We cannot know what we are doing. We can only know when we are doing it wrong.
Theatre was born of the sermon, and a deep-seated need for audience. A deep-seated need for collective experience. Theatre has always been the target of religious conservatives, for it rivaled the church in its imitation of salvation.
We have to return to salvation. Theatre has to now enfold the language of allegory; that is, it has to provide an experience that entails the spectator: not the autonomous artwork of bourgeois culture, not artwork that reinforces the position of the spectator, of his social position and worth, but theatre. For theatre is inherently collective.
The text creates the space on stage. We see the space after language. A language that is literal or ideological kills that space. To announce a theme and occupy an abstract position is false. It is kitsch. Kitsch, as Greenberg said, is vicarious experience. It is the familiar. It is generalization.
A wheel, if painted indistinctly, appears to be moving. Painted clearly it does not move. Technology, from photography to film to computers, has pushed experience further away. But the ‘object,’ obdurate thing-in-itself, has returned from nowhere. The real, naturalism, realism, are all exactly NOT those things, and they are all exactly NOT the thing itself. They are the end product of that movement that learned from painting the wheel in motion.
Adorno said Beckett put meaning on trial. We’ve moved from method to principles. The inauthentic took different directions, to the new-age empty narcissism of Abramovic, for instance, or to what Andreas Huyssen has called the neo-Wagnerian kitsch of Robert Wilson. To replay old method is to become, quickly, kitsch. For Beckett signaled the end of the modern, and the modern was predicated on its reaction against the increasing conformity of capitalist culture. The spectacle accelerated after Beckett. It swept along language and neutered it. A new grammar for stage space had to be invented.
The concrete is not surface, its an existential fact. Kitsch is based on surface.
Aesthetic judgment is built into art today. Criticism as Elkins said, has became chronicle, judgment has become meditation on judgment. And yet critical judgment cannot accommodate individual works of art that having nothing individual about them (Mira Schorr). Kitsch is hegemonic.
Picasso’s clowns, as someone said, become John Wayne Gacy’s clowns. There are no arguments in kitsch.
Derrida saw Artaud as deconstructing the theatre of representation. The theatre of representation aestheticizes the commodity. Fascism aestheticized politics. Robbed of use-value, everything is advertising. Identity politics, the elevation of simplistic notions of skill, and an aesthetic built on kitsch produces August Wilson. The emancipatory is exploited as a commodity.
And when everything is advertising it expresses only pure domination. Kristeva saw media as the collectivizing of all sign systems, thereby enforcing the tendency already present for total conformity. In a society robbed of the meaning of words, the viewer’s internal narrative erodes. Art no longer provides authentic narrative.
A Mike Smith or Donald Judd sculpture is self-contained, it is a form of the concrete. In theatre the empty stage is never self-contained. For an actor to stand behind a stage flat is not the same as ...