An Introduction to the Theater Interculturalism

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An Introduction to the Theater Interculturalism

b) Some specific examples of the theatre transculturalism

  The acculturation, which is implied in transculturaism, says: I have registered in me the other, or better, the other thing. The fact that from this paradigm can be deduced a specific shape of the theatre transculturalism is proved by the example of Eugenio Barba, or rather, the original example of the theatre transculturalism, which has been given to us by the art’s director of an Italian origin.
Namely, Barba, considers that the physiology of the actor is a trancultural fact ( ibid., 1991:188) and, at the same time – conditionally – a neutral paradigm on the basis of which the theatre transculturalism can be built (ibid. 1986)16F. It means that Barba, relates transculturalism with the body of the actor, or rather, with the transcultural-principles-that-return17F, which are applied on the back and the weight of the body. These are the useful advice for the each actor (who doesn’t make a strong dinstiction between theatre and dance), and, according to that, the same ones can be read as a specific treasure which is absorbable by the actors from the East, as well as by the ones from the West. If we leave aside the science and the problem of the genetic determinations, we’ll say that in the case of the Odin, the the transcultural principles intend a cross-cultures identified analogies in relation of the activating of the organic tensions, which serve for an efficient acting. In a final consequence, the tranculturalism of Barba is also an answer to the question: what do the laws of the scenic acting apply to – to the natural, daily regulations of the human behavior, or to some other, extradaily regulations of the scenic presentation. His interculturalism is at the same time a longing for the realization of the transcultural style of the scenic acting, of the mis-a-scene and narration.
And while Barba builds his source tranculturalism on the basis of physiology, Robert Wilson’s interculturalism is built on the level of the aesthetics of performing, but as well as on the level of the theatre perception18F. But before I start with the interculturalism of the last, I’ll say a few words about Peter Brooke’s transcultural aesthetics.
Namely, Brooke’s Mahabharata is often read as a transcultural work. However, after a more detailed analysis of this performance it becomes visible that it is more an exposing of the oriental aesthetics, than an exposing of the unknown Orient – which as a matter of fact was the first idea of the art’s director. Anyway, except the rethorics of the transcultural understanding, Brooke’s transculturalism can be identified with the effort of mixing of various texts, styles and actors, without pretensions of a syncretic character.
Differing from Brooke’s, Wilson’s standpoint towards transculturalism looks radically puristic. Robert Wilson does not offer any kind rethoric of transcultural understanding. He doesn’t promise what he can’t fulfill. But, what does Wilson as a matter of fact do?
The recipient of Wilson’s work receives theatre more as an exhibition, contemplation and meditation, than as an exposure of events linked by way of some kind of causality. The contemplation starts at the place where the performing finishes. By other words it means that Wilson’s signifiers don’t refer to the signified, taking into account the fact that they don’t accept the sign as an arbitrary element. That’s why his interculturalism doesn’t make a difference between history and nature and, consequently, it’s not foreseen as a means which would initiate the understanding between the cultural differences. On the contrary, this conception of his has been foreseen as a means which will intitiate the respecting of the arbitrary aesthetical synthesis. We can learn from here that Wilson’s approach enables a formal syncretism, and that exactly such a formal contents then gains the function of the common namer of the various clutural readings. To conclude, according to that, that for the author of the CIVIL waRS, transculturalism doesn’t represent a means for the realization of the intercultural undrstanding, but a means for an intercultural distancing. Let’s take as an example the performance Death Destruction & Detroit. As referential analogies here two biographies have been presented – the one of Rudolph Hesse and that of Franz Kafka. The first one wouoldn’t like to die, and the second had not wanted to live. The point is that this and such relation should be read upon a structural analogy of both of the elements, although a reverse symetry talks about an uniting syncretic element. Exactly like that – let me call it – a bloodless iconoclastical analogy is at the same time a ground on which the spectator will realize his/her meditation, and from here will realize the intercultural understanding – so, from aside – since such a range of the cultural readings exists. He in front of him has a presence of elements, which aesthetically can be thought of.
Here we could add that Wilson’s transculturalism is visible also in the frames of the intitiation of the collaboration spirit among the actors of various origines19F. By that, his transculturalism is close to Brooke’s transculturalism and Barba, as we can see the visible desire of collaboration in the frames of these three artists among such theatrical styles which we consider as exceptional, traditional and codified (no, odissi, kabuki, kathakali, bunraku). If, on the other hand, – taking into account the element of distancing, but as well of the throwing away of the conventional antropocentric perception of theatre – Wilson (and, let’s say his performance Einstein on the Beach) want to compare to Brecht (and with his performance Galileo Galilei), we’ll say that his realizations are more radical from the Brecht’s ones. Brecht, and here Barba can be incorporated too (with, for example, the performance Brecht’s Ashes 2), “paradoxically”, create an empaty. Wilson has succeeded to play whichever big figure, and then again not to provoke a feeling of empaty20F.
In the frames of the theatre of the positions we have another example of the theatre transculturalism which is worth mentioning. That is the example of Ariana Mnoushkin and her Shakespearean cycle of 1891/92. Namely, in this cycle Mnoushkin maintains the Western cultural matrix of the Shakepsearean chronicles, and the stereotypes of the commedia dell’arte, no and kabuki theatre which are included here by her, uses as a specific stylization. Niether she promises any kind of cultural transfer, but only, seemingly, offers a variation of the famous story in a new tonality.21F
These were some examples, which tell us how does transculturalism look in the context of the phenomenon called theatre. Before I give some concluding notices, I’ll speak also of that theatre transculturalism which belongs to the theatre practice called barter.22F
When a theatre group (group of actors) is found in front of a group of people (who are not actors and are not instructed on that what means being a theatre actor), outside the building called theatre, and when offers to them the performance or only some improvisations – and the group of people replies to them, as the experience talks, by games, songs or folklore – then we talk of the theatre barter. In these cases, the aesthetical value of the offered is not important any more, but something else is important: the (non-)-causal meeting that should be an initiative for the intercultural collaboration and the awakening of the consciousness of the “imposed”. The maxim of this process, as Barba says, is the following: not a political theatre, but politics trough theatre (ibid., 1978).23F
The Brooke’s International Center of Theatre Research (ICTR) and the Theatre Gardzience of the Polish art’s director Woldzmierz Staniewski has also used barters. Here also can be placed the Theatre Forum of Augusto Boal, although his example is a little bit more mature shape of the training of the revolution (Johunes, 1991).
In a somewhat more systemized (or rather: more general) sense of the word, the barters signify all the international artistic festivals, and especially the ones which have been dedicated to the dramatic arts. As a matter of fact, in this case (the theatrical) barters become another synonym of one more kind of the (theatre) transculturalism. The conception of interculturalism in this context is used as a word which signifies all the transactions between the given cultural entities, during which process, the elements of one culture are recognized and aquised by the other culture. If we want to know which is the way in which the other elements are recognized or aquised – whether in that way in which the difference remains visible among the given identities or not – then, we should agiain return in the frames of the hesitations of the semantic meanings of multiculturalism, transculturalism and syncretism. Leaving this answer here open, as an addition to what we said, I will give the following fact which I consider as fully evident:
The Western way of living, perception and thinking – and when I say Western I mean the European and the North-American ideology – is accepted in the frames of most contemporary societies. This by one hand means that its values are written in the structures of the non-European and non-American peoples, and on the other hand, it means that by the very act itself the destroying of the domestic cultural values is being threatened. Who is the winner in that case? The answer would be: the transcultural businness and the triviality, which could not easily be separated from it.
However it is, it remains to conclude my paper. I have started with some distinctions around, as I have said the frequent applied terminologies, which real understanding is a precondition of our standpoint in relation to the conetmporary aesthetics and the conception of transculturalism. It is clear now that by that I have liked to towards my faith in one of the discrepancies and failings of the multiculturalism and syncretism, altohough practice says that it is difficult to believe in the clearness of such a discrepancy. By other words, it is difficult to believe that that discrepancy has remained untouched by the rain of – to say figuratively – the tempest.
That which can be learned by this conception, and is worth rememberin, is comprised by the following fact: the intercultural practice changes the conventional opinion that the theatre of the given country at the same time is an reflection (a picture) of the culture of that country.
Some years ago, Victor Turner talked about the new transcultural synthesis through presenting. I consider that that syynthesis is created, but unfortunately, without a significant contribution in the field of the intercultural tolerance.

Translated by: Bujar Hodzha

16. It is difficult to believe that theatre can separate an own clear (biological) nucleus, as the physiology of man is not freed from the socio-cultural conditionings and the expressive reelaborations of an intentional character.
17. The transcultural principles in repetition are the following: the principle of the alternation of the balance, the principle of opposition, consistent inconsistency, “sats”, the principle of absorbation of energy, the principle of equality and the virtue of omission, the principle of simplification and the principle of equivalence (Barba, 1986, 1991).
18. Except these two aspects, we can talk about the interculturalism of Wilson also on the level of aesthetics of production and reproduction.
19. Wilson’s actors, which interculturally perform, through various national amssables are as follows: Sheryl Sutton, Cristopher Knowles, Cindy Lubar, Jessye Norman, Lucinda Childs. They never perform as characters, but rather as idiosyncretic performers, thanks to their only physical, cynetical and vocal presence in the theatrical scene.
20. At this point I would like to mention the conception syn-esthetics, or rather synesthetical communication Barba talks about. This level of theatre communication preceedes the communication that clearly states and receives something, and as such – the preexpressive level – is being established within the activating of the transcultural principles themselves. More exactly, it’s being established within that special moment when the actor succeedes to seduce the spectator with his present body (the decided or fictive body, Barba, 1986.), and again it doesn’t inform about any kind of meaning with a concrete semantic value. Barba’s transculturalism can be discussed even from this aspect, since this kind of theatre communication is an cross-cultures identified analogy of attracting the spectator’s attention.
21. This approach A. Mnoushkin uses even before this cycle, or better, during the working on the performance Mefisto, in 1890. Here also she succeeds to shape her idea.
22. This conception is offered by Eugienio Barba in 1979, when he speaks of one the many characteristics of the Third Theatre.
23. The first barter of the Odin theatre of Barba has come true in 1974 in Carpignano, South Italy. The significance and the validity of this phenomenon have been casually discovered. Performing the exercises of the training, they notice that a group of curious peasants have gathered and are watching Instead of applauding, they have returned and replied to them by folklore. Maybe because that was the way they understood it. That is the short story concerning the birth of the barters. In the following years, this causality has been institutionalized. The Odin people have started to organize these meetings with the Janomami Indians in Amazon (1976); in Britain (1977), through the small communities in Walles (1980), and in 1987 barters have been organized in Italy, in Salento, in the frames of the sessions of ISTA (International School of Theatre Anthropology). Therough the town surroundings Barba has organized the following barters: in 1977 with the workers of Paris, after ten years in South Argentina, in Bahia Blanka, and in Uruguay.

AuthorMiruše Hodža
2018-08-21T17:24:01+00:00 January 1st, 1999|Categories: Theory, Blesok no. 06, Theatre/Film|0 Comments