2009 : Spectacle vs. Show



New Reading of Old Texts:

Theatre Before Theatre and Theatre After Theatre

spectator.vtheatre.net & filmplus.org/vtheatre

dictionary: [answers] :

1. Something that can be seen or viewed, especially something of a remarkable or impressive nature.
2. A public performance or display, especially one on a large or lavish scale.
3. A regrettable public display, as of bad behavior: drank too much and made a spectacle of himself.

[W] :

1. Spectacle : Low and high culture mingled in the spectacle as long as folk productions of spectacle are possible...

2. Spectacle_(Situationalism)

3. Physics ?


Montage of Attractions (Eisenstein)

Spectacle * 2006 * amazon.com *

TOPICS: drama + comedy + postmodern + american age + space + time + chronotope + direct + event theory + present + sex + past + marxism + shows +
"Theatre is not a mirror but a magnifying glass." Mayakovsky

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text LINKS

Notes: There are many other pages on spectacle: in "The Book of Spectator" and in "200X Aesthetics Files" ... in acting and directing directories, but they all are for students. Of course, they get confused, when I mix notes for myself with my class notes... This THEORY directory was supposed to take away everything that is not for the classes.

Yes, I do not have time for Foucault or Virilio in my classes, even in THR413 Playscript Analysis, which is supposed to provide them with the most recent theories and methodologies. And see that the grad students in class are craving for it!

Well, well, what can I say? I do not have the time for research. Between the textbooks and my writing nothing is left to spare. My summers (I do not teach summer courses anymore) flies like a Alaskan winter day...

new: 2003 *

The notion of a spectacular function enters semiotics in the work of the Prague school during the forties, notably from Mukar&ovsky (1977), who argued that the dominant defining the structure of theatre, in the specific sense of that which both dominates and organizes all other elements for its own purpose, is transformed from one historical epoch to another: sometimes it is the dramatic text, at another time the work of the actor, and at still over moments the relation between the stage and the audience.
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Theory of Spectatorship

Key Terms: Glossary

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New Poetics [web as spectacle]
"We can easily imagine a culture where discourse would circulate without any need for an author...." -Michel Foucault _What is an Author?_


What is it? Internet?


This kind of discourse is well known -- theatre. The phenomena of dramatic is so ancient that we forgot to re-examine it. Fortunately, the event has to be rediscovered by Einstein again in this century. Modern physics learned that we can't separate event and observer, which is to say that seeing is a part of an event. If step out of the world of objects into a field of relations, we could see that drama takes place not on stage but in interaction of the stage and the audience. Since, acting theories are more advanced in theory, lets a take a look at the nature of spectatorship.

Dialogical relations (Bakhtin) of theatre are too obvious. But a spectator should be placed as initiator of dialogue. After all, he is to form the "stage" -- space of attention. He makes the language of performance possible, brings in the situation of mediation. The "empty space" becomes charged with potentiality. Marxist would said -- invested with a labor of watching (my time). It's MY space before an actor steps into it. POV is a property. Sight is a claim. Foucault wrote that the gaze is the power. Any actor knows it; that's why we rehearse, to meet the challenge of the established by the public gravity. We anticipate an event, we reversed the situation of accident (real life); that's how theatre is about to be born.

"Theatre was born on market square," wrote Pushkin, before marxism developed theory of commodification. Spectator must be seen as consumer, recipient, producer and product, all at the same time. Advertising industry know the price of human attention as a value-adding commodity. Marketing is based it. In our time we can even measure it in dollars. The Stage is to match it with the "use value." The Stage and the Public are about to work on producing NEW values. Show is a machine that produces new "desiring machines." The Show is predermined by the need (market), it has to have all the qualities of the Spectacle. Thanks to the postmodern, we can look closely into the secrets of spectacle.

"The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images," writes Debord.[1] Division between stage and public forces as into linguistic relations (images). "Artificial" separation into two part is a step of alienation, possibility to see and not to be inside the event. At the same time this distance is a potentiality of unification, but on new higher level of "meanings and messages." That's how "media" of live performance is arranged. Our (social) relations are moved into level of symbolic exchange. We need it in order not to be actively involved, we have to lose practical interests, to gain the status of aesthetical perception. Interesting that the physical union is not fully removed but "suspended"; it's important, because we would have our relations not only with a character but with an actor behind it.

Lets leave aside the social/artistic labor of audience pre-self-identification, when out of many spectators we are getting ready to be transformed by the show into the public, a new entity. What is the commodity (material) of the spectacle? How could the co-production (between actor and spectator) be done? One is active, the other is watching. Oh yes, the emotions. Experiencing the drama is a narrative of thoughts-feelings I live through during the show. My gaze at the stage is pregnant with unexplored, unexploited, unawaked energies. Spectator is the most REAL (the only one) thing in theatre. His presence is "minimal," he lets us "pretend." On another hand, he is the craziest of all, he behaves as if he is not there, he would sit still for two hours -- and he pays for it!

"Author" is a material for a viewer. So far, the spectator played this role of creating theatrical situation. Actor will answer the gaze when he appears on stage. But first, theatrical space has to produced the Spectacular Time. Debord talks about transforming non-spectacular time into "cyclical time" which bears no conflict in it. Without a conflict? You see, my real time has to be replaced with self-contained time, which Bakhtin calls "carnival," sacred mode of time. I have to clean out of my "real" conflicts in order to be focused on the story on stage. I am at the begining of the journey -- which produces the notion of the end (and the middle, according to Aristotle). The chronotope of spectacle is cyclical in this sense, it's has a structure of a tale. Theatre time is a territory, it's framed out, limited and -- has a value. Before show starts every future moment of it has presupposed value against which the stage will play. Oh yes, market is a game.

This process of "authorization" of time, space and matter is a pre-conditions of theatrical situation. How does he, our spectator, do it? He must in dialogue with himself! He has to mirror himself, double himself in order to assume the "role" of spectator. We know that we have this ability to split in two (many) -- we will need it to the full extent during the show -- actually, this self-negation is very natural. Theatre offers us safe and induced "forgetting" ourselves. We are not only left real world outside of the theatrical chronotope, we left our real identity. Or, at least, ready to leave it. I will sit motionless through the show because "I" am not here. "I" becomes "It"!

We know the duality: we consume the spectacle and we are being consumed by the spectacle. It's not a paradox, there's more one me in there. There are many between I and It: He, She, You, We, They. I need them all to experience the drama. I have to move from one into another, I have to be in several places at once, my point of view becomes multi-voiced, a multiplicity of feelings. I have to "act" (feel) for all! The moment I let the theatrical situation to take over, I lost control, I gave away my powers -- to the stage. The good show will use them all moving my spirit from I to You, from You to He -- I welcome it! That's how I experience my own totality, getting reunited with myself.

[The Book of Spectator]


Theatre is primitive. Theatre's stupidity couldn't be praised enough -- do we have to understand everything? Experiencing (the ancient way of knowing things) is a fun labor of learning. Especially, the safe experience. The texts of theatre are written in the hearts of theatre public.

All right, spectator writes, directs, acts.... and consumes. He is in the middle of action and action is in him. The more my audience sense their ownership, the stronger my performance. Is he a performer? Who is the actor? Where are the limits of spectatorship? What he doesn't do? The answer is the sharing the powers. At the pick of the event both parties become unseparatable.

The spectator lives on two live bodies -- a live show and my semi-forgotten personal life experience. Method Acting talks at length about the dynamics of Actor-Character relations. But the real ground for this phenomena of identification is the ability of spectator to live on my horizons of experiences.

Open structure, half-text, contextuality -- polyphonic principle.

[see: Dialogism.nts and Performative (dividualization)]

From spectator's POV the size of the audience doesn't have much significance. He is not on stage. Spectator is a parasite author (we all are), he imagine his powers, he is a user who is not aware that he is being used.


I'm the spectator who crosses the line and I'm temporary on stage. I don't belong here, I have to leave. My ideas are the result of crossing the line, my dual existence in two spaces: the audience state and the stage. I'm the interplay of two. Actors couldn't fully leave the stage, their primary space of existence. They are not good spectator. They're consumed with identification on stage (roles, props, lines). They're too busy acting, to remember the public. They are afraid of the spectator (the judge). I connect them. I put extra limitations, which they accept because they come from the authority (public).


Public existence make private (existential life) possible.

Relations: because public (emotions) is being used as a material for drama. How does this transformation of authorship work? Non-linear? Parallel? Watching Shakespeare = using time to concur the time: what about five centuries between us, never mind the space? Am I talking about humankind, god?

Such extremes are the reason why everything in theatre begins and ends in spectatorship.

God as a spectator. Our messages for him.

How the text itself constructs its own receiver (implied reader).

Art is not a perception (after-concept), but a construction. We manipulate the meaning of the message (interpretation) much less than the text manipulate us. It's a meeting, an event (clash?), conflict. Text is formed, and it formats me; "I-after-text" = humanization of nature.

Or this is too much of a game? Virtual reality and theatre reality: being in position of an observer only = before. Non-interference serves as dramatic tension mechanism -- I can't change the course of action! Fate.

He was in two places at once: on stage (through identification), and outside.

Ritual suggests that we can make him a real part of the action. This is pre-theatre. Could the film's dichotomy of spectatorship be even more powerful in live theatre?

The dilemma: between the Ritual Idea and the Film. Technology is closing the gap from both ends = VR. To go into full spectator's participation is to loser the text, improvisation only. To lose great deal of story? To answer the question about the position of spectator is to discover theatre of tomorrow.

To understand spectator is to understand man of tomorrow: maybe, his reality is over-theatricalized, over-ritualized already? Does he play too many social role?

Where does he have direct contacts with live, real people outside of their functional roles?

Is he over-entertained? Overloaded even before he comes into theatrical situation of Theatre?

Who is he in theatre?
[Today we build only performance centers, not theatres, not even opera houses. Why?]

He got too many functions. Theatre is not selective, doesn't know its own limits, territory, methods. What do we pay for? We can read, we can see it on the screen, tricks and special effects -- circus, rock-concert can do. Acting?

Actor. Should we look at him from the power POV? Strive for recognition. Where else a single individual is recognized in his powers?

Communal spiritual existence (replacing the church)? Experiencing yourself with others?...

Theatre always has only one problem -- spectator. We use the idea of "developing" audience. That's marketing, selling the product; nothing could be further from "developing" theatre.

Why does the spectator have such powers?

He is not in theatre. He is an outsider. He come from non-theatrical life with real dramas and those anti-theatrical conditions are essential for existence of spectator.

[new: vtheatre.net/spectator ]


Michel Foucault on the "Author Function"[2]
In dealing with the "author" as a function of discourse, we must consider the characteristics of a discourse that support this use and determine its differences from other discourses. If we limit our remarks only to those books or texts with authors, we can isolate four different features.

First, they are objects of appropriation[3]; the form of property they have become is of a particular type whose legal codification was accomplished some years ago. It is important to notice, as well, that its status as property is historically secondary to the penal code controlling its appropriation. Speeches and books were assigned real authors, other than mythical or important religious figures, only when the author became subject to punishment and to the extent that his discourse was considered transgressive. In our culture and undoubtably in others as well discourse was not originally a thing, a product, or a possession, but an action situated in a bipolar field of sacred and profane, lawful and unlawful, religious and blasphemous. It was a gesture charged with risks before it became a possession caught in a circuit of property values. But it was at the moment when a system of ownership and strict copyright rules were established (toward the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century) that the transgressive properties always intrinsic to the act of writing became the forceful imperative of literature. It is as if the author, at the moment he was accepted into the social order of property which governs our culture, was compensating for his new status by reviving the older bipolar field of discourse in a systematic practice of transgression and by restoring the danger of writing which, on another side, had been conferred the benefits of property.

Secondly, the "author-function" is not universal or constant in all discourse. Even within our civilization, the same types of texts have not always required authors; there was a time when those texts which we now call "literary" (stories, folk tales, epics and tragedies) were accepted, circulated and valorized without any questions about the identity of their author. Their anonymity was ignored because their real or supposed age was a sufficient guarantee of their authenticity.


The third point concerning this "author-function" is that it is not formed spontaneously through the simple attribution of a discourse to an individual. It results from a complex operation whose purpose is to construct the rational entity we call an author. Undoubtedly, this construction is assigned a "realistic" dimension as we speak of an individual's "profundity" or "creative" power, his intentions or the original inspiration manifested in writing. Nevertheless, these aspect of an individual, which we designate as an author (or which comprise an individual as an author), are projections, in terms always more or less psychological, of our way of handling texts: in the comparisons we make, the traits we extract as pertinent, the continuities we assign, or the exclusions we practice. In addition, all these operations vary according to the period and the form of discourse concerned. A "philosopher" and a "poet" are not constructed in the same manner; and the author of an eighteenth-century novel was formed differently from the modern novelist.


Notes are lost.
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