The long running Philosophy and Theater group held not one but two discussions in August on Antonin Artaud’s The Theater and Its Double, which have now been posted for Citizens as a single 3-hr file on the Free Stuff page on the “Not School Discussion Group Audio” tab. Go join up if you’d like to listen.
Our subjects within the text ranged wide, since Artaud’s writings are full of paradoxes. The prose feels driven and manic, yet his arguments are usually very eloquent and incisive. His views of both theater and consciousness are rooted in carnality and the cruelty of material life, yet he claimed they were deeply metaphysical.
Without an element of cruelty at the foundation of every spectacle, the theater is not possible. In the state of degeneracy in which we live, it is through the skin that metaphysics will be made to reenter our minds. (Artaud 251)
Perhaps the most striking paradox lies in the fact that so much of Artaud’s entrancingly written The Theater and Its Double consistently inveighs against text itself, which he thought was often deceptive and remote, and crowded out other forms of expression. Artaud favored a gestural language of physical and visual signs that he thought would connect people more directly. Much of our second discussion was spent exploring this idea, as well as his concept of “doubling” and his metaphysics. The first discussion focused more on trying to pin down what he meant with all the talk of violence and “cruelty,” and how this might have been manifested on stage, though there is a fair amount of cross talk between the two.
Our next book will be Victor Turner’s From Ritual to Theatre: The Human Seriousness of Play, so if you have an interest in ritual studies or theater, come read with us during September and get in on our next discussion at the end of the month.
– Daniel Cole