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What kinds of meanings significances can spectator come away with. I'd like to know what you mean by the word meaning. Do you mean like in the symbolic sense or or in any sense you wish that then any sense from you to you there's a sense in which there's an autobiographical image 16 millimeter hearings and a comma with that kind of meaning. Well that's what you've come away with. What I'm interested in is what I'm doing with the materials and how I'm structuring the piece and what I'm using. I'm not really interested in any content form separation at all not interested in and out. Any kind of message over and above the materials I'm using but they are they speak for themselves they are here as I speak to you with dealing with them would this be considered a kind of intellectual master of the Tory act that all relate to it's a kind of art it's a kind of definitions which come out of purely artistic
concerns and pure a pure art has never been matched to return matched only masturbation as well as to protect. Yes pure art though is a semantic problem. And because I know this was put another way the kinds of concerns the meanings indigenous and soley indigenous to art. This is quite different from the kinds of meanings and concerns indigenous to politics. Well think going back to your question you pose in a biography to Meredith. What you want you have involved yourself with the materials and once you have completed the extent of your involvement or do you complete the extent of your involvement at any given time. Yes I tried to. Definitely the pieces are set out with this particular piece was definitely said it was extremely structured and very very conceptually done so that each piece of material was stripped down to what I felt was like the essential material side I tried to use nothing extraneous to what I was interested in doing visually and
morally but I was also quite fixed to the point it took. It happened pretty much the same way every time. That's right and they they were accused to be given to Cam and that's run on film that's right and that's wrong time wise. So in that sense it was a fixed so huge piece but what I was interested in at that point and what I still am interested basically is changing if I can and dealing with perception. That's really what my main interest is changing and dealing with perception yes changing the perception as it was. Yes I would hope that people that had perhaps never seen this work before would live with perhaps some realizations about their own perceptions as we are really involved with this tends to be with the new theatre as a whole is about its about its very pedagogical. But I got to come in terms of what the arts have been pedagogical about which is teaching you to perceive to put together. To put together things that don't ordinarily seem to be together or to learn how to recognize order in when it first strikes you is chaos. The new theatre is not chaotic. It's exploring new forms of order
and conjuring forms of order. What I said before about cages is real cage may use life as a model I mean you may say I'm trying to duplicate the disorder of life but he creates I mean it's very particular occasion peace instantly instantly recognizable as John Cage's piece because of the quality the heightened quality of its ordered disorder. Yes I say Richard is right we perceive subjectively and physically with our five senses. The five senses traditionally are known to be. And I say historically and Biblically and known to be unreliable already. Has its own disordered order and we look and I want to know what sense you mean unreliable. I don't lie because if I if I touch your hand without your visual sense with any object or with my hand let's say you don't see it. You can't really rely on your senses to tell you what it is that I'm touching you with. What if I put something if you close your eyes and I put something in front of your nose and I tell you that it's essence
of musk and you cannot rely on your olfactory sense really to be accurate. You could've In fact train mile factory sense to the point that I could yes I could. There are people who have this kind of training. Unfortunately a factory education in our land is not very good. No it isn't but what you're talking about is the psychic extension the psychic extension which is what you really rely on to tell you what your olfactory physical sense or. Subjective. But the point I'm I'm really trying to get is why do all of you and presumably all of you do put so much faith and confidence or concern in this awareness of perception what are you trying to get the audience or yourselves to perceive differently. Let's start by perceiving this Saudia audience that we're gated with now which may or may not whatever may or may not be left of it.
I think I think they're still with us. Let's let's let's let's take the situation just for the fun of it. We're talking here in a sense among ourselves the quantum theory is very much in evidence. There's a foot high microphone in front which is putting it on a spool of tape which won't be playing for another week. So are our contact with US audiences is fairly extenuated we in fact then will become our audience will be sitting a few weeks from now in fact we can count on five. Letter writers shaking his head. Oh I see. Wouldn't listen anyway. So now the point is this. We expect that kind of hostility from the theater of mixed means people oh it's not unusual and it's not fair that means it is provoked. That's it seems to me very nearly very nearly here it's of Art let me let me push this a
step further. We don't know there's nobody sitting there falling asleep that we can see we don't have any direct contact we don't know if we're getting through we don't know of all the people who turned on their radios speak Slavic. There is no there's no feedback that's directly available to us. Now there is some element in everybody that wants an immediate response to what they come across with I think therefore theatre in its most elementary form which is a personal confrontation of one person with another person or with a group of people will persist no matter how much technology it sends upon us. I think it says there will always be something that moves along the ground even though there are airplanes and I think it's. That that the fear that hangs in the air there's a pall that hangs over any kind of theater discussion. The first question which is asked kind of on behalf of the
audience is Will. Will you destroy literary theatre or will the theater as we know it no longer exist last ridiculous of course will exist and of course there will be evil exists in all of forms that it's now available that are area and dance that the problem is is is a little I'd like to talk just for a sec to kind of clear the air and I have the feeling as we discussed this the different techniques are different. It's as if we threw open the door for people to listen in on to a group of scientists around the lunch table discussing their experiments in some detail the kind of cut we're taking at it is is very specialized these these things that we're talking about is very specialized and may or may not be depending on people's background and they may or may not be relevant to them they may or may not understand what's at stake. Artists in their in their age have to assume some responsibility for moving New York from the time they picked it up until the time that they leave it in other words it has to go through
some evolutions. Things change that Pabra change certain phenomenon confront them that they have to deal with and the techniques that were used to confront that may no longer be valid and so those who are in the developmental end of it have to engage with these now what whether that engagement is interesting to anybody else or not is. It varies very much with the experiment and how much background there is and how much interpretation there is and how how it's presented. So one of the things to get out sort of on the table right away is the fact that the people in Richard's book The people that are sitting around this table are specialists of a certain particular sort. Engaging with. Some of the problems which this particular era as presented in they've each taken off a different kind of a
cutout it once you've said that then I think you can erase some of the disquiet over the conflict with literary theatre it's not it's not in conflict. It just is something else literary theatre may absorb it it may utilise aspects of it and it certainly will persist in some way and that's a kind of gets a few things. Like I said I mean why and why do you do one kind of thing rather than the kind of thing yourself. OK now this is I feel very strongly that the earth has functions at least in one of his roles as a kind of a stalking horse. He gets out and draws fire. From the environment from this social situation and engages with it now. If he's in theatre he may attempt to share that with the public. He draws fire from from. Lets take the environment he gets out in the
street and attempts a dialogue with the environment or he attempts to deal with some aspect of the environment and then he may share that or make it available to an audience what the what the result of this combat is if if it's movement perhaps Marathe engages with a particular problem presented by the body the body can do certain things it can't do certain other things but is a share is the result of that combat or that engagement and that information which I think is another very important thing. Something which I'm interested in and I think very many other people are which is actually a theatre as some kind of information. As a real piece of information to be given to people no matter who it was an adjective about but there are also various kinds of information and there's news let's see I didn't say let's simplify let's go back again to ballet. In one sense ballet engages with the problem of how much can you do on your toes. Now how how elevated how elevated and elegant and
and refined can the human body be made to be. All right well now that probably more or less resolved itself and the limits of that are pretty well known at this time now a certain generation of dancers came along and said Well you know why the hell spend a lifetime trying to find out what we already know let's try something else. What can the body produce if you take it internally you start with it's musculature and you take a completely different cut of the problem and they've come up with fantastic solutions that come up with fantastic notions of the body which are already being applied in kinds of areas and then there's a next step and what can you do if you are dealing with emotions but rule against using motions familiar contests. Well I think what diviners doing. And if he discovers further possibilities he launched wanted to make a point that was made. Ok young Richard. But then there's a whole other area about talking now about motion about motion that doesn't
even have anything to do with the human body. Such is another area of mechanical kinetic motion mechanical connection motion organic motion. Yeah yeah. I'm not even thinking about nostrums I'm thinking about translate you know the translation of that kind of motion activity which exists outside of the human being and putting that back into the body and seeing whether the other is there you say. How do you know it's very how do you do that just by finding out movement principles the principle of motions and. And that basically what is what you can find with working with the body is Principles of motion which exists not only in the human body but outside of the body as well as very much the same as trying to. As for dealing with sound for instance how do you do how do you as a dancer working in you know in movement take a motion outside the body and duplicate it. Well for example I just try to work with principles of motion like suspension I'm thinking about things like that which exists all over
observing certain kinds of. Physical activities and then trying to translate them back. Let's let's create a little magnet for a little movement experience for our listeners I mean it's a completely random piece of attention please. Would you look around your environment and find something that moves me. It's now a small program provided it's safe to do so now would you attempt to imitate that movement. And suppose the answer is yes and the answer it isn't a question of answering yes the question is what is answered in the gesture and it's a non-verbal answer. Well suppose the it is materialized and manifested by the way you pose presumably a question. All right well let's let's I think the best way to consider it now is to go to a few of the possible examples say someone is driving in a car and then they observe as Merritt said a crane going.
All right now. This presents a whole realm of decisions that don't have to be made. Prepare a tour even to undertake to completing the action to stop the car you know. And then the son of one aspect of the crane are they going to try to deal with is it safe to do so. If they're in a freeway around it it certainly isn't but the point is that you can very easily construct for yourself a situation where the decisions to be made present the body or the mind or the feeling with a whole lot of problems that have to be solved and some where when when these problems are solved I will translate this somewhat for our audience. Let's assume that there is dissatisfaction with literary theatre because the stated purpose of art for some people should be the solution to many of these
principles that you're working on as individuals because the solution to many of these principles will be a new perspective in terms of the individual's own existence or something will happen to them right or something will happen to him when he enters this kind of situation where he has performed too right. Let's get this. Let's reduce it to where it really is this is if we're talking and stopping a car or two for no particular reason. Copy a crane it may be hard to think of it this is being particularly important. Thing to engage with. Let's let's reduce it to its Really. We're talking survival when we're talking real theater. We're talking about survival survival of our our our race or survival of people or survival of of a couple or survival of the individual survival on some basis that I think the the artist generally tries to progress his
engagement to the level where the most that he can possibly put at stake is at stake in other words he pushes himself to the limits of his. But isn't this an individual artist's purpose and is it the responsibility of. And I speak responsibility when I say this it seems that what you're asking for is participation on the part of individuals. Audiences if you will are those who are there to see you. Well they must participate in order for you to derive a solution. We haven't we haven't even gotten yet in this discussion really to the question of participation that we've been talking about essentially a series of theatrical approaches that could be appreciated. I mean you could sit there and watch it occur and in that way the experience would be shared. Now the little example of our listener getting up and copping the most that's a participation they will be experiencing. But the very
micro You know it's a very tiny example of what we're talking about but they will be engaging with it on a somewhat closer level to what we would be doing then if they were just sitting there listening if they were just sitting there watching us. Now the point is is that that too has been progressed that too has been taken into its much more sophisticated forms. It's easier to talk about how it's been done historically because everybody feels much more relaxed about it. But let's take a festival you know or a pageant Mardi Gras. These are. Nobody thinks that that's particularly revolutionary and yet these are monstrous theater and dance. They're mixed means events of a fantastic scale. And everybody participates in them and everybody gathers together to participate but also to observe that the others are again for the benefit of the audience it seems now that you're suggesting that most.
Literary theatre attendees lots and we were restricted to theatre are in a sort of sleeping state that they go through the motion of attending whatever they attend. And there are certain set responses almost that they're unconscious of that they with that they respond to but there's nothing new. Making them respond is no new stimuli that is really there are occasionally but I would find my own theater going experience which is Various that I think happens less so in a literary theatre mostly because most literary theatre is concerned with us and before filling conventions in a lively way rather than exploring how to bust out of conventions. I wish we could move the discussion off the you know the question moving anywhere you live. Well the the the whole problem of bursitis this thing that we're talking about whatever on earth it is versus literary theatre whatever on earth that is
when you when you make up a comparative judgment of that sort it presupposes you kind of have to take sides you know. You know you know yes you know and work and they're unfair they're they're they're they're not engaged with each other. They're engaged with different problems. And so it's like trying to say again does a car work better in an airplane well in France where you know if you want to go in there under water no one particularly with you. What do you do the participants in a theater of mixed means know where they want to go. Oh yeah sure sure I think Dick has compiled the book of interesting conclusions from how many different the nine nine nine people trying to register you know for herbal way. The answer to that kind of question but are they interested in taking anyone with them. Oh yeah I was certain and then in order there isn't anyone there who believes in a rarified argument but in order to do this though it seems that gathering
from reading some of the discussions to Richard in your book there's an indifference somewhat and this is again. An interpretation which springs out of another idea that you discussed for another book which I think is a very good one and that is sort of the writing of tonality by symbols by means of codes and symbols to express the nuances of tone in writing so that anyone reading this would get begin to get another at least another dimension to the meaning going on because a spoken word yet is recorded in print I am sorry I suggested that perhaps before. As I said these chapters are conversations and I suggested that perhaps before every answer I should have a symbol of a way that would tell you in what tone the following was said. Yes that you've got understand which statements were ironic and which statements weren't. I feel very tense as time runs out that never going to manage to escape should one of the kind of important things
that's that. It's going on now. And let me put it this way this this notion of survival is the only reason I would present that as a thesis. The only reason that people are engaged in something as important as art should be is for purposes of survive and others go to ballet which we call their own of the survival of their audience or because like you I think it I think it I think it I think depending on how far out that's projected survival of humanity would be the most. OK. Now let's take ballet as an example of survival instinct. Ballet grew out of the what the court of Louis the Fourteenth. OK. Now if you wanted to survive in court you had to be able to do all the things that you had to be grateful you had to be delicate you had to be hip to stand on your toes had to be able to do these things. Ballet was kind of an abstract crystallization of the techniques required to survive in that environment. We have a new environment. It's making new
demands on us for survival. And so the theatre is doing fantastic somersaults to get caught up with that. Now I think the theater has has left the theater of survival has left the theater of survival of earlier ages. The theater of survival now is the marches demonstrations. These kids locking up some you know some so that the university won't destroy something that belongs to Harlem. I think the new the new word that the stakes have changed and they've gone on to just a completely different terrain. But you quite freely scribing in applying the term theater to these actions that are taking place. We I mean there is a great segment that is really not obliged to accept your semantics your terminology or frame of reference from which you choose to discuss
this. And for those for that segment of the audience or that segment of individuals they have to have some interpersonal dealings with us the results of your experiments you're working with in the brain that you are working. How will there ever be any way in which to establish some language by which this can be again to make sense to a larger. But when you say language. Do you mean verbal critical language. I mean verbal critical language I mean motional language. And I mean it doesn't make sense it already has and here's an exact exact example of Expo was a perfect example of it making sense to the broadest number of people and then nobody told them they were going to the theater. They went through a pavilion where the entire environment spoke to them. So the theme Brazilian spoke about problems of the Canadian Indian for instance or something like that. They were spoken
to using all the techniques that we've been running a lot better in some cases they were the technology of OC You know so fantastic you see. And people from the middle of the country from rural areas went through and there was there was no misunderstanding and these techniques were not alien to them. Maybe because it was put in the convention of display rather than a convention of theater. Sure. Sure I would say so and that background the fact of the pavilions there's a long background of which this art that we've been contributed has in fact can contribute to that that experience made that maybe the result of that experience. But I think we are running out of time. This is so it displays a medium then this new theories influence not only the old theater or knowledge people working out of the old theatre people working in display display definite pavilions may be the public face of exactly what we've been told is that it would interest me then it's when you go in when most people most people who find new theatre difficult are inscrutable
go because they expect literary theatre they expect to do when you sit in that situation and you're told it's there you expect X to happen to you. But if you go to a display your mind is more open to what might happen. Well I'm afraid we won't find out if that is it enough that our time is up and a very serious problem really has been discussed at this table whether serious in the extreme and whether you've understood any more about the theatre of mixed means from this conversation is doubtful. And if you haven't don't read Richard cost a lot of its book there's a lot of mixed means because he also tells you that you won't understand it any better if you read the book. But we. Are praising him. But we want to thank Richard Custer Lomis the author of the feat of mixed means you can do it. Lawrence Kornfeld and Meredith Monk for talking about it for teen minutes. This was seminars in theater. A recorded series of discussions with leading members of the theatrical profession join us again for our next program when
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Seminars in theatre
Episode Number
Episode 21 of 31
Producing Organization
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
For series info, see Item 3231. This prog.: Richard Kostelanetz, author of "Theatre of Mixed Means" Also: Meredith Monk, dance theatre; Ken Dewey; Lawrence Kornfeld.
Media type
Producing Organization: WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-11-21 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:09
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Chicago: “Seminars in theatre; Episode 21 of 31,” 1968-05-28, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 4, 2023,
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