Against Illustration: Falling Bodies - Seen and Unseen Presentation at Alternative Dramaturgies of the New Millennium - Performing Tangiers 2014 International Conference, Tangier/Tetouan, Morocco

Gough, Richard (2014) Against Illustration: Falling Bodies - Seen and Unseen Presentation at Alternative Dramaturgies of the New Millennium - Performing Tangiers 2014 International Conference, Tangier/Tetouan, Morocco. In: Against Illustration: Falling Bodies - Seen and Unseen Presentation at Alternative Dramaturges - Performing Tangiers 2014 International Conference,, Tangiers, Morocco. (Unpublished)

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Abstract / Summary

Performing Tangiers 2014 International Conference

Alternative Dramaturgies of the New Millennium - Performing Tangiers

Title: Against Illustration: Falling Bodies - Seen and Unseen

Prof Richard Gough
Fellow IRC: Interweaving Performance Cultures Berlin

In Pieter Breughel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (origin and attribution now disputed but the ‘original’ painted in 1560’s), one has to look carefully to see Icarus. The painting appears to be of the (then contemporary) Netherlands landscape, coast, sea and distant town; the sun is setting and in the foreground a farmer is plowing (oblivious to any event), in the centre a shepherd surrounded by his sheep looks up to the empty sky (the top left of the painting) and then finally one sees, close to a fisherman busy at shore, two legs flaying in the sea - the micro second before disappearance, almost comical and seemingly disproportionate to the sailing ship nearby; a fall to earth, a dive of calamitous proportion.

Beginning from this image I wish to analyze the work of the contemporary dramaturge on a de-centred stage, where events are purposely and efficaciously positioned off-stage, offside, sub-score: where the imagination of the audience is engaged through devious and tangential strategies, where illustration is avoided and the world is made image (not word).

But in seeing Icarus drown I think also of his father, Daedalus (no doubt still flying, more cautious in his trajectory, not seen in this painting), the master craftsman the builder of the labyrinth: through Daedalus I wish to reconsider the work of the dramaturge: Daedalus – ‘clever work’, a work of craft and precision, invention and mischief, and the dramaturge’s role as labyrinth maker.

I wish to focus on two contemporary productions Ragnar Kjartansson’s Der Klang der Offenbarung des Gottlichen premiering in the Volksbuhne, Berlin in February 2014 and Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable that opened in London in June 2013 (and which is still running). The Volksbuhne press release for Der Klang der Offenbarung des Gottlichen promises: ‘paintings without narrative, symphonic majesty without aspirations, nothing but essences and sensations, a music production – a symphony with tableaux vivants’. The production has in part been inspired by Hubert van Herkomer experiments in ‘pictorial music plays’ – again the Volksbuhne press release proclaims ‘It was Sir Hubert von Herrkomer’s artistic vision to dissociate theatre from drama: ceremony replaces text and narration, and song takes over spoken word’. I wish to revisit Hubert von Herrkomer (in the light of Robert Wilson) and consider extended dramaturgy as a dissociation of theatre from drama.

The immensely popular London-based Punchdrunk create ‘immersive theatre’ where the audience is free to wander around vast spaces, conceived and constructed as sets - not as background for action but as detailed spaces to be inhabited and explored by the audiences as visitor/witness within a labyrinth. Performers also inhabit the spaces and one can construct narratives/meanings from shards of action encountered and woven together. The work is essentially choreographic and scenographic in vision and again begs questions of the role and function of dramaturgy.

In this paper I will explore the creative strategies of the dramaturge detached from the word - beyond text, off script; the dramaturge not as an extension of literary advisor (with extended responsibilities and sensibilities) but as a maker of theatre with a visual poetics, a counterpoint to illustration, an organizer, a co-creator - a constructor of labyrinths for the imagination of the spectator.

Richard Gough Berlin January 2014

Pieter Breughel (1560) Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)
Subjects: Performance > Theatre
Courses by Department: Academy of Music & Theatre Arts > Theatre
Depositing User: Richard Gough
Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2017 11:49
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2017 11:49
URI: http://repository.falmouth.ac.uk/id/eprint/2431

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