REACCLIMATING THE STAGE
I, as earthly, human techno-animal, know that I live in a time when human activity poses a profound impact on our physical and ecological environment. However, these transformations are often not perceptible: they are literally too small or too big (e.g., global warming), too slow or too fast (e.g., big data), so that my senses – even my imagination – and despite the fact that I have adequate theoretical and technical instruments, cannot grasp them.
I, as an artist, am currently facing these climatic regimes/intensities, whether biospheric or algorithmic, and feeling disoriented with my capacity to create time and space for experience to account for this ecological transition in a sensitive, reflective and critical way.
I, as a scenic artist, feel the need to renew my tools and registers of representation to redirect the theatrical attention towards the many non-human actors and factors that have already entered the stage of our future, which is already our contemporaneity.
This aesthetic revision calls for scenic responses that go beyond the conventional production and organization of a “stage” that has, in my opinion, become inoperative in its spatiotemporal conventional settings (the human-sized “here and now”) for addressing the scales of those “hyperobjects” (Morton).
Based on this concern, my artistic research project looks into the relationship between scenic thinking and time ecology. Focusing on the three speculative dynamics and notions of “deepening the stage”, “neganthroposcenic chronotopias” and “hyperdramatic theatre”, it proposes a methodology of inquiry and experimentality into the question of how to reroute the practice of directing (mise-en-scène) into a practice of “redirecting” from a revised temporal ecology of the stage.
Operating from the assumption of a “crisis of time” and looking at – whilst being moved by – queer/ed temporalities such as heterochrony, anachrony, pluritemporality and idiorythmie, the research aggregates artistic experiments and academy-responsive expositional supplements on the question of the emergence of a stage in time of this “crisis of time” and in the face of climatic (environmental and technosocial) turmoil of the 21st century.
Through the artistic testing of a regime of temporal diffraction of the established “now–ness” of the theatrical representation, the project aims at re-formulating the regimes of scenic co-presences, the social function of theater and therefore the agency of the director, by considering the stage no more a center but a milieu: a porous and contingent (g)hosting milieu in, and through which, more-than-human agency and temporality have come into play.
The research aims thus at developing scenic sensitivity and experiences by redirecting spectatorial attentions towards other-than-human material and temporal scales, this redirection implying the projection of the theater beyond human history and perception, from the deep time of geological strata to the lightspeed of algorithm-driven data flow.
In other words, the research contributes to answering the question: How does one ecologically revise, renegotiate and reestablish the human aesthetic production of a stage? A structural reset that ethically faces the double-bind of, on the one hand, the need to minimize the agency of the director in relation to other-than-human, earthly, living entities and biospheric phenomena; and, on the other hand, the poetical and political necessity of maintaining or even strengthening a production of imaginaryin relation to other-than-human, expanding techno- or artificial-environments.
The Reacclimating the Stage project does not intend to produce a radical break with theater practices and history, but it does seek to enable a new way of thinking about the stage, from an agential, temporal, spatial and material perspective. In this sense, the project deconstructs, queers and plays with rituals, architectures and the materiality of the “obvious comprehension of the stage” (Kirkkopelto), in order to generate a poetical shift, or better yet, a transitional move.
The same kind of continuous dynamics apply to the distribution, and therefore redistribution, of agencies between human and non-human “actants” (Latour). Agencies are reshuffled, yet the project agenda does not replace the ones by the others. Human agency in the production, organization, control and activation of the emerging stage is reevaluated but not suspended. “Repositioning” (Haraway, Barad) is at stake, and representational tensions are at play.
“AnthropoScenic” (Chaudhuri, May) strategies and dynamics of ex-centering, perforating, deepening and redirecting imply a binary starting ground made of an inside and an outside, a center and a periphery, a stage and a backstage. These strategies and dynamics are motional logics that aim at materializing the shift, not at producing a utopian “new” stage ex nihilo. Binary settings of the experiments tend to blur, but they still rhetorically support the thinking and materializing of scenographic operations; they enter into play as history, legacy and continuity. “Queering” is therefore to be understood in the research not as a disruptive process but as deviation from this inherited hardware.
The perspective of the happening of total inclusion, or a total vanishing of (the notion of), exteriority is considered as tendency and speculation. Elusiveness and failing of the reversal process are part of the artistic outcome. Separation as inevitable data of the appearance of a stage is here contemplated and reformulated.
Methodologically, the doctoral research is carried out as a cumulative and multilayered process in the medium of artistic practice. It finds its processual path in the multi-manifestation of the artworks that are (hyper)produced in its epistemic framework: on the one hand, a linear mode of (hyper)production of a corpus of artworks and on the other hand, a recursive, diachronic and enmeshed mode of recontextualization of the same corpus through research expositionality.
Over the doctoral continuum, the research also solidifies in two examined artistic parts that operate as a diptych. Presentations are taking place within the research center, in theaters and other venues and in artistic research conferences in order to maintain the continuity of the artistic practice while problematizing and sharing it within the academic milieu of artistic research.
Finally, a research exposition will be emerging at the meeting point of the artistic and epistemic entanglement of the research as an object of hybridization, digitally metastabalized through a non- linear, archipelagic and multitemporal mode on the Research Catalogue platform.
This expositional supplement, also named the “doctoral piece”, will consist of the online reactivation (this organizational reiteration being speculatively considered “writing”) of the documentation of the 27 artworks, also called “scènes”,* which were realized in the framework of the artistic research project from 2015 to 2019.
*In French, “scène” means, at the same time, scene and stage.
Supervision / Direction de la recherche: Esa Kirkkopelto, philosopher, performing artist, researcher and Professor of Artistic Research at the Performing Arts Research Centre, Uniarts Helsinki (supervision period: 2015 – 2019) & Mika Elo, visual artist, researcher and Professor of Artistic Research at the Fine Arts Academy, Uniarts Helsinki (2015 – 2020)
Supported by / Soutien à la recherche: CIMO Fellowships Programme (2015-2016), KONE Foundation (2016 – 2020)
image: Backdrop (Saint-Laurent) – Gif (excerpt from “The Backdrop and Its Double”, 2019)