ON SPECTATORSHIP

 

It is in the spectator that the dramatic work of art is actually born — born at the time it is experienced — and it is differently experienced by every individual member of the audience. The beginning of a dramatic work of art is not on the stage or even in a book. It is created at that moment when it is experienced as movement of form in time and space. Georg Fuchs

We can emphasize that there is no theatrical act without audience. And the theatre comes alive through its audience. These statements stress the fact that spectatorship plays very important role in the performances. For better comprehension we should take a closer look at the structure of theatrical communication that has fundamentally changed through years in Europe. In the end of the eighteenth century everything had been focused on the characters on stage and their internall communication. The whole intimacy of the play was kept on the stage behind the “fourth wall”. It represented imaginary boundary between any fictional work and its audience. The idea of the fourth wall was made explicit by Denis Diderot and spread in nineteenth-century theatre.

There is the distance between the performers and spectators. But there is also distance inherent in the performance itself, as it stands as a ‘spectacle’ between the idea of the artist and the feeling and interpretation of the spectator. This spectacle is a third thing, to which both parts can refer but which prevents any kind of ‘equal’ or ‘undistorted’ transmission. It is a mediation between them. Jacques Rancière

Today the focus has shifted to the reciprocal external communication between stage and audience. The scope of intimacy has been changed as well since the presence of the spectators is implied. The exhibiting of the intimate aspects of personalities and undecidability what to extent are fundamental calls to react, to find our position as a beholder. However in theatre as in art is created distance, the distance of the spectacle. This is happening because spectators are never able to completely identify with what they see, because they see through their passed experiences and because they keep a critical distance. In essence we are very uncertain at our role of spectators. Very often when we go to performance or theatre play, we do not know what is expected from us. There is no predefinition of our emplacement that we should take towards the performance we are watching. In many performances now, we are even in doubt weather something that we witness is on purpose aesthetically produced or it is just real doing things. We are not quite certain what is real and what is fake. This uncertainity, undecidability what we are seeing is one of the essential aspect of performance work. The audience is confronted with the problem how to relate to it.

Therefore I am identifying with possible virtual significance that it may have for the others participants. The public reality melts our personal understanding into the co-understanding with others because theatre and performance are social processes. We can not produce them individually. Hans-Thies Lehmann

To even better understand a position of a spectatorship in the dramaturgy of theatre is important… to understand viewing as co-viewing and understanding as co-understanding. To understand individually is not the same as to understand with others. In the moment that I understand something in performance or believe to understand, at the same time I understand that its publicaly produced understanding. So to speak when we laugh together as an audience it gives us certain feeling of unity, temporary position in a particular community that further on influences our perception of what we are looking at.

There is no such a thing as just looking. James Elkins

The staged character of theatre can seduce us to think that what we see as the result of what is beeing done for us, we as audience are “just looking”. It can be misinterpreted as the finished product intended to observe. But as we know It may seem that nothing could be easier than seeing. We just focus our eyes and take in whatever is before us. However looking itself is defined by very individual and personal interpretation. What we see is never simply what the performers present or intend. Our perceptions are influenced by many aspects. If we consider looking as a creative process than we can admit that audience becomes already active just by the process of looking.

We always see less than is there. We also always see more than is there. Maaike Bleeker

Therefore I do not see necessity of forcing the audience to physical intervention in the performance, just for the sake of bigger immersion. However what can really enhance the experience of the gazer and play with perception are just simple changes in theatre code routine. Changing of sitting position for the audience, or entering the theatre space through the backstage or keeping the light on at the audience space, all of these little changes can trigger bigger immersion without unusual psychological pressure on a visitor of theatre.

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