Thinking about theatrical modes of presence, sense-making and subjectivation
The concept of Being-with developed by the philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy asks a fundamental question about human life, inasmuch as we have always been and will always be co-existent with people and environments. All modes of sense-making and subjectivation, but also presence, can only occur within a context and through interaction. This is why historical forms of theater have frequently been viewed as sites of communality and why critical approaches have questioned concepts such as ‘sense’, ‘meaning’ and ‘habitus’. Like literature, theater has also inherited the scene of myth: It satisfies our need for narration, interpretation and to share in something. In turn, the joint creation of meaning in scenic practices is also part of the traditional idealization of the theater – but is this ideal purely mythical?
In view of the dangers of the (totalitarian) transmission of meaning and the reproduction of apparatuses (Giorgio Agamben), contemporary performances often strive to be especially open and aim to generate new modalities of thinking and acting, even if this takes place at the expense of our sensus communis (which is already in a fragile state) and the conveyance of meaning. ‘Open’ works refuse the agency or ‘dictate’ of meaning; instead, they want to restructure signs so that they appeal to spectators’ imagination and capacity for reflection. But how can this appeal reach beyond the specific singularity of each spectator? On the other hand, participatory forms of theater often aspire to activate spectators together, be it in or outside of institutions. But to which extent is doing something together the same as driving a new movement of meaning or an investigation into new modes of living together? Does theater not always remain an apparatus – is it not more likely to assign roles than allow us to imagine them?
The authors of Being-with in Contemporary Performing Arts investigate these questions and explore how meaning is being questioned or liberated in contemporary performances, and how individual thinking/action can be articulated to others and is paving the way for other gestures, theatrical processes of recognition and the performative sharing of meaning.
Mit Beiträgen von Isabelle Barbéris, Eliane Beaufils, Chloé Déchery, Leon Gabriel, Heiner Goebbels, Narges Hashempour, Stéphane Hervé, Eva Holling, Ivana Müller, Marie Preston, Bernhard Siebert, Gerald Siegmund, Marie Vandenbussche und Kai Van Eikels.