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Theater and audience perception in a postmodern perspective

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  1. Introduction
  2. The work of The Wooster Group
  3. Developing new forms of understanding and perceptions
  4. Questioning the existence of objective truth and authentic reality
    1. Deconstructing and fragmenting different texts considered as 'classics'
    2. What Wilson did to extend the level of consciousness
    3. Aragon: The creation of another reality in Wilson's work
  5. The sense of ritual and the idea of another time
  6. The Surrealist device for joining disparate images
  7. The Shunt event Tropicana
    1. Emphasizing the loss of the real that is at work
    2. The change in the structure of culture
    3. Wilson's want to merge the two screens
  8. Postmodern and the restructuring the concepts of performance and theatre
  9. Conclusion
  10. Bibliography

« The genuinely postmodern work forces us to recognise that reality is something other than our formulations of it, and that those formulations are therefore constructs » (Jean-François Lyotard). Investigate and interrogate the urge in performance theatre to radically restructure audience perception and understanding of theatre/life. Focus your response through the analysis of at least two different practitioners or performance forms studied and work seen.

Postmodernism denies the idea of a true and unique reality. It questions it by using irony instead of metaphysics. It plays with the idea that there exists another reality, as Allan Kaprow (in Kirby ; 1965 : 67) explained in a letter sent to selected New Yorkers for the production of 18 Happenings in 6 Parts (1959), ?In this different art, the artist takes off from life'. Thus, it forces us to question our sense of the world and reality and in placing the audience in this altered and parallel state, tries to offer new ways of seeing theatre and life.
The work of The Wooster Group, Robert Wilson, Shunt and Happenings challenge accepted intelligence and knowledge and modify our perception of reality by investigating other realities. Avant-garde performance theatre also exposes our constructed models of reality and theatre and in doing so, changes the traditional model of audience understanding and asks the questions, what is theatre? What is life? What is real? Does real exist?

[...] They created this parallel universe and were filmed evolving in it so that the audience would get a sense of what that world was. Willem Dafoe (in Savran 1986: 116) said, ?with us, you're placed in a structure that makes you see, not really yourself, but feel something that you don't normally get to feel. And it's totally your own'. This applies to performance theatre in general, as it does not seek to tell you what to think and feel. [...]

[...] In Baudrillard's nihilistic scenario of contemporary mass media culture, the whole idea of theatre or any representational art, is completely inverted: the distinction between representation and reality has become irrelevant Therefore, avant-garde and postmodern work seeks to broaden and transform horizons, not necessarily replace the current forms, or versions, but show that there is something beyond the usual and the ?real', in a sense broadening our sense of what theatre and life are. What postmodern work seems to say is that things have happened which we have no idea why or how and things happen everyday which we cannot plan or even describe when we see them. [...]

[...] Thus, in Wilson's work, language is a vision and a sound, which makes it richer than what it seems, as the language is not only read but felt, seen and heard. Most of it may be incomprehensible but the way it sounds and what it looks like or what it implies has an effect. Therefore what Knowles does is force us to recognise that there is a reality that he can perceive which we cannot and invites us to experience it with his words, their sounds, and his images. [...]

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