REACCLIMATING THE STAGE
I, earthly human techno-animal, know that I live in a time when human activity has been having a profound impact on our physical and ecological environment. However, these transformations are often not perceptible: they are literally too small or too big (like e.g. global warming), too slow or too fast (like e.g. the 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 in/capacity to create times and spaces of experience to account for this ecological transition in a sensitive, refective 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 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, according to me, 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 re-route 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 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 nowness of the theatrical representation, the project aims at re-formulating the regimes of scenic copresences, the social function of theater and therefore the agency of the director, by considering the stage no more as a center but as a middle (milieu); a porous and contingent (g)hosting milieu in which, and through which, more-than-human agency and temporality have come into play.
The research aims thus at developing scenic sensitivity-ies and experience-s by redirecting spectatorial attentions towards these other than human material and temporal scales; this redirection implying the projection of theater beyond human history and perception, from the deep time of geological strata to the light-speed of algorithm-driven flows of data.
In other words, the research contributes to answering the question: how to ecologically revise, renegotiate and reestablish the human aesthetic production of a stage? A structural reset that is ethically facing the double-bind of, on the one hand, the need of minimizing of 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, even strengthening, a production of imaginary in relation to other-than-human expanding techno/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 performative perspective. In this sense, the project, deconstructs/queers/plays with rituals, architectures and materialities of the ‘obvious comprehension of the stage’ (Kirkkopelto), in order to generate a poetical shift, or better said a transitional move.
The same kind of continuous/discontinuous dynamics apply to the distribution, and therefore redistribution, of agencies between human and non-human ‘actants’ (Latour). Agencies are reshuffled, yet the project agenda is not to replace the ones by the others. Human agency in the production, organization, control and activation of the emerging stage is re-evaluated, but not suspended. ‘Repositioning’ (Haraway, Barad) is at stake; representational tensions are at play.
‘AnthropoScenic’ (Chaudhuri, May) strategies and dynamics of ex-centering, perforating, deepening, redirecting imply a binary starting ground made of an inside and an outside, a center and a periphery, a stage, and a backstage. They 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, continuity. Queering is therefore to be understood in the research not as a disruptive process but as movement of deviation from this inhereted 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 multi-layered 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 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 solidifes through two examined artistic parts that operate as a diptych. Presentations are taking place within the research center, in theatres and other venues, and in artistic research conferences, in order to maintain the continuity of the artistic practice meanwhile problematizing and sharing it with 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 metastabalised through a non- linear, archipelagic and multitemporal mode on the Research Catalogue platform.
This expositional supplement, also named as the “doctoral piece”, will consist of the online reactivation (this organizational reiteration being speculatively considered as “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)