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Antonin Artaud (1896 - 1948)

Lifespan: 1896 - 1948

Related: body without organs - cruelty - French literature - theatre - absurdism

"The Theatre of Cruelty has been created in order to restore to the theatre a passionate and convulsive conception of life, and it is in this sense of violent rigour and extreme condensation of scenic elements that the cruelty on which it is based must be understood. This cruelty, which will be bloody when necessary but not systematically so, can thus be identified with a kind of severe moral purity which is not afraid to pay life the price it must be paid." --(Antonin Artaud, The Theatre of Cruelty, in The Theory of the Modern Stage. Edited by E. Bentley. Penguin, 1968, p.66)


Antonin Artaud (September 4, 1896 - March 4, 1948) was a playwright, actor, and director.

In his book Theater and its Double, Artaud expressed his admiration for Eastern forms of theater, particularly the Balinese Theater. He admired Eastern theater because of the codified, highly ritualized physicality of Balinese dance performance., and advocated what he caled a "Theater of Cruelty". By cruelty, he meant not sadism or causing pain, but rather a violent, physical determination to shatter the false reality which, he said, lies like a shroud over our perceptions. He believed that text had been a tyrant over meaning, and advocated, instead, for a theater made up of a unique language halfway-between thought and gesture. Antonin Artaud described the spiritual in physical terms, and believed that all expression is physical expression in space. Artaud was institutionalized for some time beause he was considered insane. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonin_Artaud [Sept 2004]

An outline of Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty

1. Artaud had a pessimistic view of the world, but he believed that theatre could affect change.

2. Remove the audience from the everyday and use symbolic objects to work with the emotions and soul of the audience.

3. Attack the audience's senses through an array of technical and acting so that the audience would be brought out of their desensitisation and have to confront themselves.

4.Use the grotesque and the ugly, the confronting and the painful to confront an audience and be cruel to them. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonin_Artaud [Sept 2004]

Body without organs

The very languages that Antonin Artaud first grappled with. Artaud's pronouncement, "all writing is pig shit," implies that all writing is excreted from the body. Artaud wanted so desperately for writing to be left in this raw excremental state, and not to have it transformed into the languages of critics, judges and priests. Artaud wanted above all to construct a Body without Organs upon which all the fluxes of language could gush and pour, unfettered by the imposed rigidities of grammar, signifiance and ! normative coherence. Kathy Acker -- Robert Lort via http://www.calarts.edu/~acker/ackademy/lort.htm

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