– From Paragrami tela/figure (book on the theory of theater) –

3.2.1 Concepts of Figure

Figure (figure = shape, face, image) is a visual-spatial-temporal-corporal-behavioral (semiotic, semiological) and linguistic representation of human, animal or fictional body in theater. The figure is:
1. traditional way of mediation and exchange between the concept of being and artistic, theater or textual formalization (rhetoric sub-determination) of the body as an art form,
2. modernistic autonomous genre of configuring the representation and expression of the subject on stage, and
3. postmodern poly-genre complex of eclectic, citation, collage-montage and simulation ways of showing the hypothesis of the theater subject.
In western civilization, figure has the character of a social ideological hieroglyph or more precisely, a coin in the exchange of meanings, senses and values in the society of production, exchange, communication and expenditure. The exchange of meanings, senses and values in the society is done by conventionalization of the nature of the body and the naturalization of the convention of exchanges. The theater figure in the western civilization is always determined by a meta-interpretative circling of the empirical horizon of perception to the ideological borders of the rhetorical conventions of the culture, the works of theater, school, fashion or individual theater expression. The figure is a real or fictional body mediated via the material codes of culture. At the same time, it is a represented object (postponed representation of the body) and a present object (here – the presence of the theater spatial, linguistic, semiological form,). The figure is at the same time the signifier and the signified, sign (hieroglyph, ideographic writing) and a visual, spatial, corporal, behavioral, linguistic and semiological text. It is a real place of ontological presence of the determined, for example, theater substance and its own simulacrum. The figure relativizes the borders between the presence (ontology) of the body and the effect of the presence (representation) of the body. Figure is a historical formation that is shaped and brought to a finished, closed concept with shaping of the ideology (subjectivity, rationality, imperialism, falocentrism) of the European humanism. Figure is an empirical horizon of the visual (“That is how I see you!”, “That is how you see me!”, “That is how I see the world!” etc), a rhetorical system of transformation of the ideological sub-determinations of the subject as a net of the subjectivity and rationality of the perception and representation of the body.
The concept of the theater figure is determined by the following aspects in the scope of phenomenological through the semiological to textual approach:
(a) the idea of figure is analogue to the figure of style (in an indirect meaning) in the theory of literature and rhetoric because in a stylized and indirect way it shows the human, animal or fictional body, that is, the figure as a representation is menonymic, allegoric or personified representation (replacement) of the human, animal or fictional body by constituting the look and appearance of the stage fictional body,
(b) stylized and indirect representation of the human body is possible because the figures of the actor are iconic, allusive, index-like and symbolic, which means that for the body
(c) the figure as a sign or structure of signs that shows a specific, ideal or general human or animal fictional body based on visual similarity (allusive, iconic sign), based on recognizable implications, classifications (index sign) or based on conventional agreements and habits (symbol), and
(d) allusive, iconic, index-like and symbolic signs of presenting the figure are not any signs, but visual-spatial-corporal-behavioral (theater) orders of signs (texts) of representation
The idea of figure is based on the concepts of similarity and difference. The figurative theater representation strives in ideal sense, according to the mimetic tradition, towards the illusion of the object (corporal) match of the figure on stage with the real existential human or animal body. The figure is based on two mutually exclusive and different worlds (the world of specific objects, creatures, situations and events and the world of fictional representations).
Figure in theater is an arbitrary, motivated or unmotivated, that is, literary or indirect description and offer of looks – behavior of a specific human or animal body. The illusion of matching of the figure and the body is fulfilled via their visual and illusionist similarity, but also with linguistic or semiotic promises. The body is not determined by the order of signifiers, although it arrears as a signifier on the stage, and the figure is in any aspect determined by the structural connections of the signifiers that anticipate sense (project sound and connection of the signs in a theatrical text). The figure is in the distance from the body (signifier) and in the approach of the sign (signifier that penetrates the signified). The degrees of difference between the bodies and the figures are in a broad scope from the primary ontological difference of the existing and actor’s being, that is, the difference between the physical body and the virtual screen body.
The western theater until modernism was based on:
(1) conventions of similarity and illusionist ritual or rhetoric matching or correspondence of the figure and the body, and
(2) background mythical, religious, scientific or artistic text that supported the convictions that the theater figure shows an existing human and animal body. The recognition of the figure as a body is recognition of the ideological codes that determine the related or unrelated visual phenomena and make them present before the eye and understandable in the sense of their meaning. The recognition of the figure as a body is submitting the empirical horizon of the perception of the world of ideological codes of representing the bodies with a figure and differentiating the figure from other linguistic, semiotic and phenomenological representations of the theater. The transformation of the realistic illusionist theater practice of showing the body as a figure of the world in the figure of the free form in expressionism is a transformation of the iconic or allusive sign. The iconic or allusive theater sign hides its signifying power by showing itself as a mirror image (optical reflection or effect), and the real modernistic iconic sign shows that the theater figure, no matter how it is in its appearance, always shows itself as a sign or structure of signs for some body. On stage, the figures do not read themselves, but thorough the relation with the text (sense-meaning relations of the theater event and context in which the theater play occurs). The figurative code is a sign characterization of the theater form that is recognized as a figure regardless of its illusionist similarity, that is, difference from the body it represents. This figurative code is:
(a) network of illusion between the world where the bodies or the objects and the stage in whose limited (taken) space the figures are, and
(b) network of semantic and behavioral combinations of relations of the figures in the situations or happenings with which the stage illusion is shown (fulfilled).
The characteristic of the theater figure is to be accessible by describing (ascribing a description), that is, the figurative order of the stage in itself is open for describing as any event or situation in the world. But, the figurative order is not given in itself, but one has to think and experience himself in the figural, that is, intellectual and textual horizon which is the background theory or accepting the body as a figure. Every figure of the theater is a paradox: it seems like a world (part of the world), and it is understood as a text (textual order). The figure on the stage is not an optical-mirror face (representative), but a behavioral-corporal-object-spatial order that first of shows the system of the language that surrounds the theater and is formalized in the language of the theater, which can not be leveled to a direct sense and empirical check. The form or the sign do not become figures of theater based on the body that they show, but based on their relation with the other signs of theater (literature, painting) and the language of culture where the playwright, dramaturgist or actor shape the form (figure) as a sign of the theater. The figure of the theater is a border between two esthetic areas:
(a) esthetic space of the text that provides that the visual form is perceived and read as a fictional figure that shows (other) body than the body on stage, and
(b) esthetic space of the occurrence and looks of the stage that shows itself as a spatial-temporal doubling (mirroring) of the non-textual world in the occurrence of the happening.

AuthorMiško Šuvaković
2018-08-21T17:23:27+00:00 April 1st, 2004|Categories: Theory, Theatre/Film, Blesok no. 35|0 Comments