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Author: Celia Morgan

Heir of the mythological narratives of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides the metaphoric and symbolic language of theatre continues to encourage an experience of the world beyond the immediately and presumptively given. This chapter implies a connection between an ungraspable absolute and the use of myth or symbolism within theatre. More-over that the language of the symbolic issues from a liminal middle ground that unifies contradictory perspectives. The live-ness of performance gives it a tangible believability for it is literally, physically speaking, real, even if, which could well be the case, what is being suggested seems fantastically ludicrous. The rupture between the real embodied live-ness of performance and the potentially unreal suggestion of its content is navigated via visual coding. Subscribing to the construction of art as applied by Schelling wherein the symbolic constitutes the absolute form as a synthesis of the particular and universal it follows that the symbolic would be an appropriate language to ford passage betwixt such seemingly incongruous expressions. An uncanny similitude and community between culturally diverse mythologies has led Lévi-Strauss to consider myths to be governed by a hidden universal law. He also points towards a mediating element that occurs in most myths, a uniting force between apparent contradictions. The symbolic, in light of Schelling’s elucidations thus becomes a language of mediation that enables a ‘unity of opposites’ and enacts the gap between the real and ideal. Pervading the work of both Ionesco and Beckett is an air of nihilism, product of an inexorable existential enquiry that seemingly fails to find satisfactory response. The symbolic communicates to us from that existential fissure of understanding. Out of a prolific repertoire of dramatic symbolism in the works of Beckett and Ionesco I will be considering the chair and the window and their respective roles as vehicles of transmission.

In: Activating the Inanimate: Visual Vocabularies of Performance Practice
Author: Celia Morgan

The verity and illusion of theatre are not the contradictions they might seem but rather are entangled in a paradoxical configuration that mimics the illusory nature of reality. What we are presented with is only part of the enactment. Theatre itself acts as a mask that at once conceals and reveals. What this chapter aims to demonstrate is the dramatic presence of the withheld and it contends that both the presented and unrepresented within performance and theatre are equally present. The visual impact of performance is not constructed solely through its tangible parts but through very particular choices about what to leave out. It is not just the seen but also the imagined, the conjured resonance of the implied that performs the visual act. The unmasked illusion of theatre is just as, if not more than effective as a pretended realism or naturalism and thus it is the symbolic language of suggestion within scenography that yields the greatest effect. The participatory imagination of the spectator is presented as an active and vital tool yet inherently limited. The significance of the mask is reconsidered and presented as a metaphoric act that mirrors the nature of perceived reality. Like the mask of persona of Kyoto philosopher Nishitani Keiji, this mask is ‘through and through real’.

In: The Visual in Performance Practice
Author: Celia Morgan

The verity and illusion of theatre are not the contradictions they might seem but rather are entangled in a paradoxical configuration that mimics the illusory nature of reality. What we are presented with is only part of the enactment. Theatre itself acts as a mask that at once conceals and reveals. What this chapter aims to demonstrate is the dramatic presence of the withheld and it contends that both the presented and unrepresented within performance and theatre are equally present. The visual impact of performance is not constructed solely through its tangible parts but through very particular choices about what to leave out. It is not just the seen but also the imagined, the conjured resonance of the implied that performs the visual act. The unmasked illusion of theatre is just as, if not more than effective as a pretended realism or naturalism and thus it is the symbolic language of suggestion within scenography that yields the greatest effect. The participatory imagination of the spectator is presented as an active and vital tool yet inherently limited. The significance of the mask is reconsidered and presented as a metaphoric act that mirrors the nature of perceived reality. Like the mask of persona of Kyoto philosopher Nishitani Keiji, this mask is ‘through and through real’.

In: The Visual in Performance Practice
Editors: Celia Morgan and Filipa Malva
This volume was first published by Inter-Disciplinary Press in 2013.

The dynamic exchange of perspectives that constituted the 2nd Global Conference of Performance: Visual Aspects of Performance Practice demonstrated that the foundational concept of the project is a vibrant platform for sharing and extending ideas within all aspects of scenographic practice in performance. This volume is a compilation of papers that formed the basic structure of that conference.

The first four chapters present a developing schema of visual languages within theatre. From Beckett, Ibsen, Svoboda to Wilson, they navigate the symbolic and visual prioritizing of postdramatic scenographic forms. Part 2 reconsiders the predetermined divisions that deflate experiential encounters with the inanimate. Dance, puppetry and slapstick provide examples of interaction between performers and their environment. Part 3 addresses various renderings of design processes, exploring the role of drawing, fabric and body in creating a narrative. Part 4 negotiates the sensitive interface between public and performance while looking at the Burning Man Festival, flash mobs and opera media casting. The final chapters represent a global collective of process strategies that confront the production and methodologies of meaning. They engage with cultural presumptions and subjectivities in post Cultural Revolution China, Spanish flamenco, American Indian (post)colonial resistances and the traditions of Australian Aboriginal artists.
In: Activating the Inanimate: Visual Vocabularies of Performance Practice
This volume was first published by Inter-Disciplinary Press in 2014.

The term ‘performance practice’ houses within it a diversity of practices and artists whose work extends and interrogates the boundaries between theatre and nearly all other creative art forms. This volume contains diverse theoretical and creative essays all of which manifest a commitment to exploring the complexity of relationships between performer, space, and audience. The work investigated is not subsumed within disciplines, but cuts across and between disciplinary vocabularies providing new synergies, domains, and inter-disciplinary possibilities. Revolutionary innovations and experimentations are presented in the fields of motion graphics, design and scenography. Readers will discover the challenges and ingenuities of the imaginary, and the dynamics of performance as it intersects with the physical construction of space. The mysteries of what denotes ‘liveness’ will be unveiled, The Barber of Seville will be re-imagined through juvenile intervention, and Shakespeare is viewed through the hypnagogic imagination against the nothingness of Venetian mystique.
In: Staged Experiences