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Título: Contributions from the multimodal aesthetic perspective on early development to the study of theatre spectatorship: An analysis of forms of vitality and present moments in a theatrical performance
Autor(es): Nudler, Alicia Clara
Fecha de publicación: 15-sep-2023
Revista: GAPS2 - Global Arts and Psychology "Creativity in music and the arts"
Resumen: Background Semiotics, considered a key discipline for theatre theory, understands everything on stage as signs to be decoded (De Marinis, 2005; Fisher-Lichte, 1999). Phenomenological approaches, instead, see watching theatre as a perceptual global experience. States (1987) argues in favour of a binocular view comprised of both. Hart (2006) argues that such vision becomes possible only insofar as semiotics does not understand language as disembodied. I am designing a way of observing and analysing theatre utilizing findings from the multimodal aesthetic perspective on human development, specifically Daniel Stern´s theory (1985, 2004, 2010). This perspective assigns a fundamental role to intersubjective experiences pre-existent to language in infancy, running parallel to it in adulthood; it also views meaning and language as fundamentally arising from the body. Stern found a direct link between early intersubjective experiences and time-based arts, offering a rich framework for deeper, complex understandings of watching theatre. I present my observations of one play through the use of micro-analysis which, like a magnifying glass, allows for the emergence of multiple rich subtle events taking place in short moments. I specifically apply Stern´s notions of forms of vitality and present moment. Forms of vitality is the way in which the human mind deals with dynamic experiences, crucial in interpersonal encounters and time-based arts. It refers to the style of doing things, the energetic and temporal profile of movements, sounds, emotions, thoughts. Present moments, proposed by Stern to account for “now” experiences, are continuous, analogic, flowing wholes, intuitively grasped as global units with boundaries, like a musical phrase. Aims To analyse theatre spectatorship from an embodied, multimodal perspective, enriching its understanding as a global, immersive, intersubjective experience. To identify, in one specific theatre production, forms of vitality, present moments, and procedures combining the meaningful and the sensorial. Main contribution I present parts of my analysis of the play Krapp´s Last Tape, by Samuel Beckett (1958). The version I consider for this analysis is that of Robert Wilson, an acclaimed contemporary theatre director. Wilson and Stern held a longstanding creative relationship that influenced each other´s work; they explored together the concept of forms of vitality in theatre (Wilson, Stern & Bruschweiller-Stern, 2009). I watched Wilson´s version live, and subsequently analysed it through iterative observations of video recordings. Specifically, I look at the temporal dynamics of body movements, voice, other scene-sounds and light over short intervals. In passages with spoken words, I pay attention to meaning conveyed in relation to the above, in the context of the overall narrative of the play. Complex creative procedures deployed by Wilson become clear; I have created original categories to name them, at the same time identifying their relationships with forms of vitality and present moments. For example, the stylization of goal directed actions operates by running on a vitality form that falls outside the range of vitality forms normally used for that action in everyday life, creating aesthetic effects and breaking realistic illusion. Scaffolding of meaning uses clear-cut vitality forms (i.e. sudden, crescendo, abrupt, gentle) carried by movements or sounds to support meaning emergent in a specific moment, anchored in the overall narrative of the play. Certain pauses in movement/sound operate to create boundaries between present moments; multimodal occurrences thicken the now by overlapping events. Some procedures work with conjunctions or disjunctions of vitality forms in different modalities, others create diffuse meaning or a “floating intentionality” (Cross, 2010) by unfolding unusual movements/sounds. Discussion and conclusion This paper continues previous work using the notion of vitality forms in relation to theatre (Wilson et al., 2009, Stern, 2010, Wojciehowski, 2014, Bussières, 2018, Weeks, 2013, Nudler et al., 2020); it deepens it by looking in detail at the specific ways in which vitality unfolds, in combination with meaning. Micro-analysis through video, deployed by Stern for his studies of mother-infant interactions, has proved, along with concepts stemming from his theory, to be a valid tool for observing theatre performance, revealing a complexity otherwise difficult to grasp. Such richness most likely impacts on spectatorship, contributing to the watching theatre experience, albeit not in a completely conscious way. This method reveals that layeredness, following from there that theatre, besides being “a density of signs and sensations”, as Barthes famously stated, is also a density of present moments and vitality forms.
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