Monday, November 06, 2006

Artaud You So

"That doesn't mean you have to make life in the theatre. As if one could imitate life. What is needed is to rediscover the life of the theatre, in all its freedom."

-- Artaud, "The Evolution of Set Design"

"Cinema: Through poetry, theatre contrasts pictures of the unformulated with the crude visualization of what exists. Besides, from an action viewpoint, one cannot compare a cinema image, however poetic it may be, since it is restricted by the film, with a theatre image which obeys all life's requirements.

"Cruelty: There can be no spectacle without an element of cruelty as the basis of every show. In our present degenerative state, metaphysics must be made to enter the mind through the body."

-- Artaud, "The Theatre of Cruelty--First Manifesto"

Working hypothesis: to be confirmed, disproved, changed, or revised as necessary: that art which calls upon cruelty is--in its social function--diagnostically pessimistic and prescriptively hopeful ... or rather, not hopeful, but active. (Which leads to an uncertain and neutral prognosis, neither fully cynical nor romantic.)


Matt said...

"...or rather, not hopeful, but active."

I'm glad you made that distinction, Zach. Hope, today, at least to me, seems woefully naive; as a realist, I am both diagnostically and prognostically pessimistic. But pessimism need not and should not be a barrier to action. For my part, I remain what we might call 'politically committed,' not because I have hope, which I don't, but because I feel ethically obliged to act regardless. Action -- movement, sensation, experience -- perhaps cruelty, defining such a thing quite broadly -- remains necessary.

jmac said...

I appreciate your pun . . . :)

I became interested in Artaud's writings after seeing the cinema program, "Dance of the Dark Soul" curated around the philosophy of Butoh. The quotes you posted are very intriguing, but it's difficult to comment without hearing more. Is Artaud implying that consciousness can only be engaged through cruelty? I'm sure that his text is very complex, but I think that the very contemporary idea that people need to be "woken up" through really violent cinema, is a bit insulting & ineffective. Maybe Artaud is an example of what not to do, but I still want to read his work! :)

Thanks for these posts!

HarryTuttle said...

The first time I read Artaud's Théatre de la Cruauté I didn't understand. Your post makes me want to get back into it. It's only 30 pages long I see.
There is also Bazin's Le Cinéma de la Cruauté (1975), which is on my to-read list.

p.s. What pun? Artaud is pronounced "artow" btw, maybe that's why I don't get it ;)

Zach Campbell said...

Harry, it's not a great pun--the visual presence of the 'D,' to English speakers, probably helps on a subliminal level. But it's supposed to sound a little like "I Told You So." "Ar-tow You So." (Puerile, yeah, but I just wanted a title slightly more lively than "Quotes by Artaud.") Maybe those bloggers interested should do some Artaud reading & posting. I can't claim to understand him very well either, this is the beginning of the first serious & extended effort I've made. I'm not saying "blog-a-thon," but perhaps a 'casual evening blog-get-together with a little cheese & wine.' I'll look for the Bazin text.

Jen-- I haven't read enough to make a really good guess, but I'd suggest that he's saying cruelty of some sort (and he insists on defining it broadly, I'll come back with a direct quote shortly) is at least the necessary way for the time & place where he's writing.

Matt--yes. Can't add anything more, can I?

HarryTuttle said...

The pun is alright Zach, don't worry about it.
I don't feel as comfortable as you to discuss theatre because it's not my territory. But this manifesto even if it opposes cinema (from 30ies) to his idea of a new theatre, applies surprisingly to cinema now. I'm really curisous to read Bazin's book. I don't even know if his title is a direct continuation from Artaud...
I will need time to get into this seriously though.