The Digital Contamination of Dramatic Theatre: Subject Technology in Exception

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Session Title:

  • Digital Performance

Presentation Title:

  • The Digital Contamination of Dramatic Theatre: Subject Technology in Exception

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Abstract:

  • Dramatic theatre claims that it is a unique site of literal co-presence while asking audiences to forget their own presence and give precedence to a closed fictional world ‘made present’ by the auratic actor. Two contemporary performance practices unsettle this notion – digital performance, where technology challenges the position of the actor as central; and live art or participatory performance that places the audience at the centre of the performance encounter. Although contemporary practitioners often rally against the prejudices of dramatic theatre, an understanding of its core assumptions can benefit emergent forms and prevent them from replicating those aspects deemed problematic in traditional practice. An awareness of literal, fictional and auratic presence as mediation can enable a richer theatrical encounter. I draw on Derrida’s analysis of the metaphysics of presence to establish the centrality of presence in a significant amount of commentary on theatre, arguing that such a privileging of presence demonises projected media as a form of contamination that impedes dramatic theatre’s ability to represent ‘truth’. While much has been theorised about presence in theatre, my position is that of a practitioner grappling with the problems that a privileging of presence brings to my work. Through a close look at a hybrid work that utilises the integration of live performers with avatars from the virtual multi-user on-line game, Second Life, I seek a way to move forward between conditions of possibility and impossibility.

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