PhD Monitoring: Part 1

Over the next few weeks I will post my PhD monitoring submission up here. To begin is the breakdown of my Exhibition Catalogue that will serve as the written component of the final thesis. Although this might seem premature as I still have many years left to run, exercises of this kind help with my own refinement and it enables the external examiners visualise what the thesis might look like.

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EXHIBITION CATALOGUE

The catalogue is the hard document of the thesis and organises the material generated from practice and critical reflection. The catalogue structure will mirror the categories of the exhibition, acting as both document and extension of creative practice. It is to be regarded as an integral part of encountering the practice and in this respect will be produced in the mould of an artists’ book that extends the curation of the materials generated from it.

The catalogue will be organised into three sections: Object, Animation, and Affect. Each section will consist of three chapters: an Essay, an Inventory, and an Object Lesson. The consecutive structure reflects the intuition of the practice rather than the chronological execution of it. In this respect, the chapters can be read consecutively to chart the intuition of the making process or by chapter type to read as individual ‘sets’ (i.e. a complete set of Object Lessons).

OBJECT

Chapter 1: The Stage Object in Postdramatic theatre (10,000 word Essay)

Draft completion: July 2009

Abstract: This essay will consider the shift of the stage object from dramatic prop to postdramatic object. It will put into dialogue specific aspects of ‘object’ and ‘thing theory’ with Hans-Thies Lehmann’s Postdramatic Theatre (1999) to map the function of the stage object within postdramatic performance. It will focus on the objects as ‘things in themselves’, reading how the opacity of the object is transformed during the moment of performance. Brecht’s theatre poem Weigel’s Props will act as a point of departure considering how the epic prop was conceived as a present ‘thing’ that had it’s own reality, autonomous but intrinsic to the representational form it adopted on the stage. This notion is taken forward by Alice Rayner’s claim that the prop on postdramatic (and subsequently contemporary dramatic) stages is perpetually in a state of ‘readiness’ (2006:76) between presence and representation. To illustrate this, the essay will consider how Tadeusz Kantor’s manifestos on theatrical objects navigate this dichotomy and materialise in his theatre work as well as a case study on the showing and telling of objects in Isabella’s Room (2004) by Needcompany.

As the first chapter it will provide the theoretical context for the documentation and reflection of practice that follows, stating a claim to the position of Postdramatic theory (combined with specific aspects of object theory) within the wider contexts of the thesis.

 

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Chapter 2:

Inventory 1: Object Sets (5000 word Inventory with photographs)

Draft completion: Ongoing

Abstract: The inventory will document all the objects used in practice alphabetically. Each object is recorded using the following categories: • Object Set (From my own collection or another archive or prop store). • Specific place found. • Material description. • Cabinets used in (if at all). • Current status/location (in storage/destroyed). • Page number(s) in catalogue.

The Inventory, as a record and index would usually be found as an appendix to the main body of the catalogue. Therefore this inventory places the objects ‘upfront’. They are the matter of the thesis and the point of departure for practice. The inventory can be crossed referenced throughout the catalogue.

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Chapter 3:

Object Lesson: Steptoe’s Market (5000 words with photographs)

Draft completion: September 2009

Abstract: The object lesson takes a single totemic moment of practice and offers a creative and critical reflection on it. Steptoe’s Market considers the moment of selection of the object, picking it from obscurity and placing it in Rayner’s state of ‘readiness’. The junk emporium of Steptoe’s Market, located in Mount Pleasant, Exeter will act as the site of discovery. A mass warehouse containing the detritus of a city, objects that are thrown away yet considered useful enough to be resold. Extending the notion of the ‘thing in itself’ and Igor Kopytoff’s theory of the biography of the thing it will consider the questions; what is an objects ‘theatrical’ draw? and how is intuition defined in this process of selection?

ANIMATION

Chapter 1: Theatre Machines and the Appearance of Failure (10,000 word Essay)

Draft Completion: February 2010

Abstract:This essay will consider how moments of theatrical failure offer the possibility of the appearance of the human in mechanised theatre forms. Starting with Kliest’s perception of grace in his essay On the Marionette Theatre (1810) it will follow the logic of theatrical experiment to mechanise the human. Edward Gordon Craig’s theory of the Ubermarionette, Oskar Schlemmer’s Theatre of the Bauhaus and Tadeusz Kantor’s Theatre of Death (1975) will be utilised to trace this logic. It will expand upon how the original intent was the eradication of failure as a precursor to grace but once realising this impossibility the forms embraced human failings, the breakdown becoming built within the mechanism itself. As Nicholas Ridout states “Theatre is a machine that sets out to undo itself. It conceives itself as an apparatus for the production of affect by means of representation, in the expectation that the most powerful affects will be obtained at precisely those moments when the machine appears to breakdown” (2006)

This chapter extends the thought of the first essay by taking the thinking of the objects as ‘things in themselves’ to putting them to work through animation at the point they encounter the human (the human encounters them) through a process of intenionality.

Chapter 2:

Inventory: Cabinets (5000 words with photographs and sketchbook scans)

Draft completion: Ongoing

Abstract: This will contain a description of each Cabinet of practice supported by sketchbook scans, photographs and contextualising notes as appropriate. It will also be used as an index that can be cross referenced through out the catalogue. Cabinets completed to date: Cabinet 1: The Galapagos Man (National Review of Live Art 2008) Cabinet 2: Meret (Central School of Speech and Drama 2008) Cabinet 3: Lament of the Noise Makers Part 1 (TFTS 2008) Cabinet 4: Lament of the Noise Makers Part 2 (Chapter Arts Centre 2008)

Chapter 3:

Object Lesson: TBC

This lesson will be taken from an element of practice that is yet to be completed.

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AFFECT

Chapter 1:

The Laughing Machine (10,000 word Essay)

Draft Completion: October 2011

Abstract: Henri Bergson makes the assertion in Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic (1900) that the origin of laugher emanates from a person who gives us the impression of a thing, a behaviour that we think we can predict, that appears machine-like or ‘thingly’. Expanding upon the theatre machines of the previous essay this chapter will consider the affect of laughter that emerges when the human appears through the machine. Fishli and Weiss’ The Way Things Go (1987) and Jean Tinguely’s nonsense machines will be considered as exemplary forms of this affect as well as expanding the notion into the unsettling balance between humour and terror that such forms provoke, returning again to the mannequin in Kantor’s Theatre of Death.

 

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Chapter 2:

Inventory: Actions: Cabinet 13 Dawn Chorus/Night Chorus. (5000 words with Photographs and sketchbook scans).

Draft completion: 2012

Abstract: This inventory is a detailed description of the actions of the complete process of the final performance Cabinet 13: Dawn Chorus/Night Chorus. Without critical reflection it will detail the process from object selection, to construction, to animation and finally in performance.

 Chapter 3:

Object Lesson: Wardrobe (5000 words with Photographs)

Draft Completion: 2012

Abstract: Taking the wardrobe as the object that mediates the control mechanism for the string machine the lesson will consider how the form can be considered as an example of Agamben’s formulation of gesture as “the exhibition of a mediality: it is the process of making a means visible as such” (2000:57). I will argue that by exposing the meadiality of the form (the means of movement, given to the object by the human) the machine itself becomes the gestural act, a gesture that situates the individual objects of the machine in the temporal state between presence and representation, a state that could be defined as postdramatic.

References:

Agamben, Giorgio (2000) ‘Notes on Gesture’ (1992), in Means Without End: Notes on Politics, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, pp 49-60.

Rayner, Alice (2006) Ghosts: Death’s Double and the Phenomena of Theatre. London: University of Minnesota Press.

Ridout, Nicholas (2006) Stage Fright, Animals, and Other Theatrical Problems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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