“A cyborg is a cybernetic organism (i.e. an organism that has both artificial and natural systems).”

1. One small lecture in the city library

On 2 April 2007, I was speaking in the Tampere City Library of possible political dimensions in my theatre performances. I approached this subject by reflecting them on the aesthetics of philosopher Herbert Marcuse. I expected the questions I had set to raise lively and polemic discussion and counter-arguments but the direction of the storm of protests caught me by surprise. In retrospect, the controversy was, however, raised by the very fundamental point of my research – “blasphemy” of a kind.

The audience gathered in the library reading room did not attack my criticism of Marxist aesthetics or the discussion over the rights of Art, but the protest was aimed at one of my casual remarks where I said to be interested in “cyborgs” – the fusion of a human and a machine. I claimed to be interested in an idea of a cyborg on the theatre stage, within the actor’s body and, in particular, of the essence of the information, epistemology existing in said body.

Surprisingly, this met with fairly unanimous resistance which seemed to unite the fairly heterogenic audience:
– What! Machines on a theatre stage! The theatre is the final stronghold for human encounters, and you want to destroy it! How could a cold machine be more interesting than an emphatic, real person? – This opinion was shared by the old-school theatre veterans, “radical” acting students, Platonists, maintainers of the communist theatre tradition (preservers) and folklorists who wish to replace the Bible by the Kalevala. Everyone.

The front was created in an instant out of nowhere. I noticed that I was not aware of these boundaries I had touched by mere accident. In particular, my attention was paid to the fairly united and uncritical conception of the world and prevailing dualisms that were created within the micro-society born spontaneously in the library lecture hall – machine vs. human, cold vs. warm, artificial vs. real. The researcher in me had, almost by accident, touched some holy and last, “true”, “original” and “pure” concept that still exists in the theatre. My blasphemy also touched the “natural” state of the actor’s body, some existence free of all that is “dirty” technology, criticism and history.

I felt very puzzled and, also, a little satisfied. This satisfaction only increased on my way home because I knew that my research was going in the right direction and I was currently reading the correct literature.

2. Donna Haraway: “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”.

Donna Haraway begins her essay by presenting that:


“(…)It is an effort to build an ironic political myth faithful to feminism, socialism, and materialism. Perhaps more faithful as blasphemy is faithful (…) (…)Blasphemy protects one from the moral majority within, while still insisting on the need for community. Blasphemy is not apostasy. Irony is about contradictions that do not resolve into larger wholes, even dialectically, about the tension of holding incompatible things together because both or all are necessary and true. (…)At the centre of my ironic faith, my blasphemy, is the image of the cyborg.” (Haraway, 1986:149)


Haraway’s essay can be seen as a provocation and challenge for questions that different ideas aimed at liberalisation like feminism, socialism (Marx) and psychoanalysis need to respond now and in the future.

The essay criticises feminism in that the concept of “being a woman” does not contain anything that would naturally unite all women. There is no condition such as “being” a woman; it is a highly diverse and disputed category constructed by sexological discourses and other social practices (p. 155). Furthermore, as feminism does not wish to identify such differences as race or social class within this “womanhood”, feminism is in danger of drifting towards a difference without boundaries and abandoning its puzzling task of building a partial, true connection (p. 161). Haraway criticised Marxism because of its “humanistic” and “deeply Western self-image” which can only be realised through the concept of labour (p. 158), and because it unintentionally wipes off any polyphonic, non-united and radical differences revealed by anti-colonial discourse and practice (p. 159). Haraway accuses psychoanalysis of the drama based on its conservative family myth and “birth” that is centred around the process of individualisation, separation from a unity, the birth of self and the completion of the whole before the creation of language. The theories of Freud and Lacan are based on categorising the woman as the “other”. In this plot (drama), women are considered to be either better or worse off, but all agree on the fact that the self of women is smaller, they have less individuality, they are less involved with masculine independency and women are more combined with the oral Mother (p. 177). Every story that originates from the original innocence and sets the return to wholeness as a priority imagines the plot of life to comprise individualisation, detachment, the birth of self, the tragedy of independence, the fall into writing and alienation, i.e., the state of war that eases off in the imagined sanctuary of the lap of the “other” (p. 177). Furthermore, psychoanalysis generalises this family drama to apply to all times, places and cultures.

Why does Haraway write such strong critique on the very ideologies that she could be imagined to represent the most strongly considering her ideas, i.e., the traditional left wing and feminist discourse? Haraway responds:


“(…) I do not know of any other time in history when there was greater need for political unity to confront effectively the dominations of ‘race’, ‘gender’, ‘sexuality’, and ‘class’.” (p. 157)


The world is changing at an ever growing pace. According to Haraway, this is mainly caused by the range of thoughts created by scientific/technological discourse and the many technological imperatives that affect our actual and physical experiences. For better understanding this complex situation, Haraway proposes the table below, presenting “material and ideological dichotomies” so that we can better perceive the ongoing transition from the familiar and hierarchical oppression towards frightening new networks, which she calls the informatics of supremacy (p. 161).

Representation Simulation
Bourgeois novel, realism Science fiction, postmodernism
Organism Biotic Component
Depth, integrity Surface, boundary
Heat Noise
Biology as clinical practice Biology as inscription
Physiology Communications engineering
Small group Subsystem
Perfection Optimization
Eugenics Population Control
Decadence Obsolescence
Magic Mountain* Future Shock**
Hygiene Stress Management
Microbiology, tuberculosis Immunology, AIDS
Organic division of labour Ergonomics/cybernetics of labour
Functional specialization Modular construction
Reproduction Replication
Organic sex role specialization Optimal genetic strategies
Biological determinism Evolutionary inertia, constraints
Community ecology Ecosystem
Racial chain of being Neo-imperialism, United Nations humanism
Scientific management in home/factory Global factory/Electronid cottage
Family/Market/Factory Women in the Integrated Circuit
Family wage Comparable worth
Public/Private Cyborg citizenship
Nature/Culture fields of difference
Co-operation Communicatins enhancemenet
Freud Lacan
Sex Genetic engineering
labour Robotics
Mimesis (play of signifiers) “Free use of significances”
Mind Artificial Intelligence
World War II Star wars
White capitalist patriarchate Informatics of supremacy

* Thomas Mann’s novel Der Zauberberg (1924)
** Alvin Toffler’s novel Future Shock (1970)
(The list has been supplemented with a few of the author’s additions (1989))


Because of the transition period proposed by this table, all critical thinking needs to be reshaped. The control strategies of the new era are focused on conditions and interfaces, i.e. the rates of flow across boundaries – and not on the integrity of natural objects (p. 163). In these strategies, no objects, states or bodies are sacred in themselves; any component can be interfaced with any other if the proper standard, the proper code, can be constructed for processing signals in a common language (p. 163).

In the centre of Haraways criticism, there is an image of a cyborg – a myth of a new political and, in my opinion, embodied identity. At the same time, the cyborg is a heretic response and ironic utopia. It is a utopia in that it is an idea between the present and the future. It proves that the boundaries between science fiction and social reality are an mere optical illusion (p. 149) – as a cyborg replication is detached from organic reproduction, the cyborg does not dream of society based on the model of an organic family (p. 150-151). The cyborg is a disassembled and re-assembled, postmodern, collective and personal self (p. 163). According to Haraway, this may be the self where any subversive images of the self live – the fall of clear differences between the organism and machine, which breaks the matrices of supremacy and opens endless opportunities. Cyborg writing is a possible tool against the supremacy of language. The purpose is to steal tools using which cyborgs can leave their mark on the world which has marked them as the other (p. 175). After all, the question is about the ability to adapt – survive.


“… Perhaps, ironically, we can learn from our fusions with animals and machines how not to be Man, the embodiment of Western logos.”(p.173)


3. The “truth” – or the “self” and “nature” in the theatre

When an artist attempts to push his/her art forward at a practical level, it is important to be constantly cautious of what is spoken or written of this Art in the middle of these practices. All existing speaking habits contain larger cultural entities that hide all speaking habits allowed in that culture. This also determines which practices of art are generally accepted. Our ways of making theatre are always affected by the type of philosophy we are reading (if any), and the way of shaping our (subjective) image of human and its relationships with the surrounding world while reading. Speaking of acting, I have noticed that I am often facing a human image which is preceded by concepts, such as the person, soul, self, nature (or naturalness) and truth (or truthfulness). However, I am not interested in such a image of human (or the assumption preceding the image) as an artist in my practical work or related discussions. I find these human images that cover all theatre work and are even metaphysical to be outdated and limiting to the art of theatre. However, a larger problem is that these concepts, or ways of speaking, are not regarded as a problem of any kind, or people are not willing to consider their meanings in different contexts.

In the following chapter, I will open these concepts (ways of speaking) and the reasons why I have found them to be problematic in my work at theatre. I will also return to the reason why Cyborgs offered me a way out of these “ideological quagmires”.

3.1 The “self” in psychological truth

Psychological “truth” is one of these assumptions of theatre acting that are prevailing in the Finnish theatre field, with which I have always had a very difficult and evading relationship. In my opinion, this level always includes the concept of the actor’s “persona” or “self”. Discussion of the “truth” often originates from the point where the “actor’s persona” is assumed to exist separate from the “character’s persona”. Their combination (and/or separation) through various means continues to be a high artistic goal that has been aimed at through a number of ways in the theatre history. This massive historical tangle should not be unwound by me – a single artist – but I will examine a few personally important specific cases.

In Just be yourself, Logocentrism and Difference in Performance Theory, Philip Auslander criticises the entire artistic research done on theatre acting, originating from the end of the 19th century, through the means of philosophical deconstruction. Auslander applies his critique concerning the discussion over European acting in the 20th century to Jacques Derrida’s deconstructive critique on Western logocentrism. According to Auslander, we often examine acting similarly to some philosophers examine language, as a “mediator of truth” or a type of “truth” which defines the “truth” of a specific performance (logos within a particular production, p. 59). This may concern the playwright’s vision, the director’s concept or the aforementioned actor’s “self” – the assumption that a theatre performance requires a specific “truth” or “sense” in order to succeed (p. 60).

What is interesting for me at this point (and the most problematic) is the actor’s “self”. We often appreciate actors who are “honest” or “self expressive”, i.e., “truthful/not false”. We believe to have seen a glimpse of the actor’s “psyche” and applaud enthusiastically when the actor has “taken risks” or “revealed himself/herself”. What is this assessment based on? A very common way is to compare the actor’s previous work with each other or the actor’s work with the performances of other actors – the method of how said “truth” or “self” has been, or has not been, displayed.

As a result, all great European names who have studied acting in the 20th century (Stanislavski, Brecht and Grotowsky) are quite problematic with regard to the “self”. According to Auslander, all of these three names set the actor’s “self” in the centre of the theatre’s truth (logos of performance (p. 60)). All of them had the conception that there is the actor’s “self” which precedes the performance and is expressed in it, and that the “self” leads the theatre audience to all human truths. Auslander allows Joseph Chaikin to summarise these three researchers/artists as follows:

“Acting is a demonstration of self with or without a disguise” (Presence of the Actor, New York: Atheneum. 1980) (p.60)

In other words, acting – the demonstration of self – always involves a “disguise” which is present as visible or absent. For Stanislavski, this “disguise” had to be based on the actor’s “experiences”, whereas Brecht wanted the “disguise” to be separated from the actor’s persona and Grotowsky believed that the actor must use the “disguise” of his/her role in order to undress all “disguises” set by society, thus revealing all underlying and fundamental levels of the “self” (Auslander:64). I would add Michael Chekhov (1891-1955) to this group. He developed his system at the same time as Stanislavski. For Chekhov, the “self” had to be separated from the “self” of the role, particularly during performances, so that the actor always maintains a perceptive view of the character played.

However, a critical study of the discussion of acting work reveals that the “self” is not an autonomic basis of acting, but the actor’s “self” is created simultaneously with the performance and discussion that are required separately.

Auslander specifies that the purpose of his essay is not to say anything of the content of the theories discussed above or the artistic added value produced by them (p.65). He only wishes to show how the basis of these ideas, a metaphysical forced level, is a faith in Western logos, the “self” and its presence. For example, Stanislavski believes that the actor’s “self” forms the basis of the theatre performance, but his methods indicate that the “self” is created as a consequence of the acting process and does not exist beforehand.


“Just be yourself! Find in yourself those human things which are universal.” Stella Adler. (in Acting Power, Robert Cohen. TaY 1986) (p.65)


3.1.1 Jean-Paul Sartre’s “consciousness without the ego”

Jean-Paul Sartre’s book The Transcendence of the Ego (1937) challenges the philosophical and psychological “ego” concept of its time. Sartre’s claim that the “ego” is not something that humans have internally, but that the “ego” – and everyone else’s “ego” – exists in the world, i.e., is a constantly changing, cultural phenomenon. Sartre claims, through phenomenological concepts, that the “ego” is the object of consciousness, instead of its subject.

Sartre’s attack is aimed at the philosophers who regard the “ego” as a “resident” in the consciousness or an ever-present principle which connects “lived experiences”. However, his greatest criticism is aimed at psychologists who claim that the “ego” is an ever-present centre for all of our functions, desires and needs (p.59).


“We should like to show here that the ego is neither formally nor materially in consciousness: it is outside, in the world. It is a being of the world, like the ego of another.” (p.59)


In his book, Sartre does not claim that the “ego” does not exist or that the “ego” was not a relevant topic when considering human behaviour. However, he draws a line between the ego and consciousness, i.e., the ego and direct experiences. According to Sartre, the “ego” is always the result of conscious reflection (p.78) – and thus cannot be its original source.


“The ego is not the owner of consciousness; it is the object of consciousness.” (p.79)


3.1.2 Felix Guattari and the production of subjectivity

Post-Sartre philosophy has continued forward in a number of different fronts. Psychotherapist and philosopher Felix Guattari starts his book Chaosmosis, an ethico-aesthetic paradigm (1992) by claiming that all structures of subjectivity or conscious individuality are developed by individuals, groups and institutions themselves. He starts from the assumption that all self images and expressions of subjectivity are products of their time and environment – diverse and multi-voiced (p. 1). As the environment, Guattari refers to our cognitive processes, the massive machines created by the language and mass media, and our living environment which is more and more based on different technological applications (p. 9). Guattari claims that each individual or group carries the building blocks for its subjectivity, consisting of a various collection of cognitive processes and a group of mythical, ritual and syndrome-logical references. Using these building blocks, the subjectivity navigates forward in the quagmire of its anxieties and affections, while trying to control its numerous drives and inhibitions (p. 11). In his book, Guattari passes several psychoanalytical disputes (e.g., Freud vs. Lacan), leaping directly to questions of how subjectivity can be produced, how it is developed and enriched, and how it is always re-invented so that it could adapt to the mutant Universes of value.

Guattari’s book has entangled themes and, according to the author, should not be regarded as traditional philosophy but as an aesthetic creation (p. 12). The book discusses the various possible linguistic, historical and practical beings of the “machine” and related ideals. I became interested in Guattari’s theories in relation with my work in how machinic, the being of a machine, is and has always been before actual machines (p. 31). According to Guattari, the core of the machinic being can be found in the manifestations of the multitudes of ontological components (p. 53). This machinic heterogenis incites us, in the name of progress, to expand our potentials by combining information as machinic combines it and crosses it – in an unprecedented and diverse way considering its essence. Above all, this deals, according to Guattari, with values: the machinic heterogenis challenges the capitalistic homogenis with its claim of any diverse building blocks for reality (p. 55).


“Making yourself machinic – aesthetic machine and molecular war machine (look how important Rap culture is today for millions of young people) – can become crucial instrument for subjective resingularisation and can generate other ways of perceiving the world, a new face on things, and even a different turn of events.” (s.97)


Later in his book, Guattari specifies that his concept of “machinic” subjectivity should not be confused with “mechanic” subjectivity (p. 108).


“One must never confuse here machinism and mechanism. Machinism, in the way that I understand it, implies a double process – which is utterly foreign to mechanism. This is why the immense machinic interconnectedness, the way world consists today, finds itself in an autofoundational position of its own bringing into being.” (s. 108)


If my artistic objective is set to study human potentials, I can understand, by reflecting the most general theories on theatre acting in the 20th century on the ideas of Sartre and Guattari, that the use of “ego”, “self” or any other concept which generalises/narrows human awareness (way of speaking) will significantly reduce my possibilities of simultaneously examining a reflective and experienced human on stage. First, the concepts of the “ego” and “self” must simply be dropped from the position that determines the entire spectrum of acting. If they are eventually returned to the same position, they will be turned into one of many possibilities for interpreting human experiences.

3.2 “Nature” and “naturalness”

As the requirements for realism (or its illusion) increased in the theatre at the latter half of the 19th century, artists needed to rethink the reality aspect of theatre and all of its regulations (Frisch:329). This battle between “naturalism” and “representative” art has preserved the incomprehensible requirement for the actor to be “natural” or even a “mirror of nature”.

There are thousands of examples that are often related to discussions where “naturalness” probably refers to “truth on stage” or any other as vague a concept. Stanislavski, together with his numerous followers, is possibly the greatest treasury for such quotes. Here are a few:


“Our demands are simple, normal, and therefore they are difficult to satisfy. All we ask is that an actor on the stage live in accordance with natural laws” Konstantin Stanislavski. In the Acting Power (p. 7.)



“The System (Stanislavski) requires loyalty to nature. It moves, changes and lives, just like nature does” Georgi Tovstonogov. In the The Profession of the Stage-Director(s.172.)



“With verticality the point is not to renounce part of our nature – all should retain its natural place: the body, the heart, the head, something that is “under your feet”…” Jerzy Grotowski. Untitled text, 1998



“Professor Sergei Tserkasski is one of the main updater of Stanislavski in the world. He thinks that main question with Stanislavski is a question of laws of nature.” THEATRE-magazine, Finland (TEATTERI-lehti) 5/08. Kristiina Repo.


Why should the practical theatre be concerned of these, principally harmless phrases, their clever simplicities and fairly non-existent content? Is not quick and simplified speech that activates to action exactly what then leads to correct activities in the stage?

Ville Lähde begins the Finnish abstract of his doctoral thesis, Rousseau’s Rhetoric of “Nature”, by describing why “nature” is one of the most problematic and complicated words in our culture. In everyday use, “nature” can be seen in discussions of environmental problems, reasons for political schemes, sexual behaviour, diet, etc. (Lähde:6). What is significant in this use is that, when the word “nature” is used in these contexts, its purpose is to end the discussion over each topic at hand. When someone says “nature”, no-one will say anything – only the extremities “nature” and “unnatural” remain.

After “God” died, “nature” has been used as one of the highest authorities in defending the most different agendas: “Greed is natural” (capitalism) or “The dialectic of Marx follows nature” (Leninism). According to the source, the problems in the word “nature” are primarily related to questions of values, standards and power.

The theatre director or actor who, according to the examples above, uses some of the many variations of the word “nature” when speaking of his/her work is actually using power or claiming power for himself/herself or any activities of which he/she cannot discuss in a very concrete manner or which he/she is afraid of losing. Nothing is said of the matter or the goals of artistic work, but the aim is to achieve a state where the discussion ends and the leader, who generally is the director and holds the secret of “good acting” for the production at hand, is followed quietly and unquestioned.

We must understand the difference between these two types of discussions. Communication at a practical theatre level takes place in a different public space from general, i.e. political, art discussion. For example, discussion of the practical ways of extinguishing a fire comprises a wholly different type of information from the organisation of institutional (fire department) operations, justification of its public support, trade union issues and related rhetoric.

4. Why should we read something as abstract and theoretical as Donna Haraway if we are engaged in something as practical as the theatre?

I believe that reading the essay and using it in a fairly free and applied manner as material and a “critical parent theory” in artistic work deepened the very quality of directing actors in my theatre productions. Work groups became more aware of the historical levels of acting and any arising new possibilities. Above all, it grew my understanding of what the body can express in the theatre and what the actor’s embodied information could be on stage.

As I read Chapters 8 (A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century) and 9 (Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective) in Donna J. Haraway’s book “Simians, Cyborgs and Women”, I understood that these texts clarify a number of social practices and frontiers that were unknown to me as actual organised functions or spoken concepts at many practical levels in my theatre work. Naturally, I had, before reading Haraway, carried out a number of ideas of cybernetics or partial knowledge at a certain artistic level on the theatre stage in my work or more like practical analogies of these claims, but was not properly aware of how they could be shaped into a more discursive, communicative form at a linguistic level.

I am not saying that I had suddenly understood, through the means of theatre, all of the themes that Haraway is attempting to unravel in her texts, and their practical connections – the two essays mainly opened to me through the understanding of the perception of my practices and the possibilities of embodiment, as well as the relationships on stage. Surprisingly, I found suitable critical practical applications for discussing the actor’s embodiment that transfer my artistic processes closer to something that could be entitled: “The possibilities of theatre as modern art from the point of view of the actor’s embodiment”.

4.2 Partial and Situated Knowledges

In “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective”, Donna Haraway says:


“(…)We do not seek partiality for it`s own sake, but the sake of connections and unexpected openings situated knowledges make possible. The only way to find a larger vision is to be somewhere in particular. The science question in feminism is about objectivity as positioned rationality. Its images are not the products of escape and transcendence of limits i.e the view from above, but the joining of partial views and halting voices into a collective subject position that promises a vision of the means of ongoing finite embodiment, of limits and contradictions, i.e of views from somewhere.”(s.196) (emphasis mine)


The knowledge interests of cyborgs are materialistic, situational and partial by nature. With “partial knowledge”, Haraway refers to the understanding of all such information where all complete (objective) needs of information are abandoned. The starting point is an assumption according to which only God (or Goddess) can guarantee truly objective information. Haraway is aiming at human agreement in that all of our information is partial and tightly bound on the situation where and who we are. Materialistic information free of God and other absolute metaphysical truths are always partial by nature, compiled of different pieces, and imperfect.

The feature that chains the artistic potential of the theatre the most is its strong faith in the views from above that became stronger in the 20th century. Haraway pushes these boundaries far so that the differences and limits of machines, animals, men and women become insignificant. For the theatre, this could be the explosion required, not necessarily for the theatre to “develop” or “follow its time”, but to survive. However, Haraway’s key concepts are, above all, tools for understanding and, as a result, I will not be committed in my research to their ontological claims or commitments related to the underlying traditions.

In her book Science as Social Knowledge, Helen Longino analyses the connections between the prevailing social values and scientific research with the aim of criticising the imaginations of “objectivity” in general scientific information. Longino claims that science and social, political values and expectations are not only in direct connection, but are vital for one another (Longino:5). One of the recurring examples in Longino’s book is Donna Haraway and her research (Longino:10, 11, 99, 185, 209-213). Helen Longino states that all scientific instruments, both materialistic and conceptual, are also defined according to the research target and the interests of the information which guides the research (Longino8-12). As a result, it would be a big mistake to disregard the difference in Haraway’s epistemological – as well as ontological and aesthetic – perspective in relation with my research.

5. Towards the Cyborg-Actor

“Cyborg Manifesto” has acted as critique on traditional feminist thinking. It has been one of the groundbreaking works in postmodern feminism, questioning traditional Western dualisms, such as me/other, mind/body, culture/nature, man/woman, whole/part, truth/misconception, God/human and all-encompassing/partial. For questions on embodiment, this is fairly easily adaptable; after all, I was Timo Klemola’s tai chi student throughout my basic acting studies. One of the most fundamental ideas in Klemola’s phenomenological research on philosophy of sport is to unravel the mind/body dualism in deepening the exercise/movement experiences.

For Haraway, the cyborg is also an embodied entity. The embodied connection/awareness is also technological by nature. Embodied thinking is capable of blending highly different components (organs, bone structure, brain, environment, genotype) into a single, functional entity which is inseparable at the practical operating level and, above all, into a uniform awareness of the entity.

What particularly raised my interest in Haraway’s provocation, was its epistemological idea of the types of information that could be enabled in acting work by a cyborgic embodied awareness: a transition from the holistic/whole requirement for acting awareness to a knowledge interest consisting of different parts and positions. This could mean a transition from the requirements for different entities to parts of information, accurate or partial information existing in a specific situation and, above all, the various possibilities of their combinations and variations.


“The relationships for forming wholes from parts, including those of polarity and hierarchical domination, are at issue in the cyborg world. (Haraway:151)


In the theatre of the future, we need to have the courage to also rethink all questions on embodied existence in a new way. Roughly-read Freud, psychology from the 20th century, “Stanislavskism” as a religion and materialism abundant of dualisms of embodied theatre do not fill the voids in the stage presence of future artists/actors. Something is missing.

Furthermore, the cyborgic concept does not recognise boundaries between the “human” and “animal” or the “human” and “machine”. Haraway states that these boundaries were abandoned a long ago, we simply have not become fully aware of and internalised the depth of the situation, and the resulting revolutionary possibilities.


“By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs. Ths cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics. (…)the tradition of racist, male-dominant capitalism; the tradition of progress; the tradition of the appropriation of nature as resource for the productions of culture; the tradition of reproduction of the self from the reflections of the other – the relation between organism and machine has been a border war” (Haraway:150)


In this case, the imagined origins or sanctities of embodiment that have coloured all areas of acting work (singing, acting, movement, respiration, dancing, talking, etc.) will disappear. Once the original sanctities have disappeared, sins and taboos will also vanish. This enables the reassessment of the rewarding embodied experiences in acting and thus resulting pleasures. An experience on stage can be rewarding and valuable without any larger truths, metaphysics, stories or reasons – by being an experience as such. Haraway liberates us of all requirements for origins because she does not offer any possibility for a new/imagined access/return to a harmonic world.


“We cannot go back ideologically or materially. It’s not just that god is dead; so is the goddess'” (Haraway:162)


4.2 Forward

The study of the history of acting and monitoring its development comprise interesting and necessary tasks. In order to have any hold on what is or will be, we must have a comprehension and historical perspective of how we have come here. The most noted acting traditions in the 20th century (Stanislavski, Chekhov, Brecht and Grotowsky) hold their place in acting history. These brilliant artists and researchers have left us a number of examples, showing significant capacities for renewal and innovation in developing acting in their time. They all continue to have fanatical followers who produce performances closely following (and developing) the methods and aesthetics of their paragons. For me, they do not, however, provide any reason for making theatre.

As a Finnish theatre-maker, one must travel a long distance in order to be able to state that kind of fact. Not necessarily in years but in thinking. Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto helps in taking this necessary leap and provides me with a proposal for a new direction – a fantasy of the actor’s embodied cyborgic knowledge on stage.



  1. Auslander, Philip (1986). Logocentrism and Difference in Performance theory. In Zarrilli, Phillip B. (toim.) (1995). Acting (re) Considered, 59-71. Routledge. New York.
  2. Cohen, Robert (1986). Näyttelemisen mahti (Acting Power:1978). Translated to finnish by Maija-Liisa Màrton. University of Tampere. Tampere.
  3. Frisch, Hartvig (1963). European Cultural history IV (Euroopan kulttuurihistoria IV). Translated by Katri Ingman-Palola. WSOY. Porvoo.
  4. Grotowski, Jerzy (1998). Untitled text. Published in (1999) The Drama Review (43).
    [teksti luettavissa verkossa:]
    [linkityspäivä 30.11.2009]
  5. Guattari, Felix (1992). Chaosmosis, an ethico-aesthetic paradigm. Power Publications, Sydney
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Mikko Kanninen

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.


(c) Mikko Kanninen 2012