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[Xmca-l] Fw: Re: Re: Boal and Brecht



 
----- Forwarded Message -----
From: kellogg <kellogg59@hanmail.net>
To: Haydi Zulfei <haydizulfei@rocketmail.com> 
Sent: Thursday, 30 January 2014, 1:28:49
Subject: FW: Re: [Xmca-l] Re: Boal and Brecht
  


Haydi--just got this from Shirin. Can you repost? 
  
Thanks, 
dk 
 --------- 원본 메일 ---------
 
보낸사람: Shirin Vossoughi <shirinvossoughi@gmail.com>
>받는사람: kellogg <kellogg59@hanmail.net>, Haydi Zulfei <haydizulfei@rocketmail.com>
>날짜: 2014년 1월 30일 목요일, 06시 55분 03초 +0900
>제목: Re: [Xmca-l] Re: Boal and Brecht
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>Thanks for this! yes feel free to post on xmca
>more from me soon
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>Here's my reply to Shirin: 
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>Dear Shirin: 
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>Haydi reposted that at my request--I'm having some trouble getting into XMCA these days. So the comments are mine and not Haydi's.  
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>First, thanks for your long and very helpful answer: it makes a lot more sense to me now. In fact, it seems very similar to something we were doing in Algeria in the early 1980s. The actors I was working with were members of the Parti d l'avant garde socialiste (the illegal Communist Party) and it is possible that they had heard of Boal, particularly since some of them had returned to Algeria from theatre studies in France.  
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>I think the point you make about the two different moments (scripted and unscripted) in Forum Theatre is very important: it suggests that there is, after all, a distinction between actors (scripted) and spectators (unscripted), unlike Invisible Theatre. I also think that the role of the joker in Boalian theatre is an important distinction between Forum and Invisible Theatre. As you say, it is precisely a matter of mediating and complicating and deepening the discussion. This is, by the way, precisely the role of the teacher in my "role play + discussion" data. 
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>My comments on Boal's "hostility to language" may be based on a misunderstanding. But there are some quotes from "Games for Actors and Non-Actors" which rather struck me that way: 
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>On p. 128, Boal is describing the "human statues" exercise that you talk about (and which I also remember from my Algerian days). He says: 
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>"...(B)y introducing the violence of verbal language, one abruptly breaks the visual communication." 
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>He also suggests that if the exercise fails, the participants should not speak but instead touch each other. 
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>On p. 169, Boal says: 
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>"It is important that the person who is 'sculpting' the image works fast, so that she will not be tempted to think in words (verbal language) and then translate into images (visual language). If the work is not done in this way, the images are generally poor, like a translation which is an impoverishment of the original." 
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>Now, from these two points it might seem that I am overgeneralizing from Boal's comments on a single exercise, and one which is explicitly designed to do away with language and train non-verbal skills in actors. But the overall tenor of the exercises in "Image Theatre" is in favor of feeling and against thinking (and in most languages thoughts are quotable while feelings are not). A very large number of the exercises (probably more than two thirds of them) are nonverbal. The very name of "Image Theatre" seems anti-symbolic and anti-linguistic to me. 
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>And what about this, on p. 184? 
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>"If however, a social code is absolutely and indispensable (a society without any form of social code would be unthinkable), then equally it cannot avoid being to some extent authoritarian." 
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>Is a conversation authoritarian? Compared to a silence, a frown, a threatening gesture? 
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>David Kellogg 
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>Hankuk University of Foreign Studies  
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>Here's Shirin's reply, with some rejoinders by me interpolated:: 
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>SHIRIN:  
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>Hi David, 
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>Thanks for your response. On the question of scripted vs. unscripted - my 
>sense is that the distinction is less about the people (actors vs. 
>spectators) and more about the action. Hence Boal's term "spect-actors." I 
>read this as suggesting that actors on stage may observe and improvise and 
>audience members may similarly observe and intervene. the larger goal, as I 
>see it, is to practice being a "spect-actor" in the theater in order to 
>become a "spect-actor" with expanded capacities to observe and intervene in 
>the scenes of everyday life. 
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>ME: In Bakhtin's early work on ethics and esthetics, he argues that all forms of "theoretism", including all known forms of ethics and esthetics, take lived experience (perezhivanie) and reduce it to a transcendental abstraction (Hegel's "Geist", Kant's "a priori"). None of these have the immediacy, the non-replaceability, the once-occuredness of lived experience, and all must be rejected. This leaves Bakhtin in a solipsistic bind ("I for myself") which he breaks with a move which I find far more convincing and brilliant than any "Copernican Revolution" (actually an anti-Copernican one, since it places human consciousness at the centre of the universe!) on the part of Kant. Bakhtin says that there are parts of myself, e.g. the bald spot on the back of my head, that I will never see--only the other can see it. And that's where the "surplus of seeing" comes in. By going out to viewpoint of the other, we get all the concrete, irreplaceable,
 once-occurredness of lived experience; we escape from "I for myself" to "the other for me". It's not a theoretistic escape--it's a concrete, sensuous, real one that has all the rich empirical detail of lived experience. He hasn't really come up with dialogue as a concept yet, so his writing gets pretty sexy. In order to "consummate" myself, I need the other. Bakhtin has to insist in several places that he is not talking about sex, and he uses the masculine pronoun for the other throughout, which today reads rather differently than it must have done in his day.  
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>ME: But this consummation absolutely depends on the separation between individuals. In several places, Bakhtin talks about what happens when we go out to the viewpoint of the other and forget to return to our own. And here Bakhtin says something that is incredibly obtuse. For example, says Bakhtin, there is what happens when children play; he thinks that children who fantasize about being robber chieftains GENUINELY identify their horizons with those of robber chieftains and want to become them. (Presumably, Bakhtin also thinks that the poor child who plays the robber chieftain's prey also identifies with the victim and wants to be beaten, robbed and killed.) It's all a little reminiscent of Leontiev's theory of play--it's a kind of rehearsal for real life. Bakhtin says that only an adult contemplator transforms child play into an aesthetic object. (Presumably, Bakhtin has never been one.) 
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>ME: Bakhtin is not nearly so obtuse when he is talking about art. He points out that the naive novel reader simply daydreams about being a hero (and it is hard not to think of naive novel writers here). Interestingly, he has positive things to say about the spect-actor who rushes on stage to try to help the principals in a play, forgetting that it is only a play. (There is a great and utterly apocryphal anecdote about Stanislavsky and Brecht in China concerning their different attitudees to this phenomenon.) Bakhtin points out that the spect-actor’s intervention is an ethical one—but it has lost all its esthetic value, because there is no return to the contemplator’s viewpoint (in Brecht’s terms, no “alienation effect”). 
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>ME: Yes, Bakhtin DOES talk about the art of the actor. He says that the actor actually on stage is not an artist at all, for the same reason that the child at play is not an artist; he is only the tool of another artist (e.g. the make up artist). But he also says that the actor himself or herself can be the other artist—and must be, for example, when the actor prepares.  
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>SHIRIN: on the question of language - again I could be wrong here - I see Boal as 
>interested in the generative potentials of certain rules and structures at 
>certain moments. Like rules within play (in a Vygotskian sense), 
>momentarily suspending the use of verbal language in image theater allows 
>the participants to develop other kinds of expression and thinking/feeling. 
>similarly in forum theater, we used to rehearse scenes by asking students 
>to run the play once through without any verbal language - thus 
>exaggerating and expanding their gestures and movements as a means of 
>communication. We would then run the scene suspending movement and using 
>only verbal language - which pushed us to speak louder and with more 
>emotion. In the actual performance, the two came back together newly 
>strengthened. 
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>ME: A wonderful idea! (I wonder if it would work with the kids in my data.) 
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>SHIRIN: I'm not sure I understand how image theater can be seen as "anti-symbolic"? 
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>ME: An image is, to be sure, a sign. But it’s not a symbol. All that is necessary for a sign is for me to look at it and understand—that is why animals have signs (barking, howling, growling, grunting). But for a symbol I need to have someone else around, and we need to agree on what to call the symbol—that is why animals don’t use symbols (numbers, words, scripts). For the sign, all you need is primary intersubjectivity. For the symbol, you need secondary intersubjectivity as well. 
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>ME: Boal’s attempt to bypass language and to create images that are prior to words is, to me, an attempt to create a theatre which can be understood by animals. But such a theatre already exists; it is what you get when you go to the latest hollywood blockbuster, horror movie, or action thriller.  
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>SHIRIN: I wonder if there is a similar dynamic going on in Boal's statement 
>regarding the authority inherent in any social code. Like the dialectic of 
>rules & play, I'm not sure if authority and freedom are in opposition or in 
>a potentially generative relationship within his statement. Perhaps in a 
>foucaldian sense, we must submit ourselves to the authority of particular 
>social rules in order to participate in a society, or a classroom, or a 
>forum theater scene. this dynamic can be used to analyze authoritarian 
>structures and contexts, hegemony, etc. but it can also be used to 
>understand how rules/structure give life to new forms of participation, 
>community, development, etc. in a range of social-political configurations, 
>including what could be seen as more democratic or humane ones ? 
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>ME: Yes, I think that’s what Boal is saying. All of this rather ignores the key issue of CONSENT, does it not?   
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>looking forward to hearing your thoughts. 
>shirin 
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>ME: Well, my thoughts are only a slight improvement on the blank emails that have been circulating under my name. But here’s where I got them: 
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>Bakhtin, M.M. (1990). Art and Answerability (Austin: University of Texas Press). pp. 74-78 
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