Rethinking theatre and its digital double

2017-02-23T23:29:37Z (GMT) by Valentine, Darren
Rethinking Theatre and its Digital Double is an exploration of the influence of theatre and performance on contemporary media and communication culture. The over-arching question driving my research relates directly to the idea that the computer monitor is a new proscenium theatre. The primary conceptual question related to my performance as research is whether the hypermediated online remediation of my live performance events are essentially an experience of theatre. The methodology employed was first to create a series of performance events, experimenting with the remediation of the documentation by placing a stylistic emphasis on hypermediation. This ‘poetic research’ would allow for unhindered Dionysian artistic exploration and experimentation. These would then operate as nodal points of reference for a more considered Apollonian contextualisation of the unfolding conceptual terrain and its relationship to existing knowledge and cultural phenomena as it relates to my overall hypothesis. In this thesis I first attempt to establish a theoretical framework using theatre and performance discourse as a foundation. With the arrival of visual reproductive technologies, in the mid to late nineteenth century, a new mediated order of theatre and performance was established. The very beginnings of photography and film are infused with theatrical tradition and convention, as the medium of theatre was transmuted and reconfigured in a constant process of technological transformation. This process continued with proceeding technologies such as television, video and digital technologies. I argue that on a phenomenological level these are all experiences of theatre. Interrogating how the medium of theatre is perceived within Media Studies discourse, we find a distorted view of the role of theatre in media and ‘new media’ narratives. Performance Studies discourse has sought to replace theatre and performance at the heart of these debates. The theatre should be perceived as both media and technology and, along with painting, is the predominant influence on the contemporary media and communication landscape. Considering the theories of Antonin Artaud and computer scientist Ray Kurzweil, do they offer any indications of the future of theatre and performance? Encounters with immersive and intermedial performance experiences confirms my contention that the process of convergence of media and mediums, across the spectrum of artistic practice, that began in the Modernist era continues today unabated. Ultimately my performance experiments in remediation are attempts to address some of the ongoing issues historically associated with mediated live theatrical performances. Situating my performance as research within this wider historical, artistic and technological context, the overriding research question is whether theatre’s digital double is essentially an experience of theatre. By placing my own performance research within this broad field of discourse, I argue concepts such as remediation, hypermediacy, intermediality – key features of my performance practice – are phenomenologically consistent with the traditions of theatre and performance. Through my practice as research I am able to highlight the differentiations, tensions, similarities and ultimately the potentialities of the constantly evolving medium of theatre, viewed through the lens of a broad field of historical, artistic, technological and social contexts. Inspired by performance artist Jack Smith, my performance research aligns, on a conceptual level, with his idiosyncratic performance practice. On a thematic level, my performance research – which critiques our economic system and corporate culture (post-Global Financial Crisis) – also aligns with Smith’s anti-capitalist philosophy.