Dark Visions: Looking at and in Theatrical Darkness
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This article focuses on darkness in performance, not only as a condition for playing, immersion or imagination (as in the recent trend for “theatre in the dark”), but also as the “stuff” of vision – both its object and its medium. The peculiarity of looking at and in darkness needs to be considered aside from the social and physical conditions of blindness and blackness that are often assumed to be its corollaries I suggest. What does it mean to look at darkness per se - at an absence of light, rather than its representation? What sort of visual object is darkness, and what can it tell us about looking more widely? In what ways can theatre be thought of in respect of ‘visuality,” or “visual culture” if there is no thing, or things to be seen? This assumes of course that darkness is neither a thing nor seeable, both positions I will seek to challenge. Darkness, I propose, is a threshold state for seeing, and when confronted with seeing nothing, one is forced to consider not only what it is that one is seeing, but also how it is that one may be doing so at all. In considering this, I examine experiences of looking at darkness in The Royal Court’s production of Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone, and in it in Tino Sehgal’s This Variation in the Carte Blanche à Tino Sehgal retrospective at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris - both in 2016.
- Department of Drama