M. Williams Gamaker
- Scenography of Death: Figuration, Focalization and Finding Out
- Performance Research
- Volume | Issue number
- 18 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
In this paper we present an audio-visual exploration of staging the unstageable, so to speak, that we are currently conducting; consider it a project of art-based research. In this project we probe the epistemological, ethical and aesthetic dilemmas of giving a visible shape to death that does not exclude the dying. The dilemmas pertain to scenography as well as to death and knowledge: how to figure what cannot be fixed?
Instead of representation, the word "figuration" is better suited to tackle this difficulty. It is through their figuration that death and knowledge can become perceptible and thus can culturally function: being shared, modified, and used, and hence, make the culture in which they occur.
On the basis of Flaubert's Madame Bovary we are exploring the consequences of three problems in contemporary culture: first, the intricate bond between the difficulty of knowing and its figuring; together with the difficulty of acknowledging death, as we have been arguing so far; second, the bond between two lures, or cultural seductions: romantic love and capitalism; and third, the way these difficulties are imbricated with subjectivity.
It was crucial to give Emma, who is dying of arsenic poisoning, her own focalisation so as to mark that dying is different from being dead, even when she is no longer able to see; focalisation is not limited to the visual. Flaubert resorted to audio, which in his novel was clandestinely spectacular, so to speak; the exceptional deployment of audio foregrounds the special poignancy of the moment. With our audio-visual medium, we were facing the difficulty of rendering Emma's focalisation while she cannot see. We constructed a scenography where the viewer sees for her, as a placeholder-witness.
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