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FleshFactor: Material

A E C  F O R U M - "F L E S H F A C T O R"

The Human body is not only "the ultimate original" in our
information-based society, it is also something that remains while
space is extending and is becoming virtual. As working and
studying in the field of theater, I would like to comment on
Gerfried Stocker's opening statement out of a theatrical
point of view.

Nevertheless understanding of body and space have changed towards
a less material - a more virtual point of view. The "orientation
and interrelation of the diametric opposites, man and machine, in
the reciprocal, necessary processes of adaptation and
assimilation" (Gerfried Stocker) for me does not create a "second
'natural' environment" but enlarges the environment we live in. In
my point of view this environment is not caused by the new
relationship between technique (machine) and nature (body) but
created by the new perceptions of space and human body. And I
would not call it a 'second' nature because the material of the
'first' natural space is included into the process of enlargement.
Using computer mediated communication and furthermore using and
understanding the space that is created by electronic networking
does not replace the human User. I do see that the human body does
still exist even in a virtual environment.

"Increasingly we find ourselves having to contend with new
methodologies for interfacing with the physical/real and
virtual/digital aggregate states of our environment, including the
sensuous portrayal of information as a strategy for an
"expressiveness of the subject" in telematic art."
(Gerfried Stocker)

Also Theater is on its way exploring this new territory and the
new laws of the material of an actor in virtual environment. A
play can be performed with the use of the Internet in various
ways. One could either build the stage in a virtual room
established by the Internet, or use the lines of the Internet for
the communication between the actors and/or between the actors and
the audience. The participants of a performance no longer
necessarily have to be at the same physical place. Actually, the
Internet is a perfect place for theater as it is becoming more and
more an appropriate place for Communications art. Event art,
communications art and performance art have one special
characteristic in common: It is impossible to document or record
such a work of art. Mail art, fax art or other events using
communication tools can only be caught at the time they happen.
They are gone afterwards and what remains is only a report about
the event.

A unique character is also typical for any theater-event. A play
might be performed hundreds of times, but will be different every
evening. If a theatrical piece uses the Internet as a stage - when
a new sight on the Internet is raised and the medium becomes a
space itself - the stage design becomes the interface that the
audience gets on its computer screen. Those who are acting and
watching are human beings as in real space.

It is not absolutely necessary to build a whole new place in the
Internet to perform a play. A stage can be situated in some of the
already existing rooms, the online meeting places. Performances
have already taken place in the text-based environments  IRC - the
Internet Relay Chat and MOO (Multi User Object Orientated
Dimension) and in the more "colorful" surroundings like the two
dimensional chat place "Palace" or with the use of CU-SEEME
software, which includes real time video and audio.

In Theater the body is the material of the actor. And not only the
actor but also the spectator brings a human body to the playhouse.
Needs and limits of the human have to be known when planning a
performance. That is for example you can not stage a play that
lasts for days without having a break (in recent past, some works
of artists have shown how staging a long duration play changes
perception, fascinating and challenging experiments) - the bodies
of the participants would probably not stand it.

With puppet theater a form of theater came up that tried to
replace one human component. In this theatrical field the human
body is not visible any more but is necessarily hidden behind the
strings that are guiding the puppet/marionette. The puppet show
has been a form of cultural communication for a long time, it
became a form of art within the 20th century (as Gerd Taube
describes it in "Puppenspiel als kulturhistorisches Phaenomen").
The communication between puppeteer and spectator can be described
as a triangle. The actor reacts to the puppet and improvises in an
interaction with the spectator, who him- or herself reacts to the
puppet. In this unity that creates its own world -- all is made of
one material: puppet and set.

More and more theories have been upcoming particularly since the
19th century that focus on the material "human body" in theater in
a more artificial way. The aesthetic of using a synthetic material
began being discussed. (beginning with Kleist in 1810 for example
"Ueber das Marionettentheater" and also found in the works of
Meyerhold, Craig and many more)

Interests in a form of "human machine" shows that the
understanding of the human body on stage has changed. One position
of these theories was to totally replace the human with a machine. 
Another approach was to show artificial aspects in a natural human

"Establishing our media as a second skin at the periphery of the
body," theater in virtual space makes use of a new form of
presence of the actor, but an actor that under this "second skin"
is a human being. What he or she has to bring is a new knowledge
how to stage his or her body while being in the second skin. The
exploration of the presence and the usage of the human body is
still in its very beginning but more and more theatrical
productions are coming up and are finding new terms of definition
of the material of the actor: the body.

Monika Wunderer

-------------------------- alles Theater -------------

Monika Wunderer -- mail to: wunderer@oudeis.org
                   phone:   ++ 43 (1) 892 35 20


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