Samuel Beckett´s Krapp`s Last Tape (1999)
THEATRE AS A PROJECT OF A BODY
“Artistic research means that the artist produces an art work
and researches the creative process, thus adding to
the accumulation of knowledge”
Artistic Research – Theories,
Methods and Practices.)
Artistic research on the theoretical and Practical possibilities of modern acting
On this website, I will present my artistic research “THEATRE AS A PROJECT OF A BODY”. It is part of my doctoral thesis in theatrical arts in the Department of Acting at the University of Tampere, now part of The School of Communication, Media and Theatre (CMT). The website comprises the final part of my research and degree. The first four parts consist of theatre performances.
The website presents the artistic works included in the research, i.e., four theatre performances directed by me and the REPORT text created during the performances. As a result, the research is divided between practical/artistic work and the written reporting section.
I graduated as an actor (Master of Arts, Theatre and Drama) from the Department of Acting at the University of Tampere in 1999. My artistic thesis was based on my work as an actor in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp`s Last Tape.
GENERAL RESEARCH OBJECTIVES
In my opinion, Finnish theatre culture has not paid sufficient attention to artistic, methodical and content-related questions concerning acting work. As our theatrical art has evolved, actors have needed to continuously maintain their professional skills by themselves. At the same time, practices in the theatrical and performing arts, in particular, have developed rapidly. Finnish professional actors seem to live in the midst of the characterisation originating from the beginning of the last century. For me, this comprises a research problem and a gap in my artistic practices. My aim is to develop new ways of thinking and methods, and create artistic conflicts in order to produce more long-lasting tools so that this type of reassessment could also be performed again and again in the future.
I am researching subjectivity in modern acting, its potential images and the surrounding ever-changing reality, which, in my opinion, theatrical art should represent, and shape. With this starting point in mind, I have produced artistic works that represent my claims as such. These artistic works, produced both as a director and an actor, comprise my research object – its form and content. They are the most visible products of my work and ideology. The analytical section that consists of various media and is to be released as an online publication aims at specifying my motives, materials, sources and working methods for the examiners and the artistic community in general.
In my artistic work, I believe in a working method aimed at a more general direction through a personal artistic experience. As a result, I am researching my own working methods – what they are in practice, where I have learned them, how I have developed them and where they are headed.
My research takes place in my theatre performances. The character of the performances is a new type of “post-dramatic theatre” (Lehmann 2009) based on text. Furthermore, all performances involve acting. The performances are based on a fairly complete text written for the theatre. The general point of view in the research is that of a theatre director who has a degree in acting. I understand that the current diverse artistic research or modern performing arts could, as an artistic activity, bring out specific questions of this modern subject more clearly than an artistic, more traditional representative theatre based on a dramatic text or idea. However, the performances included in this research are to be brought up in the environment with which they are to communicate: “post-dramatic drama” (The Screens and Yvonne, Princess of Burgundy), modern theatre (Maailman paras) and local professional theatre (Ruotsalaisen kesän yö) constitute the theatrical environment in this research.
ON ARTISTIC RESEARCH
Advancing, living theatrical arts are “research” by nature, always questioning the existing theatre concepts. New theatre directions cannot, however, be directly derived from previous directions, not even as their historical negations or extensions, but the entire Globalisation and Digitalisation of Information, and the continuous mixing of styles and intentions results in a situation where theatre-practitioners are able to reasonably justify only their own selections within this cultural environment.
In an ever-changing artistic framework, artistic research and a number of its changing paradigms – Artistic Research, Practice as Research, Practice-based Research (Rubidge 2004) – play a significant part in producing new content, forms and working methods. If research proves that specific aspects are feasible and interesting, they could be better accepted in the theatre field as parts of the prevailing working, discussion or narration culture. A researching artist is always also a new possible job description for artists. Therefore, artistic research is not only a “development forum in the field” but, through its example, challenges the entire prevailing artistic image, working methods and goals to be subject to discussion. Research practices also force artists themselves to challenge and question their working methods and ideologies over and over again. If artists change, through these research practices, from mere creators of art into “reflective theatre-practitioners”, they will inevitably increase their knowledge of their actions, opening more of their artistic potentials.
I will bind my artistic research on the practice where research is entered in specific artistic practices. Let’s call this Practice-led Research in Performing Arts (Rubidge 2004:6). This type of research differs from other artistic research in that its research questions cannot be articulated precisely until during the study, because the research originates from the theatre-maker’s artistic hunch, intuition or question which well forth from the researcher’s artistic practices. As a result, the practice precedes the more detailed research question which may later be articulated in the form of text.
My work has always originated from research. None of my old productions models have been adequate – I have started my new productions nearly from scratch, experimenting on a single idea while consciously carrying the tradition and my previous experiences. However, all artistic work, even the most advanced one, does not always comprise research. What makes the artistic works performed in this study research? During this research, these works have gone through such processes where the existing information has been shaped to be interpreted outside the actual theatre performance practices of the works – outside the direct performer/audience interaction. The information existing in the works of art is translated so that the practical perceptions made by the performer and audience can also be understood by the third party, i.e. the research audience, without the actual artistic experience. If this happens, one of my research criteria have been fulfilled, or at least approached.
My personal and artistic motivation in my research is that I, as a theatre-practitioner, have repeatedly faced a few methodical questions that are directed at the working practicies and performance culture and define them, and that have been waiting for specification, registration and practical testing.
The following general elements significant for research are present in my work: openness, criticism and history. Doing artistic work at an open and independent university has enabled and secured the research aspects in my work within the modern cultural atmosphere which is commercial and artistically quite narrow.
ON THE PROJECT OF A BODY
In his book Ruumis liikkuu – liikkuuko henki? (1998), Timo Klemola writes of a moving person who always materialises in the world. This, following the book’s sub-heading, Fenomenologinen tutkimus liikunnan projekteista (phenomenological research on movement projects), raised my interest in any acting-related phenomenological analyses at the end of my acting studies. Timo Klemola’s way of combining practices of tai chi and theoretical reflection in his teaching methods as entities that deepen one another, opened the possibilities of tai chi and academic philosophy for me as artistic tools in theatre practice.
Klemola’s analysis originates from Heidegger’s philosophy. The analysis is based on an embodied human existing in the world. Because the human is a creature directed forward, his existence always constitutes existence as a project according to Klemola (Klemola:18). In his book, Klemola discusses four central movement-related projects that he calls projects of victory, health, expression and self (p.18). Each project always involves the person’s awareness of the possibility of his choices and of the project he chooses. A moving person who perceives his movement as a project of health perceives his entire moving existence through this project – the project defines the human’s direction towards the world. Questions that are responded through movement include personal performance capabilities, optimal appearance and general health as a social idea. As a result, the project of health is a dream – anyone’s project – what, according to Heidegger, everyone is and no-one actually is (Klemola:51).
At the initial stages of my research, I wanted to identify any acting projects on the basis of Klemola’s movement analyses. These could include projects of livelihood, sociality, politics and the body. The project of livelihood primarily perceives acting as merchandise and its price determines the individual’s social status – this project culminates the nature of acting as paid labour. In the project of sociality, the individual perceives his existence according to the sociality of the theatre and the interaction of groups of different people. However, I became highly interested in the idea of the theatre as a project of the body. This idea was close to Klemola’s project of expression for dance (Klemola:55) but differed from that concept in a number of significant ways.
I noticed that my research interests towards the world were highly different in relation to Klemola’s research. All holistic analyses of the body seemed to fit poorly with my practical theatre experiments. I also found phenomenology to limit my reflection on stage and damage the objective of the research on my previously-defined ‘stage potentials’. I distanced myself from phenomenology but returned to it at the final stages of my research as I found it to be the most natural way for me to approach the actor’s ‘rewarding stage experience‘. I will discuss this in more detail in the final chapter.
However, I have constantly studied the theatre as a project of the body, even if said body has, at times, been half machine, an animal, a building or the weather.
The theoretical centre of my research contains an image of a cyborg. The cyborg is a horizon, against which I am examining the human conception in my theatre projects, the cognitive interest and its practical methods. The cyborg is involved as an epistemological idea, the content of a work of art, criticism to holistic acting theories and applications of practical acting work. In the REPORT section, I will discuss Donna Haraway’s ideas of cyborgs and my applications of these ideas in greater detail.
In the final performance of this research, Maailman paras – eli “virtuaali” ja “kyborgit” kehittyneessä kapitalismissa (2007), we also experimented on a number of combinations of humans and technology in practice, i.e., actual cyborg applications in acting practices.
- Hannula, Mika; Suoranta, Juha; Vadèn, Tere (2005). Artistic Research – Theories, Methods and Practices. Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki. Cosmoprint. Espoo.
- Klemola, Timo (1998). Ruumis liikkuu – liikkuuko henki? Fenomenologinen tutkimus liikunnan projekteista. Filosofisia tutkimuksia liikunnan projekteista vol 66. Tampereen Yliopisto. Tampere.
- Lehmann, Hans-Thies (2009). Draaman jälkeinen teatteri (Postdramatic Theatre). Translation to finnish Riitta Virkkunen. Teatterikorkeakoulu. Otavan Kirjapaino. Keuruu.
- Rubidge, Sarah (2004). Artists in the Academy: Reflections on Artistic Practice as Research [verkkodokumentti]. Australian Dance Council.
[day of citation 31.10.2009]
Theatre as a Project of a Body - artistic research on the theoretical and practial possibilities of moders acting
To be presented, with the permission of the board of School of Communication, Media and Theatre of the University of Tampere,
for public discussion in the Teatterimonttu theatre, D-wing, Kalevantie 4, Tampere on April 22nd, 2012 ay 12 o`clock.
UNIVERSITY OF TAMPERE
(c) Mikko Kanninen 2012