Robert Wilson and an Aesthetic of Human Behaviour in the Performing Body

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Brook, James
  • Subject: PN2000

This practice-based research investigates movement and gesture in relation to the theatre work of Robert Wilson. A group of performers was established to explore Wilson’s construction of a code of movement during a series of over fifty workshops and films including: a feature film Oedipus; a live performance Two Sides to an Envelope; and a theatre production The Mansion’s Third Unbridled View.\ud The creation of an embodied experience for the spectator, perceived through the senses, is central to Wilson’s theatre. Integral to this are the relationships between drama and image, and time and space. Wilson’s images, in which the body is presented in attitudes of stillness and repetition, are created through these transitional structures. Taking these structures as a starting point for my own performative work, the research led to an abstracted form of natural behaviour, where the movements and arrangements of bodies defined specific movement forms. Subsequently, the relationship between movement and images in Wilson’s theatre was reconsidered through Deleuze’s analysis of the cinematic image. Deleuze identifies subjectivity with the ‘semi-subjective image’, in which traces of the camera’s movements are imprinted in the film. In films made to register these movements, images of moving bodies evincing a sense of time passing were also created. This led to my discovery of film as a direct embodiment of performance, rather than as a form of documentation. Critical to these films, the theatre production, performances, and workshops was the relationship between images and continuous motion predicated upon Wilson’s idea of space, the horizontal: and time, the vertical. This idea enabled me to consider Wilson’s theatre and video works in relation to Bergson’s philosophy concerning duration. The research discovered new ways of interpreting Wilson’s aesthetic through Bergson’s idea that motion is an indivisible process which can also be perceived in relation to the position of bodies in space. Through this understanding, an original performance language was created based on the relationship between stasis and motion, and the interplay between the immersive, semiotic and instrumental modes of gestural communication.
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