Fire & Ice:  Performance & Transformation

Allbwn ymchwil: Cyfraniad at gynhadleddPapuradolygiad gan gymheiriaid


My theater is, I think, an ice cold theater. No empathy (warmth). The spectator FREEZES and then perhaps, as in a scientific experiment, is free to examine his/her self as observer. This I believe can lead to aesthetic ecstasy, which is also, at its best, a kind of ‘ice’.
Richard Foreman (2007: 130)

‘Excerpts concerning ice theatre', in Hester Aardse and Astrid van Baalen (eds) Findings on Ice, Baden: Lars Muller.

Ice is captivating. Suggesting strength yet fundamentally fragile, seemingly monumental yet essentially impermanent, arresting development, preserving and destroying life, capturing time with clinical disinterest and yet releasing time in unpredictable measure through melting and sublimation, of thawing duration, traceless disappearance. Ice freezes time (encapsulates it for thousands of years) and ice, like fire, transforms life.

What possibilities exist for theatre/performance to take on the condition of ice -- strength and fragility, exquisite structure yet impermanence, of being ephemeral and transient, embodying cool detachment, able to suspend time and yet release time in unmeasured duration, retaining disinterest and distance?

What is the allure, the freezing fascination, in seeing human endeavour on ice: the performance of extreme expedition, discovery and survival. How does the desolate white expanse of both the Arctic and Antarctic enter our imagination? How does the magnetic pull of the North and the South Poles affect the compass of our dreams, our sensibilities, our art-making, our stories and songs?

Ice is spectacular and full of frozen promise, offering a surface for ever more virtuosic achievement, choreographic splendour, extravaganza, risk and thrill, a theatrical entertainment of gigantic slippery proportions. From the 1930s and 1940s North American theatrical touring shows Ice Follies and Ice Capades, incorporating ice skating and often featuring Olympic figure skaters, through the traditional, family-oriented ice revues, with an extensive ‘Corps de Ballet’ of skaters, to the glamour and razzmatazz of Holiday on Ice with its spinning wheel sequences and precision choreography, existing for more than seventy years (with annual themed spectaculars such as 1001 Nights on Ice) to the point where anything ‘on ice’ would seem to be another outstanding accomplishment of show business. Theatre seems compelled to put itself on ice, to be challenged by a frozen expanse, to up the stakes of its own theatrics and put on the skates...

And fire …

Theatre has a troubled history with fire. Both are agents of transformation, one more consuming than the other; theatre plays with fire, fire razes theatre. As theatre disappears in flames, so the performer arises from the ashes, staged images burn on the retina of the spectator and fire itself stages the greatest spectacles on earth (from natural event, through riot and calamity) and in the sky, as orchestrated pyrotechnics, fireworks mark human achievement.

Fire, works. And from the embers...

From the grand spectacle of fire to the radiant incandescence of an actor’s energy, from the choreography of fireworks to the wild torchlight processions and rituals of burning effigies, from the conflagration of theatres (recurrent throughout history) to the ‘victim burnt at the stake, signalling through the flames’. This presentation explores the elemental, creative and destructive force of fire (its assignations and allegiances, dalliances and collusion) with performance - at once transformative, celebratory, purifying, cathartic, and catastrophic.

From firework displays in China in the first millennium to Bernini’s urban spectacles of the seventeenth century, from the fire spectacles of the nineteenth century and the heroism of emergent Fire Brigades to today’s Burning Man Festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert; from the early-twentieth-century European fascination with Balinese cremation to the New Age revival of Beltane and Imboic (sacred Celtic fire festivals); from the ravishing desolation of the arsonist act to the revelatory sacrifice of self-immolation, the thrill of the backyard bonfire and the sparkling mystery of spontaneous combustion: Fire is spectacular, terrifying and awesome; flagrant and transformative, causing erasure and renewal – what better analogy (or aspiration) for performance.
Iaith wreiddiolSaesneg
StatwsCyhoeddwyd - 12 Maw 2014
DigwyddiadThree-part lecture series at the University of Stockholm - University of Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden
Hyd: 13 Chwef 201413 Ebr 2014


ArallThree-part lecture series at the University of Stockholm

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