This morning we continued our conversation about posthuman performances and alternative locations for theater and performance with the maverick duo Seth Harrison and Ariane Lourie Harrison, founders of the Harrison Atelier. We took as a springboard for our discussion Arnold Aronson’s article “The Dematerialization of the Stage” in his edited volume The Disappearing Stage: Reflections on the 2011 Prague Quadrennial. In particular, we paused over the following remark:
“A stage that depicts solidity, linearity, and continuity—in other words, coherence—is not merely a false depiction of the current world, it may be unreadable to a contemporary audience” (88).
This sentence elicited a number of questions and responses. We talked about the issues of readability and legibility, text-based approaches and the non-verbal expression of architecture and dance. Does theater necessarily need to be legible to be ethical? Reading only becomes privileged at a certain point in history. And a coherent stage is only a recent invention in theater history (when spectators were conditioned to look at the stage and not at other spectators, for example). As Ariane remarked, “Reading is not the only way that things are communicated.” We’ve covered lots of ground: the written word and affect, formal innovations and ethical content, the snarkiness of reviewers and the empathy and tenderness of spectators.