the humanities at large, the term raises more and more interest, popping up in different scientific fields and paradigms, while at the same time it has been gradually disconnected from its original historical context. However, as with any kind of "travelling object" (Bal 2002), the term risks being subject to some sort of semantic hyperinflation. Moreover, the use of the term within the broader field of cultural analysis also raises a number of methodological and terminological challenges. In this chapter, I will approach the idea of the baroque along a specific line, as I will define it first and foremost as a theatrical experience. In the first part, I will argue that the baroque differs from the associations traditionally adhered to this term, i.e. exuberance, opulence, plain irregularity, etc. The baroque should be considered initially as a metatheatrical exercise, as a game with the codes of representation themselves. The analysis of 16th and 17th century baroque, whether in visual arts or in performing arts, offers interesting opportunities to reconsider the idea of metatheatricality in contemporary performing arts. As a historical overview largely exceeds the scope of this article (its main aim being an evaluation of the transhistorical potential of the notion of 'the baroque'), I will develop my argument along two concrete examples: the French tragedy baroque or tragédie sanglante (Biet 2006; Biet and Fragonard 2009) on the one hand and the insights provided by a 2009 exhibition at London's National Gallery on 17th century Spanish religious art, The Sacred Made Real on the other. This second case taken from art history will serve as stepping stone to rethink the idea of baroque theatricality, and more specifically, its intermedial aspects. In the second part, I will evaluate the possibility of using this particular interpretation of the baroque along transhistorical lines by taking a closer look at the current discourse on the neo-baroque, now widely popular in humanities. In a third and final part, an analysis of the theatre of the Belgian company Abattoir Fermé indicates how early modern theatre can provide help in understanding contemporary postdramatic theatre as defined by the German theatre scholar Hans-Thies Lehmann.

Terms such as 'immersion', 'visuality' and 'intermediality' are easily and often used when one tries to describe artistic practices by artists as diverse as Romeo Castellucci (Crombez 2008), Pippo Delbono (Vanhaesebrouck 2009), Abattoir Fermé (Vanhaesebrouck 2012) or Crew (Vanhoutte and Wynants 2011), to name just but a few haphazard examples. It is on the basis of these characteristics that the qualification 'baroque' is used as an analytical term to describe and understand these specific theatrical 'regimes'. Even though these artists do not share the same language or aesthetics, it seems that they all aim at creating a 'borderline' experience during which the spectator-or visitor-is immersed in a visual and sensory universe different from his own. This ambition is of course far from new. As I will argue, early modern baroque theatre (16th-17th century) aimed at a similar liminal experience, be it through completely different means and in a completely different contextual environment. In this article I would like to investigate the similarities and transitions between early modern baroque theatricality on the one hand and the immersive experience aimed for in some contemporary performances on the other. In other words: can the increasingly popular analytical category of 'the neo-baroque' help us to re-evaluate recent developments in contemporary (postmodern) theatre?

Within the broad fields of cultural history and cultural analysis, a very rich and constantly expanding body of literature has developed over the last decade, with studies exploring neo-baroque tendencies in visual arts (Lambert 2009; Purgar 2009), investigating the link between the (neo-)baroque and Latin American art (Sarduy 1975; Sarduy 1978; Kaup and Zamora 2006; Kaup 2012; Zamora 2006) or between the neo-baroque and modernism in Latin American literature (Salgado 2011). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.