I say that the stage is a concrete physical place which asks to be filled, and to be given its own concrete language to speak. I say that this concrete language, intended for the senses and independent of speech, has first to satisfy the senses, that there is a poetry of the senses as there is a poetry of language, and that this concrete physical language to which I refer is truly theatrical only to the degree that the thoughts it expresses are beyond the reach of the spoken language.
Artaud, Metaphysics and the Mise en Scene
After closely re-reading Artaud for almost two weeks in Mexico City, it is now the time to turn more towards concrete questions regarding the final conceptualization and realization of my installation. Before I went to Mexico, I didn't know what would expect me here and how it would influence my project, and this general openness was pretty much part of my concept.
In the last nine days you could get the impression in the worldwide media, that most of the people here in Mexico-City are supposed to die immediately if they use the metro, kiss their friends, or do not disinfect their hands all 30 minutes. Therefore, the social life was almost brought to a deadlock, and fear and hysteria became a big part of the everyday life in the city. In these moments the actual relevance of Artauds “Theatre of Cruelty” was shown to me quite plainly.
What I really like about Artauds poetics, is that it is an affirmative way of thinking. As we can see in his writings, Artaud was not just passive lamenting about the decline of civilisation, but was permanently looking for ways to solve its crises. Even if Artauds conception of theatre had to remain an almost unmatched utopia until today, it is - especially if we talk about art and about its practical implications – surely worth the effort to deal one more time with his notes on theatre:
The contemporary theater is decadent because it has lost the feeling on the one hand for seriousness and on the other for laughter; because it has broken away from gravity, from effects that are immediate and painful - in a word, from Danger. Because it has lost a sense of real humor, a sense of laughter's power of physical and anarchic dissociation. Because it has broken away from the spirit of profound anarchy which is at the root of all poetry. [...]
This helps us to understand that poetry is anarchic to the degree that it brings into play all the relationships of object to object and of form to signification. It is anarchic also to the degree that its occurrence is the consequence of a disorder that draws us closer to chaos.
Danger is always a part of our life, and we have to be prepared, if we face it in reality. And where can we prepare ourselves for it, and where can we solve its fears, if not in the realms of art? This is at the core of Artauds poetics, and from here we now can see, how his Theatre of Cruelty - operating with the two poles of seriousness and laughter and undermining the insufficient fields of human communication and knowledge - hence has inherent the possibility for its actualization as a truly revolutionary disagreement-machine, as a machine producing things that refuse any order and categorization:
A moment ago I mentioned danger. The best way, it seems to me, to realize this idea of danger on the stage is by the objective unforeseen, the unforeseen not in situations but in things, the abrupt, untimely transition from an intellectual image to a true image; […]
Another example would be the sudden appearance of a fabricated Being, made of wood and cloth, entirely invented, corresponding to nothing, yet disquieting by nature, capable of reintroducing on the stage a little breath of that great metaphysical fear which is at the root of all ancient theater.
When things become unforeseen, corresponding to nothing, then they resist any intelligibility. As Samuel Weber states in “The Virtual Reality of Theatre”, here neither becomes the relation to the other or the outside dissolved, nor is that other simply reducable to a goal or a purpose.
With my installation based on “The Conquest of Mexico” I try to follow these ideas by Artaud, and sharpen them even further. What I am actually trying to construct with my small toy theatre is kind of a potentially revolutionary laughing machine for domestic use.
"The Conquest of Mexico" will become: "The An-archic Device”.