Kulturwissenschaften und Europa
Cultural Collaboratory
Knut Ove Arntzen: 
About Recycling, Ambience and the New Mimetic Mirror
By the 1980s theatre had been through the conceptual post-avantgarde period and a new mixture of recycled styles appeared by the end of the 1980s and early 1990s. They both worked with the potential of Laboratory theatre combined with the previous conceptual visual kind of dramaturgy. A new way of putting references and using direct communication, had come about which could be spoken about as telling the world. Recycling deals with the way textual materials are used in visual theatre, as well as understanding text as a free intermediation of references, without being obliged to be psychological, but more working on the basis of non illusion.

These references may be related to cultural indentities of both an urban and an ethnic kind, and thus creating a new theatre of energies. Recycling of means of expression in direction of new energies can also theoretically relate to an essay by J.-F. Lyotard, "La dent, la main" ("The Tooth, the Palm", "Der Zahn, die Hand", printed in German in: Essays zu einer affirmativen Ästhetik, Berlin 1982), describing how theatre must be deliberated from hierarchies of both dramaturg, director, choreographer as well as scenographer. There is neither no need of any hierarchy of means of expression or of any credibility, which would only destroy the free and running reflections and energies. Unpredictibiliy will be of an important character, letting the libido of a human being be flowing, not blocked by predictable patterns like it can be in the anatomical relationship between the pains in the tooth and the movments of the hand.

Alltogether we are dealing with a complex of energies that are being reactivated in connection with the notion of cultural identities. They can be flowing and circulated in free ways, like is the case of the human libido, as we saw Lyotard put it in trying to define his idea of a theatre of energies. I would say that these energies could be defined as both social, body connected, media emaneted, political and as being connected to physical attraction and theatricality in direction of different ways of expression, like inbetween cooking, new happenings and ambient performance. Synergism or synergy is dealing with the working together of different elemets, and one could say that a theatre of new energies is the interplay of the above mentioned different energies declenched by cultural identity and inter- or multiculturalism.

Edgar Jager wrote in the Internet periodical Datum (Edga Jager: Ambient Theatre/@temporary:/for the nineties/. In: Datum. WWW: http://www.datum.org/12DATUM/Jager_Ambient.html): "How can we define the time we live in, which there is less and less space to live in? Looking for locations for living and creating are the main topics of culture these days. Images and metaphors or spaceships and living rooms are being used to express the urge for designing a space for living". He looks for model for his "Space to live in" and he uses Ambient House Music as a model for theatre: "As we try to answer the question of what the place of theatre is today the guideline could be the ambient, techno and house scene".  The examples Jager is mentioning are groups like Baktruppen, Reza Abdoh and the later work of The Wooster Group.

Jager said about Baktruppen:  "The Norwegian Bak-Truppen taught us that no one was sacred about that small piece of space which everyone looked at. They behaved as if there was no theatre and no time-span". This must be ambient theatre because the experiences of real time is a part of it, and so is the experience of direct communication and audience participation. Via Baktruppen and Abdoh he is getting at a new generation of small companies and groups that are far away from the main stream of post modern directors theatre. There are names like Frankfurter Bad of Stefan Pucher, Gob Squad, Jell O'Company, Ronald Fraser-Munroe and Batteri Congress. "The ambient theatre creates an idependent place, a theatrical place to show things." One example could be the Baktruppen "Tonight" production that was co-produced with Kampnagelfabriek in Hamburg in 1994. It was a production where they to some extent had entered into pure virtuality by using electronic communication. The floor was covered up with persian carpets and the space was shared between spectators and actors. So, according to Jager this could be seen upon as a "theatrical place to show things". There was a free exchange of energies from body, space and from the audience itself. It was a flirtation with the vanity of the audience, their notions of well to do behavior and ideas of dressing. This was expressed by Baktruppens own way of dressing up in party dresses from all over the world. The audience itself was a part of it like in a restaurant or in a party. Theatre is thus playing with reality in a way that can be said to relate to notions of new-mimetic mirrors and re-telling the world.

I would define the new-mimetic mirror as a space beyond representation of action in the traditional or classical sense, dealing with the virtuality of the means of expression as a visual kind of dramaturgy. An historical parallel could be the pictural and allegorical world of the baroque period. Walter Benjamin is pointing to this when comparing allegory and collage. Alltogether one could say that all this deals with the fact that art has to do with showing, and that the show character is reflecting simulacra as artistic virtuality. This can partly explain why cabaret played a such important role in early modernist theatre and dramaturgy. Today there is a tendency in production to work with mirror effects and reflections upon telling the world in the context of image and memory. And to create this state, dance, theatre and performance art has been mixed up in hybrid forms.
This kind of state also extends to cooking and other activities that include ambience and ritualistic repetion of any kind of techique or knowledge. Allegorically this can appear in any kind of real-art production or real time-events like peep-shows or restauration events. This can be further on developed upon.

Knut Ove Arntzen (Bergen)

About the Exhibition
Cultural Concepts
Thematic Overview
© INST: Institut zur Erforschung und Förderung österreichischer und internationaler Literaturprozesse, 1999